Should you spend any moment at under armour outlet, you’ll hear that question time and again. Founder and CEO Kevin Plank really likes whiteboards, along with his favorite use to them is usually to write out leadership maxims for his team. Inside and outside his office, whole walls of floor-to-ceiling whiteboards contain a large number of curt principles he’s scrawled over the years: Expedite the inevitable. Perfection will be the enemy of innovation. Respect everyone, fear no person.
These commandments are meant not as simple inspiration or hard rules, he says, but together make up a system of “guardrails” that enable everyone under him to function 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 & factory in the Baltimore waterfront. Think as an entrepreneur. Create just 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 someone you may not would like to disappoint. “Winning is an integral part of our culture–it’s who we are,” he says in the 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 formed on habits.” Perhaps the most important guardrail, and the company’s official mission, is trying to “make all athletes better.” They have long equaled considering clothes as high-performance gear, but recently it’s adopted a large new meaning.
Within the last two years, Under Armour has spent near $1 billion buying and investing in three leading makers of activity- and diet-tracking mobile apps. In so doing, the organization has amassed the world’s largest digital health-and-fitness community, with 150 million users. Plank envisions those users, as well as their metrics, as a big data engine to operate from product development to merchandising to marketing. Many observers, though, balked with the $710 million cost of the acquisitions, questioning whether Under Armour could quickly produce any return on your investment–two of the three companies were unprofitable–let alone succeed 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 from your core business. Plank spent more hours than he cares to count, such as a large chunk of his winter vacation this past year, in one-on-one conversations to persuade them otherwise. “It had been important,” he says, “that the not only 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 the fact 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 furnished with one simple 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–manufactured from fabric for women’s undergarments–and testing it on ex-teammates, Plank setup shop in their grandmother’s basement and, just before he went broke, scored his first big sale, to Georgia Tech. The business proceeded to create a completely new market for performance apparel, IPO’d in 2005, now sponsors several of the world’s greatest athletes, including Jordan Spieth, Stephen Curry, and Lindsey Vonn.
Today, Under Armour has 13,500 employees around the world and nearly $4 billion in revenue. But Plank continues to be every bit the entrepreneur, chasing audacious dreams–chief among them overtaking Nike as the world’s largest sportswear maker. Under Armour leapfrogged the longtime number 2, Adidas, inside 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 a part of why Plank wishes to move so aggressively. Nike has about a fifth several 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 real 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 company will begin selling a couple of biometric fitness devices and a smart scale made together 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–along with a “very risky” one, says Morningstar retail analyst Paul Swinand. (Morningstar and Inc. both are properties of Joe Mansueto.)
“Under Armour is a huge phenomenal success story,” Swinand says. Its stock has risen steadily–almost 2,000 percent within the decade since its IPO. “But once you’re hitting a home run every quarter in the core apparel business, why mess around using a moon shot?”
Plank rarely admits to much uncertainty or doubt, so it’s telling that he echoes Swinand in describing Connected Fitness’s ambitions as a “moon shot.” But another of his whiteboard sayings one thinks of, this 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 when the Under Armour founder cold-called him in July 2013. Plank explained he loved Thurston’s app MapMyRun. “I run five miles three times per week, I log everything, I look up routes after i travel,” Plank began. “Exactly what are you doing together with the company?”
Thurston replied that he or she was about to increase more venture capital to pursue ambitious expansion plans: The corporation had bought several hundred domains according to every physical activity, and planned to launch new services for every single. Thurston and his awesome investors saw MapMyFitness as poised to be the best digital health-and-fitness network.
A few weeks later, Plank and three key lieutenants showed up early at the Ny City offices of Allen & Company, where Thurston and his team were huddling using their bankers. The MapMyFitness team got about 20 mins right into a detailed PowerPoint presentation when Plank interrupted. “This can be awesome,” he explained, “but I would like to stop you and go speak to Robin myself for several minutes”–without any bankers running interference. Forty minutes later, Plank and Thurston returned, and Plank asked the MapMyFitness team if they’d like to go to Baltimore, right away, to look into the Under Armour campus.
It wasn’t 11 a.m. if the group–as well as under armour shoes online, 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 of the campus, in addition to some oatmeal cookies, for the stunned app makers. Within 2 weeks, the parties had agreed that Under Armour would obtain 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 being a top fitness app from your iPhone’s earliest days, tells the tale in the new office in downtown Austin, inside a brand-new building where giant images of Under Armour athletes adorn the walls (amid, naturally, motivational mantras) and plenty of hundred new engineers as well as other tech employees work. At first, 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 each of the data MapMyFitness gathers about people’s personal habits in such a way that could violate the trust he’d built with the neighborhood. Under Armour had simply never occurred to him being a home for his company.
