Under Armour falls foul of CAP Code for claim that shirt reflects energy onto your muscles

An Under Armour Ad for the “Men’s UA RUSH Compression Long Sleeve” baselayer has been found to be misleading due to the claims stating that the: “baselayer has been tested and proven to improve strength and endurance”. Steph Curry may be using the bio ceramic compression base layer, but as of yet there does not appear to be enough evidence to suggest it is responsible for improving strength. The advert was challenged over whether the claim that the base-layer had been “tested and proven to improve strength and endurance” was misleading and could be substantiated.

The base-layer contained Celliant which is manufactured by Hologenix. It is a blend of thermo-reactive minerals, including titanium dioxide, silicone dioxide and aluminium dioxide. Under Armour claimed that this substance can enhance athletic performance by recycling the athlete’s own energy.

Under Armour stated:

Celliant clothing captured, converted and reflected heat generated by exercising back to the athlete’s body in the form of infrared (IR) energy. That IR energy, or heat, penetrated into the body’s tissues and the warming of the tissues temporarily increased blood flow to those areas. This increased blood flow, in turn, helped muscles perform better, which led to improved strength and endurance.

ASA Ruling on Under Armour UK Ltd

The advert claimed:

“The baselayer has been tested and proven to improve strength and endurance. Seriously. The way it works is that the mineral-infused fabric absorbs the energy your body emits and reflects it back into your tissues and muscles. That means your muscles can work harder. And you get better”

ASA Ruling on Under Armour UK Ltd

ASA held that the claim that the base-layer “tested and proven to improve strength an endurance” would be considered to be a noticeable improvement by the wearer of the the area of the upper-body – the area the base-layer covered.

However, the study used to substantiate the claim that the baselayer would improve strength related to grip strength and the shirt used in the study was not the same as the one being advertised. The study, which had been peer reviewed, was conducted by four academics, three of whom were not independent of Under Armour. As a result the study was not considered adequate to show that the advertised product was capable of improving strength.

Other studies were put forward to support the claim but the sample sizes were considered to be too small and the ASA questioned whether the results were statistically significant. Furthermore, no study included the advertised base-layer, but rather other shirts using the Celliant material. In light of these issues, the ASA did not consider the studies to be adequate evidence to substantiate the claims.

Because the evidence was not adequate to back up the claim that the baselayer had been “test and proven to improve strength and endurance” it was concluded that the ad was misleading. It breached the CAP Code in relation to Misleading advertising, Substantiation, Exaggeration and Health-related products.

This is a useful case study when considering any health related claims in advertising, particularly in the era of COVID-19, with more and more products claiming to be anti-virus. The substantiation of any such product must be adequate to validate the claim. A broad claim about improving strength required greater substantiation than a (small) study related to grip strength in which the advertised product was not used.

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