Should you spend whenever at under armour outlet, you’ll hear that question repeatedly. Founder and CEO Kevin Plank really likes whiteboards, with his fantastic favorite use for them is usually to write out leadership maxims for his team. Inside and outside his office, whole walls of floor-to-ceiling whiteboards contain dozens of curt principles he’s scrawled over the years: Expedite the inevitable. Perfection will be the enemy of innovation. Respect everyone, fear nobody.
These commandments are meant much less simple inspiration or hard rules, he says, but together comprise a process of “guardrails” that permit everyone under him to use as entrepreneurs by channeling his thinking. The Plank principles are drilled into new employees during the weeklong orientation, and they’re painted throughout the hallways at company headquarters, a former Procter & Game factory on the Baltimore waterfront. Think like an entrepreneur. Create like an innovator. Perform such as a teammate.
Plank has the affect and power of a head coach–direct eye-to-eye contact, military analogies, the air of someone you do not would like to disappoint. “Winning is an element of our culture–it’s who we are,” he says in their lofty office overlooking the harbor. (The only real artwork behind his desk: a huge UA logo, its letters stacked to evoke arms raised in victory.) “And culture is created on habits.” Perhaps the most important guardrail, as well as the company’s official mission, is planning to “make all athletes better.” It offers long equaled considering clothes as high-performance gear, but recently it’s adopted a major new meaning.
During the last 2 yrs, Under Armour has spent near $1 billion buying and purchasing three leading makers of activity- and diet-tracking mobile apps. By doing so, the organization has amassed the world’s largest digital health-and-fitness community, with 150 million users. Plank envisions all of those users, and their metrics, as being a big data engine to drive from product development to merchandising to marketing. Many observers, though, balked with the $710 million expense of the acquisitions, questioning whether Under Armour could quickly produce any return–a pair of three of the companies were unprofitable–much less flourish in a place that shares little with making shirts and shoes. Longtime staffers worried the moves would crimp company performance, affect bonuses, or divert focus in the core business. Plank spent more hours than he cares to count, together with a large chunk of his winter vacation just last year, in a single-on-one conversations to persuade them otherwise. “It had been important,” he says, “that this not only be my decision.”
Under Armour team-sports designers, discussing concepts for uniforms and gratifaction gear they’re making for Plank’s alma mater, the University of Maryland.
Plank loves to say that the real key to Under Armour’s success is the fact that he never focused entirely on all of the reasons it couldn’t happen. A former Division 1 college football player, Plank famously bootstrapped Under Armour’s launch in 1995 furnished with one particular insight: The cotton undershirts football players wore under their pads slowed them down after they became soaked with sweat. After prototyping a moisture-wicking, formfitting alternative–created from fabric for women’s undergarments–and testing it on ex-teammates, Plank set up shop in the grandmother’s basement and, before he went broke, scored his first big sale, to Georgia Tech. The corporation continued to make a totally new marketplace for performance apparel, IPO’d in 2005, and today sponsors a few of the world’s greatest athletes, including Jordan Spieth, Stephen Curry, and Lindsey Vonn.
Today, Under Armour has 13,500 employees all over the world and nearly $4 billion in revenue. But Plank is still every bit the entrepreneur, chasing audacious dreams–chief among them overtaking Nike as being the world’s largest sportswear maker. Under Armour leapfrogged the longtime number 2, Adidas, from the U.S. sportswear market in 2014, but worldwide it’s still third. And Nike remains far larger, using more than $30 billion in revenue in 2015 Which is element of why Plank desires to move so aggressively. Nike has in regards to a fifth as numerous users on its Nike platform as Under Armour does on its apps, as well as in 2014 the shoe giant de-activate its FuelBand fitness-tracker business.
The true effort is only beginning, though, as Plank has adopted the sort of world-changing ambitions more prevalent to your Google or Facebook. He envisions that Under Armour Connected Fitness will “fundamentally affect global health.” This month–doubters be damned–the business will begin selling a pair of biometric fitness devices along with a smart scale made in partnership with the Taiwanese smartphone company HTC. The move will put Plank in direct competition with Fitbit and Apple inside the fast-growing wearables market. It’s a bold, characteristically Plankian bet–and a “very risky” one, says Morningstar retail analyst Paul Swinand. (Morningstar and Inc. are generally owned by Joe Mansueto.)
“Under Armour is a phenomenal success story,” Swinand says. Its stock has risen steadily–almost 2,000 percent inside the decade since its IPO. “However when you’re hitting a property run every quarter about the core apparel business, why mess around with a moon shot?”
