Patrik Frisk cast his first vote in an election as a high school senior in his native Sweden, where he fondly remembers days of debates from students representing seven different political parties and all of his classmates being excited to vote for the first time.
“You had lots and lots of information available to you. The actual voting, you were able to do it in school, so it was very easy,” he said in a recent interview. “It was a big deal. The engagement was very, very high. I don’t know any of my friends that didn’t vote.”
That first experience voting couldn’t have been more different than Frisk’s first vote in America earlier this year. The Under Armour CEO and American citizen as of last year participated in the presidential primaries, a feat that required him to navigate a “maze” to find out basic information such as how to vote, where to vote and who to vote for. Now, he is leveraging the brand he leads and what it stands for to make voting easier for everyone – an initiative called Run to Vote.
Frisk’s goal is to make voting less of a struggle for Under Armour’s more than 10,000 U.S. employees and the communities in which they live, particularly the company’s corporate headquarters in Baltimore, which has one of the lowest voter turnouts of any U.S. metropolitan area. Its first-ever voter initiative, Run to Vote will give employees nationwide three hours of paid time off to vote in person or by mail, and the brand has launched a site for employees and the public, in partnership with Vote.org, that provides all the information one needs to vote in one place.
In addition, Under Armour will partner with community groups to raise awareness of the importance of voting in neighborhoods, as well as launch a running challenge in October of 11.3 miles – a distance chosen because it represents Election Day on November 3 – via MapMyRun.
One of those community partners is Black Girls Vote, a Baltimore-based nonprofit organization known for its on the streets Get Out The Vote initiatives to empower women to engage in the electoral process, but was forced to pivot in March of this year by launching Party @ The Mailbox when the coronavirus pandemic forced all Marylanders to vote in the presidential primaries by mail-in ballot.
Demand for the boxes exceeded supply by 1,000 during the primaries. With Under Armour’s support, Black Girls Vote will be able to produce 10,000 boxes for the November presidential election in the Cities of Baltimore, Detroit and Philadelphia.
For Nykidra “Nyki” Robinson, who launched Black Girls Vote in November 2015 from the oldest all-female high school in Baltimore, the Under Armour partnership marks the first time a global brand has partnered with her grassroots, non-partisan organization.
“From the WNBA to Tennis, this year has witnessed the Power of Black Women when it comes to social change,” Robinson said. “Black Girls Vote, through its Party @ The Mailbox Initiative, intends to increase voter turnout in this this year’s election and turn rhetoric to results.”
After spending more than 30 years in management at various companies, Frisk never imagined taking a stance on voting, but he believes it is a position that aligns perfectly with Under Armour’s purpose and the passion of its employees to make a difference. His hope is that 90% of Under Armour’s employees will vote in this coming election – a percentage even greater than Sweden, which ranks second in the world in voter turnout with 82% of eligible voters voting.
“At Under Armour, we are here to empower those who strive for more and for us, what that means is to try to help people get better," Frisk said. “So, I want to just make sure that people, when they have an opportunity to have their opinion heard, that they take that opportunity and actually exercise it in an informed way. It’s as simple as that. Our purpose is to empower those to strive for more, and that requires more than just building great shirts and shoes.”