Two days later, I head back into Baltimore to watch Under Armour shoot a commercial for its new "I Will" campaign. The site is a lush, green football field amid an industrial neighborhood. Beyond one of the uprights are two dilapidated brick buildings full of broken windows. A large film crew is setting up on the grass, and 30 kids from local schools are standing around, awaiting orders, decked out in navy shirts, white pants, and Under Armour "Highlight" cleats in shades of yellow, pink, aqua, and silver.
Ray Lewis is here, too, watching from the sidelines, stoic and silent, arms crossed over a cream-colored shirt. Lewis signed with Under Armour in 2007, not long after the company opened its first retail store. Plank would never admit this, but Ray Lewis, in a way, was another broken thing; his reputation had never really recovered from being charged with two counts of murder in 2000, even though those charges were eventually dropped as part of a plea deal. Plank helped rehabilitate his image. "I think he trusts me, you know?" Plank will later tell me. "And I hope it's because we're real. I hope it's because I've earned that trust. And, frankly, I trust him, too. It's powerful, when you look at what Ray has accomplished, what he has done in life, what he's been through. All those things give him perspective, which is deeper than someone who just sells insurance for a living. That's a real man."
I walk over to Lewis and ask him why he and Plank click so well. "I think it's because we have the same sort of personality," Lewis says. "We're both driven people, you know? We're both kind of what they call alpha. Alpha people. People who are leaders. So when we get together, the conversations are intense. It's just like, 'I got what you want, you know what you want.' And it's like, 'Let's do this.'" He claps his hands.
After a time, one of the crew members brings Lewis to the center of the field and tells the players that Lewis has something to say. The players cluster around him. Lewis begins speaking off-the-cuff; his remarks may be cut into the final ad.
"I ain't got time to play. Life is about moments. Life is about remembering that one thing that changed my life. What is that one moment. What is that one race."
The kids stare at him, transfixed.
"It's got to come from your heart, your mind, your soul, your spirit. You gotta be willing to die for it."
After nine minutes and 10 seconds, Lewis trails off, looks up. People start to clap. He jokes and laughs with a few of the kids, walks off the field to a clutch of autograph seekers, climbs into a car, and drives away.
Kevin Plank arrives at the field a bit later, wearing black jeans and a black hoodie and complaining good-naturedly about a "jacked up" calf from running. He falls into conversation with the director, Eliot Rausch, a young, lean guy with tattoos, a shaved head, and Under Armour shoes with red laces. "That is so cool back there," Plank says, pointing to an alley behind the field that runs between the dilapidated buildings. "Is there any way to have [the camera] project right out through the alley?" Rausch replies in a diplomatic tone that it's an interesting idea.
Plank takes out his phone, makes a call. He lets me overhear it. He tells the person on the other end he's going over to Ray Lewis's later to watch the Miami Heat game. Got that? Plank and Ray Lewis hang.
Plank asks me what I thought of an event the day before, Investor Day, in which Under Armour brought stock analysts to headquarters to give them a pitch about the company's future. At one point during Plank's presentation, he brought Tom Brady up to the stage as a surprise guest. Now Plank starts to tell me about running into an analyst in the bathroom after his speech. "His first reaction to me was, 'I really thought we were going to see Bryce Harper today.'" Harper, the 20-year-old outfielder with the Washington Nationals and 2012 Rookie of the Year, is signed up with Under Armour. "And I'm kinda goin', 'That's Tom Brady,'" Plank continues. "Bryce is great, but he doesn't have three Super Bowl championships, two MVPs, and a supermodel wife." Plank laughs. "It was funny. That's sort of the definition of Wall Street. 'Whaddya got. Whaddya got.' You know, we're a lean-forward company. That's the expectation they have of us." Which is fine, he says. He refers to something he told the analysts yesterday: Under Armour will double its sales in just three years, from $2 billion to $4 billion. "That's a bold statement," he says. "To plug a number out there? Not a lot of companies can do that."
Just then, a helicopter comes rumbling above the football field. "You know you're in Baltimore when you hear the helicopters come in," Plank says. He leans back and throws his hands to the sky in a sort of isn't-this-town-crazy gesture, as if the copter is a police copter. Then he points at me and smiles. "That's a news helicopter, for the record." It strikes me as a deeply Plank moment. Here's this broken landscape. But not too broken. Just broken enough to require his intervention, which is to say, not broken enough to slow him down.