Under Armour Rap Battle Drops During Women's World Cup
It's not often that a commercial director gets to helm a full-length music video for a global brand. So, Kat Webber was all in when she was offered the opportunity to make "Armour Up" for sportswear company Under Armour via ad agency Zambezi.
"This was absolutely a dream job," says the Fela-repped Webber, who worked with a majority female crew to create the soccer-oriented short released this month to coincide with the FIFA Women's World Cup.
The clip finds two female rappers from opposite sides of the pond—Gavlyn from the U.S. and Nadia Rose from the U.K.—representing two of soccer's top players: American Kelley O’Hara and Brit Alex Greenwood. Webber, the agency and the artists worked with Citizen Music to create the track.
Shot with cinematographer Laura Merians Gonçalves in New York (where O’Hara trains) and Manchester, U.K., (Greenwood's turf), "Armour Up" opens on Gavlyn and Nadia Rose trading lyrics on a stark, minimalist soccer pitch illuminated by pulsating lights.
"I just thought, what a unique way to tie the musicians to the athletes—by putting them on this kind of abstract, glowing soccer pitch," Webber says of the set, which was built in a Manchester warehouse.
Subsequent scenes featuring O'Hara and Greenwood build on the battle metaphor as the athletes embody the elements that suit them best. O'Hara is fire, running through streets lined with flaming barrels and sweating in a sauna. Greenwood is ice, braving cold plunges and chilling in a cryotherapy chamber.
The fast-moving video briefly slows for a montage that starts with O'Hara sitting high in a tree near the Cherry Street Underpass in New York City, listening to music through headphones. Webber created the scene after discovering that O'Hara climbed trees growing up in Georgia and cranks music to get psyched up before games.
In addition to being a fun callback to O'Hara’s youth, it's a visually arresting moment "that takes us out of this adrenaline-fueled edit," says Webber, who cut the project herself.
She began her career as an editor, though Webber doesn't handle those chores for every ad she directs. "However, for this piece, because I knew I had my creative executive Karena Evans—one of my longest and closest collaborators—on board, I knew that I wouldn't get so locked in my own vision of the world," she says, describing Evans as "that amazing second set of eyes that I respect and am just so honored to have."
While "Armour Up" amplifies the competition between two soccer stars, it also promotes a unifying message. "Ultimately, they have a shared legacy of wanting to empower the next generation," Webber says.
Which is why the video also spotlights younger athletes. "Women are told we have to play nice. So, I really wanted to cast kids that right out of the gate are just as aggressive and charging as hard as they can and have that passion for the sport," Webber says.
One of these standouts is 7-year-old soccer phenom Eleni, the kid in the purple sweatshirt who handles the ball like a champ.
"When I saw her casting tape, her amazing skill and talent and the passion that she had for the sport just came through. I knew I had to give her a single moment and really celebrate that and be like, this is something that these athletes have been doing since they were this age," Webber says. "There's no doubt in my mind that we're going to see Eleni on the world stage one day."
Creative Agency: Zambezi
Chief Creative Officer: Gavin Lester
Creative Director: Matt Sherman
Associate Creative Directors: Andy Holderman, Jamie Kiersted
Senior Copywriter: Alexa Thomas
Senior Art Director: Alayna Zidek
Head of Production: Kara Pierce
Producer: Alex DeSantis
Production Company: Fela
Director: Kat Webber
Creative Executive: Karena Evans
Cinematographer: Laura Merians Gonçalves
Executive Producers: Taj Critchlow and Fuliane Petikyan
Head of Production: Amir Karimi
Producer: Mikayla Fasullo
Production Designers: Susan Linss, Syd Harmony
Movement Coach & Choreographers: Tanisha Scott, Mira Jebari
Operations Manager: Olivia Swayze
UK Production Company: Luti Media
Executive Producer: Luti Fagbenle
Freelance Producers: James Cross, Lewis Nicolson
Music and Sound: Citizen Music
VFX: Cameo FX
Founder/CEO: Sergii Mashevskyi
Color: Royal Muster
Senior Colorist: Roslyn Di Sisto
Edit: Sunset Edit