In the event you spend at any time at under armour outlet, you’ll hear that question over and over. Founder and CEO Kevin Plank really likes whiteboards, along with his favorite use for these people is to create leadership maxims for his team. Outside and inside his office, whole walls of floor-to-ceiling whiteboards contain lots of curt principles he’s scrawled throughout the years: Expedite the inevitable. Perfection is definitely the enemy of innovation. Respect everyone, fear no person.
These commandments are meant less simple inspiration or hard rules, he says, but together form a method of “guardrails” that permit everyone under him to operate as entrepreneurs by channeling his thinking. The Plank principles are drilled into new employees in a weeklong orientation, and they’re painted all around the hallways at company headquarters, a former Procter & factory on the Baltimore waterfront. Think such as an entrepreneur. Create like an innovator. Perform such as a teammate.
Plank offers the affect and power of a head coach–direct eye contact, military analogies, the air of somebody you do not wish to disappoint. “Winning is part of our culture–it’s who we have been,” he says in the lofty office overlooking the harbor. (The only artwork behind his desk: a giant UA logo, its letters stacked to evoke arms raised in victory.) “And culture is actually created on habits.” Perhaps the most crucial guardrail, along with the company’s official mission, is planning to “make all athletes better.” They have long equaled thinking of clothes as high-performance gear, but recently it’s taken on a huge new meaning.
During the last 2 years, Under Armour has spent near $1 billion buying and making an investment in three leading makers of activity- and diet-tracking mobile apps. In that way, the business has amassed the world’s largest digital health-and-fitness community, with 150 million users. Plank envisions all of those users, and their metrics, like 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 roi–a pair of the three companies were unprofitable–much less succeed in a location that shares little with making shirts and shoes. Longtime staffers worried the moves would crimp company performance, affect bonuses, or divert focus from your core business. Plank spent more hours than he cares to count, such as a large chunk of his winter vacation a year ago, in one-on-one conversations to persuade them otherwise. “It had been important,” he says, “this not merely be my decision.”
Under Armour team-sports designers, discussing concepts for uniforms and performance gear they’re making for Plank’s alma mater, the University of Maryland.
Plank likes to state that the real key to Under Armour’s success is that he never centered 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 equipped with one simple insight: The cotton undershirts football players wore under their pads slowed them down whenever they became soaked with sweat. After prototyping a moisture-wicking, formfitting alternative–manufactured from fabric for women’s undergarments–and testing it on ex-teammates, Plank setup shop in the grandmother’s basement and, prior to he went broke, scored his first big sale, to Georgia Tech. The company went on to produce a whole new market for performance apparel, IPO’d in 2005, and today sponsors some 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 continues to be every bit the entrepreneur, chasing audacious dreams–chief one of them overtaking Nike as the world’s largest sportswear maker. Under Armour leapfrogged the longtime number 2, Adidas, in the U.S. sportswear market in 2014, but worldwide it’s still third. And Nike remains far larger, exceeding $30 billion in revenue in 2015 That is part of why Plank wants to move so aggressively. Nike has regarding a fifth as numerous users on its Nike platform as Under Armour does on its apps, and then in 2014 the shoe giant turn off its FuelBand fitness-tracker business.
The genuine jobs are only beginning, though, as Plank has adopted the kind of world-changing ambitions more common to some Google or Facebook. He envisions that Under Armour Connected Fitness will “fundamentally affect global health.” This month–doubters be damned–the corporation will begin selling a pair of biometric fitness devices as well as a smart scale made together with the Taiwanese smartphone company HTC. The move will put Plank in direct competition with Fitbit and Apple within 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. both are belonging to Joe Mansueto.)
“Under Armour has become a phenomenal success story,” Swinand says. Its stock has risen steadily–almost 2,000 percent from the decade since its IPO. “But once you’re hitting a residence run every quarter around the core apparel business, why mess around with a moon shot?”
Plank rarely admits to much uncertainty or doubt, so it’s telling he 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 as soon as the Under Armour founder cold-called him in July 2013. Plank explained that he or she loved Thurston’s app MapMyRun. “I run five miles thrice weekly, I log everything, I check out routes when I travel,” Plank began. “Just what are you doing with the company?”
Thurston replied that he was about to raise more venture capital to pursue ambitious expansion plans: The corporation had bought several hundred domains based on every exercise, and planned to produce new services for each. Thurston and his investors saw MapMyFitness as poised to get the best digital health-and-fitness network.
A couple of weeks later, Plank and three key lieutenants showed up early with the Ny City offices of Allen & Company, where Thurston and his team were huddling using their bankers. The MapMyFitness team got about twenty minutes into a detailed PowerPoint presentation when Plank interrupted. “This is awesome,” he stated, “but I want to hold you back and go speak to Robin myself for a few minutes”–without the bankers running interference. Forty minutes later, Plank and Thurston returned, and Plank asked the MapMyFitness team if they’d like to attend Baltimore, straight away, to look into the Under Armour campus.
It wasn’t 11 a.m. once the group–as well as under armour outlet australia, who’d been waiting with 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 of your campus, as well as some oatmeal cookies, for the stunned app makers. Within 14 days, the parties had agreed that Under Armour would obtain the startup for $150 million, and Thurston would remain atop MapMyFitness and be 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 within his new office in downtown Austin, within a brand-new building where giant images of Under Armour athletes adorn the walls (amid, needless to say, motivational mantras) and many hundred new engineers along with other tech employees work. At the beginning, Thurston says, Under Armour’s interest was actually a puzzler. He’d entertained partnering with insurance carriers and media companies, but he always worried they’d exploit all the data MapMyFitness gathers about people’s personal habits in such a way that could violate the trust he’d constructed with the neighborhood. Under Armour had simply never occurred to him being a home for his company.
