Should you spend at any time at under armour outlet, you’ll hear that question again and again. Founder and CEO Kevin Plank really likes whiteboards, and his awesome favorite use for these people is usually to create 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 through the years: Expedite the inevitable. Perfection is definitely the enemy of innovation. Respect everyone, fear no one.
These commandments are meant not as simple inspiration or hard rules, he says, but together form a process of “guardrails” which allow everyone under him to work as entrepreneurs by channeling his thinking. The Plank principles are drilled into new employees in a weeklong orientation, and they’re painted throughout the hallways at company headquarters, a former Procter & Game factory around the Baltimore waterfront. Think such as an entrepreneur. Create as an innovator. Perform such as a teammate.
Plank offers the affect and power of a head coach–direct eye-to-eye contact, military analogies, the environment of someone you may not would like to disappoint. “Winning is a part of our culture–it’s who we have been,” he says within his lofty office overlooking the harbor. (The only 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 main guardrail, along with the company’s official mission, is seeking to “make all athletes better.” It provides long equaled thinking about clothes as high-performance gear, but recently it’s adopted a large new meaning.
Over the past a couple of years, Under Armour has spent close to $1 billion buying and investing in three leading makers of activity- and diet-tracking mobile apps. By doing so, the corporation has amassed the world’s largest digital health-and-fitness community, with 150 million users. Plank envisions all of the users, along with their metrics, being a big data engine to drive everything from product development to merchandising to marketing. Many observers, though, balked in the $710 million expense of the acquisitions, questioning whether Under Armour could quickly produce any return–2 of the 3 companies were unprofitable–let alone be successful 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, such as a large slice of his winter vacation a year ago, in a-on-one conversations to persuade them otherwise. “It was actually important,” he says, “that the not just be my decision.”
Under Armour team-sports designers, discussing concepts for uniforms and satisfaction gear they’re making for Plank’s alma mater, the University of Maryland.
Plank wants to point out that the important thing to Under Armour’s success is he never focused on all the reasons it couldn’t happen. A former Division 1 college football player, Plank famously bootstrapped Under Armour’s launch in 1995 armed 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–created from fabric for women’s undergarments–and testing it on ex-teammates, Plank put in place shop in his grandmother’s basement and, just before he went broke, scored his first big sale, to Georgia Tech. The corporation continued to make a totally new market for performance apparel, IPO’d in 2005, and today 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 globe and nearly $4 billion in revenue. But Plank is still every bit the entrepreneur, chasing audacious dreams–chief one of them overtaking Nike because the world’s largest sportswear maker. Under Armour leapfrogged the longtime # 2, Adidas, in the United states 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 can be a part of why Plank wishes to move so aggressively. Nike has in regards to a fifth as many users on its Nike platform as Under Armour does on its apps, and also in 2014 the shoe giant shut down its FuelBand fitness-tracker business.
The true work is only beginning, though, as Plank has adopted the type of world-changing ambitions more widespread into a 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 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 properties of Joe Mansueto.)
“Under Armour has become 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 around the core apparel business, why fool around having a moon shot?”
Plank rarely admits to much uncertainty or doubt, so it’s telling he echoes Swinand in describing Connected Fitness’s ambitions as a “moon shot.” But another of his whiteboard sayings comes to mind, this one thanks to his friend and former Usa Special Operations commander Admiral Eric Olson: Nobody ever won a horserace by yelling “Whoa!”
Robin Thurston, co-founder then 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 a week, I log everything, I lookup routes when I travel,” Plank began. “Just what are you doing together with the company?”
Thurston replied he was about to raise more venture capital to pursue ambitious expansion plans: The organization had bought several hundred domains depending on every exercise, and planned to produce new releases for each and every. Thurston and his investors saw MapMyFitness as poised to be the leading digital health-and-fitness network.
A few weeks later, Plank and three key lieutenants showed up early on the Ny City offices of Allen & Company, where Thurston and his team were huddling with their bankers. The MapMyFitness team got about 20 minutes into a detailed PowerPoint presentation when Plank interrupted. “This really is awesome,” he was quoted saying, “but I want to hold you back and go talk with Robin myself for several minutes”–without having bankers running interference. Forty minutes later, Plank and Thurston returned, and Plank asked the MapMyFitness team if they’d like to go to Baltimore, without delay, to check out the Under Armour campus.
It wasn’t 11 a.m. as soon as the group–in addition to melbourne under armour outlet online, who’d been waiting in 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, and also some oatmeal cookies, to the stunned app makers. Within two weeks, the parties had agreed that Under Armour would get the startup for $150 million, and Thurston would remain atop MapMyFitness and grow Under Armour’s chief digital officer.
