Hello, Under Armour... Meet Uncle Martian

(Left) Swimmer Michael Phelps in an Under Armour advertisement. (Above) The launch ceremony of the Uncle Martian brand last week. Under Armour has said that it will take action against Uncle Martian's use of its logo and intellectual property.
Swimmer Michael Phelps in an Under Armour advertisement. PHOTOS: UNDER ARMOUR, UNCLE MARTIAN/WEIBO
(Left) Swimmer Michael Phelps in an Under Armour advertisement. (Above) The launch ceremony of the Uncle Martian brand last week. Under Armour has said that it will take action against Uncle Martian's use of its logo and intellectual property.
The launch ceremony of the Uncle Martian brand last week. Under Armour has said that it will take action against Uncle Martian's use of its logo and intellectual property.PHOTOS: UNDER ARMOUR, UNCLE MARTIAN/WEIBO

Newly launched Chinese brand draws flak for seemingly copying top US sportswear label

HONG KONG • A famous sportswear brand worn by the likes of the New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his wife, the model Gisele Bundchen, and swimmer Michael Phelps has a savvy new competitor in one of its hottest markets, China.

Under Armour, say hello to... Uncle Martian.

The logos are almost identical. A stylised letter U with an inverted U directly beneath it. But unlike in Under Armour's famous brand, the letters do not intersect in the Uncle Martian logo. An A never gets formed. That leaves a U and what might pass for a humble lowercase n.

Still, the obvious resemblance has caused a sensation online in China, reported The New York Times.

The brand's flashy rollout in the past week has been met with scepticism by increasingly savvy consumers, who appear to be tired of their country being associated with cheap copycat products.

  • EXAMPLES OF OTHER BRANDS HIT BY COPYCATS IN CHINA

  • KFC versus KDF

    Nike versus Hike

    Puma versus Fuma

    Walmart versus Wu Mart

    Pizza Hut versus Pizza Huh

    Starbucks versus Bucksstar

    Birkenstock versus Birkinstick

    Jack Daniels versus Johns Daphne

China is where, only a few years ago, some enterprising people in one provincial city set up a fake Apple store, complete with the iconic logo.

It is the home of the fast-food chain Yonghe King, whose logo once bore a striking resemblance to a certain colonel who hailed from the state of Kentucky.

State media identified the company behind Uncle Martian as an apparel manufacturer in south-eastern Fujian province called Tingfei Long Sporting Goods. The 25-year-old company could not be contacted for comment.

Under Armour said it was aware of the Chinese brand's launch event, The Washington Post reported.

"Uncle Martian's uses of Under Armour's famous logo, name and other intellectual property are a serious concern and blatant infringement," spokesman Diane Pelkey told the newspaper. "Under Armour will vigorously pursue all business and legal courses of action."

An Uncle Martian executive, Mr Huang Canlong, said at a recent ceremony that the brand was going to be associated with "comfort, excellence and innovation", according to a report on the website shoes.net.cn.

He said his aim was to create a "high-profile" brand with "high standards".

Chinese consumers do not appear to be buying it. As incomes have risen, consumer tastes have changed. People want - and many can afford - the real thing.

Under Armour has been on a roll in China, with sales nearly tripling in the first three months of this year compared with a year earlier, according to Bloomberg News.

The online criticism has been biting.

"How come you can't even design a logo; all you do is plagiarise. Don't you feel it's disgusting?" said one person who uses the handle "Diving Watcher" on Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform.

Another netizen, "Luren MJC", wrote: "The Chinese have lost face, and so don't blame people when they say they look down on domestic brands."

What did appear a bit creative, at least, was the name Uncle Martian. Some speculated it might be trying to appeal to the popularity in China of the movie The Martian, starring Matt Damon.

But that's only the name in English. In Chinese, it is a mere transliteration of "Uncle Martian" - An Ke Ma Ting.

The characters mean, roughly, "Encore Ma Sandbar." That does not appear to be a name conceived on Madison Avenue.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 01, 2016, with the headline 'Hello, Under Armour... Meet Uncle Martian'. Print Edition | Subscribe