But the very first thing Plank did in that private meeting in The Big Apple was pullup an idea video Under Armour had created earlier that year called “Future Girl.” It showed a young woman starting a morning workout in clothes which were touch-sensitive and might get in touch with data displays and even change color with the tap of the finger. “I made this for you,” Plank thought to Thurston. (Actually, it had run like a TV commercial; Plank informed me it absolutely was made for someone like Robin 02dexipky though “I didn’t know who Robin would be.”) He wanted to make certain 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 its way, Plank explained–but it really had struggled with digital.
At Under Armour headquarters, workers’ breaks often involve workouts, like this one on an artificial-turf field overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
Not one of the products within the “Future Girl” video existed then–as well as a variation of just one is showing up in the market now–but merging performance products with performance data and interactive technology was actually a top Under Armour priority, given Plank’s instinct that that’s the location where the world was going. Plank had directed a team a long period earlier to generate an “electric” product, and they’d come up with the E39 compression shirt, that have sensors a part of the fabric to follow an athlete’s pulse rate. The shirt launched in 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 contend with hardware firms that employ 1000s of engineers and constantly come out incremental innovations.
“It’s absurd you are aware a little more about your car or truck than you understand about your body,” 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 get gone on the path of trying to produce hardware,” says Thurston. “They understand the distribution channels, they understand how to sell products, they know how to market them. But because they started doing their homework on what was happening inside the space, they realized that the strength [of digital fitness] was really in the community.”
Plank also knew it could take years to construct a community like Thurston’s. “It wasn’t i didn’t are aware of the right strategies to be seeking from engineers. I didn’t know the right questions to ask,” Plank admits. “I’m a sporting goods guy.”
After the MapMyFitness acquisition closed at the end of 2013, Plank and Thurston proceeded uncharacteristically slowly, spending time setting priorities for Under Armour’s digital transformation. Thurston identified four key pillars of health–sleep, fitness, activity, and nutrition–that he or she based on Plank’s “make all athletes better” mission. Once that vision snapped into focus, Plank saw a chance not only to be a collector of human activity data but in addition to become the central processor that turns that data–regardless of whose device or app collected it–into useful insights. “OK. Let’s do it,” he told Thurston some day at the end of 2014. By the following March, that they had spent over fifty percent a billion dollars acquiring two more companies: San Francisco-based MyFitnessPal, a nutrition-tracking system for anyone to log their meals, and Copenhagen-based Endomondo, a private-training program whose users are almost entirely away from Usa Under Armour suddenly had not merely the world’s largest digital fitness community but countless engineers and reams of user data at the same time.
Just one big question loomed: How could 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 your Under Armour campus, the lowest redbrick building houses the company’s innovation lab, where president of product and innovation Kevin Haley leads a team of biomechanists, designers, engineers, and a psychologist to produce shoe and apparel concepts. You will find 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 go into the long, narrow lab space, the greater secretive the operations. The prototyping room is locked down from all of the but a few select employees and executives, who must pass a biometric scanner to get in.
Prior to taking across the innovation lab, Haley come up with Under Armour consumer insights department. In the beginning, “the trick of our own success was that people were the consumer,” Haley says. “Kevin had been a football player. He just knew. But slowly, we got older than our consumer.” The company stopped bragging about not using focus groups and started tapping its sponsored athletes for product insights, sending researchers to look 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 only know if a person swipes a charge card or perhaps not,” as Haley puts it–and also that only happens a few times each year for just about any customer. “We call something a basketball shirt, but is definitely the guy using it to football practice? Is definitely the boyfriend shirt he gives to his girlfriend something she wears as pajamas?”
But furnished with data from Connected Fitness apps, Haley says, he can take design cues from 150 million those who, having downloaded a fitness app, are the potential audience: “There’s unbelievable data inside. You understand their running pace, just how far they go, the frequency of which they go. You literally really know what brand of Greek yogurt they use.”
It’s too early to see many new releases as a result of all the new data–developing a sheet of gear normally takes 18 months–but Haley points to just one. The business learned from MapMyFitness data how the average run is 3.1 miles–“not 1 or 2 miles, not five miles, but 3.1,” Haley says. Then when it stumbled on making the Speedform Gemini running footwear, which had been released last January to largely rave reviews, the business added “charged foam” padding tailored to that particular type of run.
“The toughest question for people is just not, Are available cool technologies available?” says Haley. “It’s, What are you wanting me to be effective on? This offers us unbelievable insight that’s both incredibly broad and deep, with similar population group we’re marketing toward.” That may be especially useful in the two huge growth opportunities for Under Armour. Greater than 60 % of Connected Fitness’s users are women, who make up just 30 percent of Under Armour’s apparel sales. And although no more than 11 percent of its sales are international, 35 % in the Connected community is outside of the Usa
Still, the high-stakes bet on Connected Fitness will likely be slow to get rid of. Under Armour recently increased its projections for the next a couple of years, estimating that it would nearly double net revenue by 2018, to $7.5 billion (up from the previous estimate of $6.8 billion). Only $200 million–a paltry 2.7 percent–can come from Connected Fitness. But Thurston likens his digital community to “developing a Super Bowl-size audience each day,” and one of the most immediately practical moves will be using those apps as a marketing channel. A feature called Gear Tracker, as an illustration, allows under armour sale melbourne users to log these shoes they use every time they go running, and get a reminder when their mileage suggests it’s time for you to buy brand new ones. A partnership with Zappos makes ordering replacements easy.