But the initial thing Plank did for the reason that private meeting in New York City was pull up an idea video Under Armour had created earlier that year called “Future Girl.” It showed a young woman starting a morning workout in clothes that were touch-sensitive and might contact data displays and even change color using the tap of a finger. “I made this for you personally,” Plank said to Thurston. (In truth, it had run as being a TV commercial; Plank informed me it absolutely was designed for someone like Robin 02dexipky though “I didn’t know who Robin can be.”) He wanted to make sure that Thurston wouldn’t bolt after the sale, but would instead see an exciting opportunity and lead it. Under Armour had been a tech company, in its way, Plank explained–however it had struggled with digital.
At Under Armour headquarters, workers’ breaks often involve workouts, like this one upon an artificial-turf field overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
None of the products in the “Future Girl” video existed then–along with a variation of a single is hitting 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 several years earlier to make an “electric” product, and they’d think of the E39 compression shirt, which had sensors embedded in the material to follow an athlete’s heartbeat. The shirt launched at 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 businesses that employ a large number of engineers and constantly turn out incremental innovations.
“It’s absurd that you know more about your car or truck than you understand your body,” says Plank. He’s betting athletes’ personal data will turbocharge their fitness and Under Armour’s future.
“It’s very normal for a product company–which is really what Under Armour is–to get gone along the path of trying to make hardware,” says Thurston. “They are fully aware the distribution channels, they learn how to sell products, they know how to market them. But while they started doing their homework on which was happening within the space, they found that the strength [of digital fitness] was really in the community.”
Plank also knew it would take years to create a community like Thurston’s. “It wasn’t that I didn’t are aware of the right solutions to be seeking from engineers. I didn’t have any idea the right things 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 to set priorities for less than Armour’s digital transformation. Thurston identified four key pillars of health–sleep, fitness, activity, and nutrition–that he or she depending on Plank’s “make all athletes better” mission. Once that vision snapped into focus, Plank saw an opportunity not only to be described as a collector of human activity data but additionally to become the central processor that turns that data–irrespective of whose device or app collected it–into useful insights. “OK. Let’s do it,” he told Thurston a day at the end of 2014. From the following March, that they had spent over half a billion dollars acquiring two more companies: San Francisco-based MyFitnessPal, a nutrition-tracking system for folks to log their meals, and Copenhagen-based Endomondo, a personal-training curriculum whose users are almost entirely outside of the Usa Under Armour suddenly had not simply the world’s largest digital fitness community but countless engineers and reams of user data too.
Just one single big question loomed: How would any of that assist Under Armour chip away at Nike’s dominance, or at best sell a lot more workout shirts?
All over the railroad tracks from the 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, as well as a psychologist to develop shoe and apparel concepts. You can 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 enter in the long, narrow lab space, the greater secretive the operations. The prototyping room is locked down from all of the but a number of select employees and executives, who must pass a biometric scanner to get into.
Before you take within the innovation lab, Haley created the Under Armour consumer insights department. In the beginning, “the secret of the success was that people were the customer,” Haley says. “Kevin was actually a football player. He just knew. But slowly, we got older than our consumer.” The business stopped bragging about not using focus groups and started tapping its sponsored athletes for product insights, sending researchers to appear in people’s closets, and running surveys online.
What Under Armour didn’t know with much precision, though, was how people used its products after buying them. “You merely know if a person swipes a credit card or perhaps not,” as Haley puts it–and also that only happens once or twice each year for just about any customer. “We call something a basketball shirt, but is definitely the guy using 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 those who, having downloaded a fitness app, are precisely the audience: “There’s unbelievable data within. You know their running pace, how far they go, the frequency of which they go. You literally really know what make of Greek yogurt they utilize.”
It’s too early to discover many new products due to all the new data–developing some gear often takes eighteen months–but Haley points to a single. The corporation learned from MapMyFitness data that this average run is 3.1 miles–“not a couple of miles, not five miles, but 3.1,” Haley says. Then when it got 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 this type of run.
“The toughest question for people like us will not be, Are available cool technologies out there?” says Haley. “It’s, What are you wanting me to operate on? This provides us unbelievable insight that’s both incredibly broad and deep, with the same group of people we’re marketing toward.” Which can be especially useful when you are both huge growth opportunities for Under Armour. Greater than 60 % of Connected Fitness’s users are women, who take into account just 30 percent of Under Armour’s apparel sales. Even though just about 11 percent of their sales are international, 35 percent of your Connected community is outside of the U.S.
Still, the high-stakes bet on Connected Fitness will likely be slow to settle. Under Armour recently increased its projections for the upcoming a couple of years, estimating that 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 every day,” and probably the most immediately practical moves will be using those apps as a marketing channel. A function called Gear Tracker, for example, allows under armour outlet melbourne users to log the footwear they prefer every time they go running, and get a reminder when their mileage suggests it’s time and energy to buy new ones. A partnership with Zappos makes ordering replacements easy.