Plank rarely admits to much uncertainty or doubt, so it’s telling that he or she echoes Swinand in describing Connected Fitness’s ambitions being a “moon shot.” But another of his whiteboard sayings comes up, this particular one courtesy of his friend and former U.S. Special Operations commander Admiral Eric Olson: Nobody ever won a horserace by yelling “Whoa!”
Robin Thurston, co-founder and after that CEO of Austin-based app maker MapMyFitness, got his first taste of Plank’s high-speed force-of-will approach if the Under Armour founder cold-called him in July 2013. Plank explained which he loved Thurston’s app MapMyRun. “I run five miles three times a week, I log everything, I search for routes as i travel,” Plank began. “Exactly what are you doing together with the company?”
Thurston replied he was approximately to raise more venture capital to pursue ambitious expansion plans: The corporation had bought several hundred domains based on every exercising, and planned to produce new releases for every single. Thurston and his awesome investors saw MapMyFitness as poised to be the leading digital health-and-fitness network.
A couple of weeks later, Plank and three key lieutenants showed up early at the New York offices of Allen & Company, where Thurston and his team were huddling because of their bankers. The MapMyFitness team got about 20 mins in a detailed PowerPoint presentation when Plank interrupted. “This is certainly awesome,” he was quoted saying, “but I want to stop you and go speak to Robin myself for several minutes”–without the bankers running interference. Forty minutes later, Plank and Thurston returned, and Plank asked the MapMyFitness team if they’d like to see Baltimore, right away, to check out the Under Armour campus.
It wasn’t 11 a.m. once the group–along with under armour outlet australia, who’d been waiting on the airport to hitch a ride on Plank’s jet–pulled up at Under Armour headquarters. Former Washington Redskin LaVar Arrington opened Thurston’s door, and offered a tour from the campus, as well as some oatmeal cookies, towards the stunned app makers. Within 2 weeks, the parties had agreed that Under Armour would discover the startup for $150 million, and Thurston would remain atop MapMyFitness and become Under Armour’s chief digital officer.
Thurston, a onetime professional cyclist who maintained MapMyFitness’s position like a top fitness app in the iPhone’s earliest days, tells the history in his new office in downtown Austin, in the brand-new building where giant images of Under Armour athletes adorn the walls (amid, needless to say, motivational mantras) and several hundred new engineers as well as other tech employees work. Initially, Thurston says, Under Armour’s interest was a puzzler. He’d entertained partnering with insurance companies and media companies, but he always worried they’d exploit all of the data MapMyFitness gathers about people’s personal habits in ways that might violate the trust he’d designed with the neighborhood. Under Armour had simply never occurred to him being a home for his company.
But the very first thing Plank did for the reason that private meeting in New York City was pull-up a concept video Under Armour had created earlier that year called “Future Girl.” It showed a young woman starting a morning workout in clothes that have been touch-sensitive and can get in touch with data displays and in many cases change color together with the tap of the finger. “I made this for you personally,” Plank thought to Thurston. (In reality, it had run as a TV commercial; Plank explained it was designed for someone like Robin 02dexipky though “I didn’t know who Robin could be.”) He wanted to make sure that Thurston wouldn’t bolt right after the sale, but would instead see a fascinating opportunity and lead it. Under Armour had always been a tech company, in their way, Plank explained–but it had struggled with digital.
At Under Armour headquarters, workers’ breaks often involve workouts, this way one by using an artificial-turf field overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
No products within the “Future Girl” video existed then–and a variation of a single is showing up in the market now–but merging performance products with performance data and interactive technology was a top Under Armour priority, given Plank’s instinct that that’s where world was going. Plank had directed a team many years earlier to produce an “electric” product, and they’d develop the E39 compression shirt, which had sensors embedded in the fabric to trace an athlete’s heartbeat. The shirt launched on the 2011 NFL training combine to much fanfare, but a simplified consumer version–a sensor-equipped chest band–had only niche appeal. That experience made Plank realize Under Armour couldn’t contest with hardware firms that employ a large number of engineers and constantly end up incremental innovations.
“It’s absurd that you know more about your car or truck than you understand about your system,” says Plank. He’s betting athletes’ personal data will turbocharge their fitness and Under Armour’s future.
“It’s very normal for the product company–which happens to be really what Under Armour is–to have gone across the path of attempting to create hardware,” says Thurston. “They are aware the distribution channels, they understand how to sell products, they know how to market them. But as they started doing their homework on what was happening within the space, they saw that the strength [of digital fitness] was really in the neighborhood.”