Thurston, a onetime professional cyclist who maintained MapMyFitness’s position like a top fitness app from the iPhone’s earliest days, tells the story within his new office in downtown Austin, in a brand-new building where giant images of Under Armour athletes adorn the walls (amid, naturally, motivational mantras) and several hundred new engineers and other tech employees work. At the beginning, Thurston says, Under Armour’s interest had been a puzzler. He’d entertained partnering with insurance providers 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 would violate the trust he’d built with the neighborhood. Under Armour had simply never occurred to him like a home for his company.
But the first thing Plank did in this private meeting in The Big Apple 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 had been touch-sensitive and might get in touch with data displays as well as change color with all the tap of a finger. “I made this for you personally,” Plank said to Thurston. (Actually, it had run being a TV commercial; Plank told me it was actually manufactured for someone like Robin 02dexipky though “I didn’t know who Robin would be.”) He wanted to ensure that Thurston wouldn’t bolt once the sale, but would instead see a thrilling opportunity and lead it. Under Armour had for ages been a tech company, in its way, Plank explained–nevertheless it had struggled with digital.
At Under Armour headquarters, workers’ breaks often involve workouts, similar to this one by using an artificial-turf field overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
No products from the “Future Girl” video existed then–as well as a variation of merely one is hitting the market now–but merging performance products with performance data and interactive technology was really 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 generate an “electric” product, and they’d develop the E39 compression shirt, which in fact had sensors a part of the material to monitor an athlete’s heartrate. 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 contest with hardware businesses that employ a large number of engineers and constantly come out incremental innovations.
“It’s absurd you are aware a little more about your car or truck than you know 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 a product company–which happens to be really what Under Armour is–to obtain gone across the path of attempting to generate hardware,” says Thurston. “They understand the distribution channels, they understand how to sell products, they know how to market them. But as they started doing their homework about what was happening in the space, they found that the strength [of digital fitness] was really locally.”
Plank also knew it would take years to construct a community like Thurston’s. “It wasn’t that I didn’t are aware of the right strategies to be seeking from engineers. I didn’t have any idea the right questions you should 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, taking time to create priorities for less than Armour’s digital transformation. Thurston identified four key pillars of health–sleep, fitness, activity, and nutrition–that he or she based upon Plank’s “make all athletes better” mission. Once that vision snapped into focus, Plank saw an opportunity not just to become a collector of human activity data and also being the central processor that turns that data–regardless of whose device or app collected it–into useful insights. “OK. Let’s get it done,” he told Thurston 1 day in late 2014. Through the following March, they had spent over fifty percent 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, an individual-training course whose users are almost entirely outside of the Usa Under Armour suddenly had not just 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 that help Under Armour chip away at Nike’s dominance, or at best sell much more workout shirts?
Over the railroad tracks from the Under Armour campus, a small 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 develop 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 enter in the long, narrow lab space, the greater number of secretive the operations. The prototyping room is locked down coming from all but several select employees and executives, who must pass a biometric scanner to get in.
Before you take over the innovation lab, Haley came up with the Under Armour consumer insights department. In the beginning, “the secret in our success was we were the buyer,” Haley says. “Kevin was really a football player. He just knew. But slowly, we got more 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 online surveys.
What Under Armour didn’t know with much precision, though, was how people used its products after buying them. “You just know if an individual swipes credit cards or otherwise,” as Haley puts it–and also that only happens a couple of times each year for any customer. “We call something a basketball shirt, but is the guy wearing it to football practice? Is definitely the boyfriend shirt he gives to his girlfriend something she wears as pajamas?”
But armed with data from Connected Fitness apps, Haley says, he could take design cues from 150 million people that, having downloaded a fitness app, are the audience: “There’s unbelievable data inside. You already know their running pace, just how far they go, how frequently they go. You literally determine what model of Greek yogurt they prefer.”
It’s too early to find out many new services as a result of every one of the new data–developing a bit of gear typically takes 18 months–but Haley points to just one. The corporation learned from MapMyFitness data 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 athletic shoes, which was released last January to largely rave reviews, the business added “charged foam” padding tailored for that kind of run.
“The toughest question for people like us is not really, Exist cool technologies on the market?” says Haley. “It’s, What would you like me to function on? This provides us unbelievable insight that’s both incredibly broad and deep, with similar group of people we’re marketing toward.” That could be especially helpful in the two huge growth opportunities for less than Armour. Greater than 60 percent of Connected Fitness’s users are women, who make up just 30 percent of Under Armour’s apparel sales. And even though just about 11 percent from the sales are international, 35 percent of the Connected community is away from Usa
Still, the top-stakes bet on Connected Fitness will likely be slow to pay off. 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 coming from a 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 “having a Super Bowl-size audience each day,” and one of the most immediately practical moves will probably be using those apps like a marketing channel. An attribute called Gear Tracker, for instance, allows under armour outlet melbourne users to log the shoes they prefer every time they go running, and get a reminder when their mileage suggests it’s time to buy brand new ones. A partnership with Zappos makes ordering replacements easy.