Plank also knew it could take years to create a community like Thurston’s. “It wasn’t that we didn’t be aware of right strategies to be seeking from engineers. I didn’t know the right questions you should ask,” Plank admits. “I’m a sporting goods guy.”
Following the MapMyFitness acquisition closed at the end of 2013, Plank and Thurston proceeded uncharacteristically slowly, spending time to create priorities for less than Armour’s digital transformation. Thurston identified four key pillars of health–sleep, fitness, activity, and nutrition–which he depending on Plank’s “make all athletes better” mission. Once that vision snapped into focus, Plank saw a chance not only to be described as a collector of human activity data but in addition to become the central processor that turns that data–no matter what whose device or app collected it–into useful insights. “OK. Let’s practice it,” he told Thurston one day in late 2014. With the following March, they had spent more than half a billion dollars acquiring two more companies: San Francisco-based MyFitnessPal, a nutrition-tracking system for individuals to log their meals, and Copenhagen-based Endomondo, a personal-exercise program whose users are almost entirely away from Usa Under Armour suddenly had not simply the world’s largest digital fitness community but hundreds of engineers and reams of user data also.
Just one big question loomed: How would any of which help Under Armour chip away at Nike’s dominance, or at least sell considerably more workout shirts?
All over the railroad tracks from the Under Armour campus, a minimal redbrick building houses the company’s innovation lab, where president of product and innovation Kevin Haley leads a team of biomechanists, designers, engineers, plus a psychologist to produce shoe and apparel concepts. There are weather chambers to re-create different exercise scenarios, devices that stretch and compress materials, gait-analysis systems, washers and dryers, 3-D printers, laser cutters, and countless other machines. The deeper you enter in the long, narrow lab space, the more secretive the operations. The prototyping room is locked down from all of but several select employees and executives, who must pass a biometric scanner to penetrate.
Before you take within the innovation lab, Haley came up with the Under Armour consumer insights department. Early on, “the secrets of our success was we were the individual,” Haley says. “Kevin was a football player. He just knew. But slowly, we got older than our consumer.” The corporation stopped bragging about not using focus groups and started tapping its sponsored athletes for product insights, sending researchers to search in people’s closets, and running online surveys.
What Under Armour didn’t know with much precision, though, was how people used its products after buying them. “You simply know if a person swipes credit cards or otherwise not,” as Haley puts it–and also that only happens a few times annually for just about any customer. “We call something a basketball shirt, but may be the guy wearing it to football practice? Is the boyfriend shirt he gives to his girlfriend something she wears as pajamas?”
But equipped with data from Connected Fitness apps, Haley says, he is able to take design cues from 150 million people that, having downloaded a workout app, are the audience: “There’s unbelievable data inside. You understand their running pace, how far they go, how frequently they go. You literally really know what brand of Greek yogurt they utilize.”
It’s too early to see many new releases as a result of every one of the new data–developing some gear normally takes 18 months–but Haley points to a single. The company learned from MapMyFitness data how the average run is 3.1 miles–“not a couple of miles, not five miles, but 3.1,” Haley says. And once it came to making the Speedform Gemini running footwear, that has been released last January to largely rave reviews, the business added “charged foam” padding tailored to that type of run.
“The toughest question for people is just not, Are there any cool technologies available?” says Haley. “It’s, What do you need me to function on? This will give us unbelievable insight that’s both incredibly broad and deep, with the exact same population group we’re marketing toward.” That might be especially useful when you are both huge growth opportunities for less than Armour. Over 60 percent of Connected Fitness’s users are women, who make up just 30 percent of Under Armour’s apparel sales. Even though approximately 11 percent of its sales are international, 35 % in the Connected community is outside the Usa
Still, our prime-stakes bet on Connected Fitness will probably be slow to settle. Under Armour recently increased its projections for the upcoming 2 yrs, estimating it would nearly double net revenue by 2018, to $7.5 billion (up from your previous estimate of $6.8 billion). Only $200 million–a paltry 2.7 percent–may come from Connected Fitness. But Thurston likens his digital community to “developing a Super Bowl-size audience daily,” and one of the more immediately practical moves is going to be using those apps being a marketing channel. A characteristic called Gear Tracker, for example, allows under armour sale melbourne users to log the shoes they normally use when they go running, and have a reminder when their mileage suggests it’s a chance to buy new ones. A partnership with Zappos makes ordering replacements easy.