When you spend at any time at under armour outlet, you’ll hear that question time and again. Founder and CEO Kevin Plank really likes whiteboards, with his fantastic favorite use for these people is usually to write down leadership maxims for his team. In and out of his office, whole walls of floor-to-ceiling whiteboards contain a large number of curt principles he’s scrawled throughout the years: Expedite the inevitable. Perfection may be the enemy of innovation. Respect everyone, fear no-one.
These commandments are meant much less simple inspiration or hard rules, he says, but together comprise a process of “guardrails” that allow everyone under him to function as entrepreneurs by channeling his thinking. The Plank principles are drilled into new employees throughout a weeklong orientation, and they’re painted throughout the hallways at company headquarters, a former Procter & factory on the Baltimore waterfront. Think just like an entrepreneur. Create just like an innovator. Perform similar to a teammate.
Plank has got the affect and power of a head coach–direct eye-to-eye contact, military analogies, air of someone you may not desire to disappoint. “Winning is part of our culture–it’s who we have been,” he says in their lofty office overlooking the harbor. (The only real artwork behind his desk: a giant UA logo, its letters stacked to evoke arms raised in victory.) “And culture is created on habits.” Perhaps the most important guardrail, along with the company’s official mission, is wanting to “make all athletes better.” They have long equaled thinking of clothes as high-performance gear, but recently it’s taken on a large new meaning.
In the last a couple of years, Under Armour has spent near to $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, as well as their metrics, as being a big data engine to drive everything from product development to merchandising to marketing. Many observers, though, balked at the $710 million value of the acquisitions, questioning whether Under Armour could quickly produce any return–2 of three of the companies were unprofitable–let alone succeed in an area 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, including a large slice of his winter vacation last year, in a-on-one conversations to persuade them otherwise. “It was actually important,” he says, “that it not simply 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 wants to say that the true secret to Under Armour’s success is that he never centered on each 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 easy insight: The cotton undershirts football players wore under their pads slowed them down once 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, before he went broke, scored his first big sale, to Georgia Tech. The corporation went on to make a totally new industry 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 worldwide and nearly $4 billion in revenue. But Plank remains to be every bit the entrepreneur, chasing audacious dreams–chief and this includes overtaking Nike as being the world’s largest sportswear maker. Under Armour leapfrogged the longtime second, Adidas, from 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 happens to be a part of why Plank would like to move so aggressively. Nike has in regards to a fifth as much users on its Nike platform as Under Armour does on its apps, and also in 2014 the shoe giant turn off its FuelBand fitness-tracker business.
The genuine effort is only beginning, though, as Plank has adopted the type of world-changing ambitions more prevalent 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 start selling some biometric fitness devices plus a smart scale made in partnership with the Taiwanese smartphone company HTC. The move will put Plank in direct competition with Fitbit and Apple in the fast-growing wearables market. It’s a bold, characteristically Plankian bet–as well as a “very risky” one, says Morningstar retail analyst Paul Swinand. (Morningstar and Inc. both are belonging to Joe Mansueto.)
“Under Armour has been 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 home run every quarter around 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 like a “moon shot.” But another of his whiteboard sayings one thinks of, this particular one courtesy of his friend and former Usa 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 once the Under Armour founder cold-called him in July 2013. Plank explained he loved Thurston’s app MapMyRun. “I run five miles thrice a week, I log everything, I lookup routes when I travel,” Plank began. “Exactly what are you doing together with the company?”
Thurston replied he was approximately to improve more venture capital to pursue ambitious expansion plans: The business had bought several hundred domains depending on every exercising, and planned to produce new items for each and every. Thurston and his investors saw MapMyFitness as poised to become the leading digital health-and-fitness network.
A couple of weeks later, Plank and three key lieutenants showed up early in the New York City offices of Allen & Company, where Thurston with his fantastic team were huddling using their bankers. The MapMyFitness team got about 20 minutes right into a detailed PowerPoint presentation when Plank interrupted. “This is awesome,” he said, “but I wish to hold you back and go speak to Robin myself for a couple of minutes”–with no bankers running interference. Forty minutes later, Plank and Thurston returned, and Plank asked the MapMyFitness team if they’d like to see Baltimore, immediately, to look into the Under Armour campus.
It wasn’t 11 a.m. if the group–together with melbourne under armour outlet online, who’d been waiting at 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, in addition to some oatmeal cookies, towards 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 be Under Armour’s chief digital officer.
Thurston, a onetime professional cyclist who maintained MapMyFitness’s position as being a top fitness app in the iPhone’s earliest days, tells the tale in the 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 plenty of hundred new engineers and other tech employees work. Initially, Thurston says, Under Armour’s interest was a puzzler. He’d entertained partnering with insurance providers and media companies, but he always worried they’d exploit every one of the data MapMyFitness gathers about people’s personal habits in ways that will violate the trust he’d created with the city. Under Armour had simply never occurred to him as a home for his company.
But the very first thing Plank did in this private meeting in New York was pullup 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 could call up data displays and in many cases change color with all the tap of the finger. “I made this for yourself,” Plank thought to Thurston. (In fact, it had run being a TV commercial; Plank explained it was made for someone like Robin 02dexipky though “I didn’t know who Robin could be.”) He wanted to ensure that Thurston wouldn’t bolt once the sale, but would instead see a fantastic opportunity and lead it. Under Armour had been a tech company, within its way, Plank explained–but it had struggled with digital.
At Under Armour headquarters, workers’ breaks often involve workouts, similar to this one with an artificial-turf field overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
Not one of the products within the “Future Girl” video existed then–and a variation of merely 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 develop the E39 compression shirt, which in fact had sensors baked into the fabric to follow an athlete’s heart rate. 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 contend with hardware firms that employ a large number of engineers and constantly turn out incremental innovations.
“It’s absurd you are aware of a little more about your automobile than you understand about the body,” says Plank. He’s betting athletes’ personal data will turbocharge their fitness and Under Armour’s future.
“It’s very normal for any product company–that is really what Under Armour is–to get gone along the path of attempting to make hardware,” says Thurston. “They are aware the distribution channels, they understand how to sell products, they realize how to market them. But since they started doing their homework on what was happening within the space, they discovered that the strength [of digital fitness] was really in the community.”
Plank also knew it might take years to create a community like Thurston’s. “It wasn’t i didn’t are aware of the right solutions to be seeking from engineers. I didn’t realize the right things to ask,” Plank admits. “I’m a sporting goods guy.”
Right after the MapMyFitness acquisition closed at the end of 2013, Plank and Thurston proceeded uncharacteristically slowly, spending time to create priorities for Under Armour’s digital transformation. Thurston identified four key pillars of health–sleep, fitness, activity, and nutrition–he based on Plank’s “make all athletes better” mission. Once that vision snapped into focus, Plank saw a possibility not only to become a collector of human activity data but additionally to be 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 one 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 individuals to log their meals, and Copenhagen-based Endomondo, a private-training course whose users are almost entirely beyond the United states Under Armour suddenly had not only the world’s largest digital fitness community but numerous engineers and reams of user data at the same time.
Merely one big question loomed: How could any one of which help Under Armour chip away at Nike’s dominance, or at a minimum sell a lot more workout shirts?
All over the railroad tracks in 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 formulate 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 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 enter.
Prior to taking on the innovation lab, Haley created the Under Armour consumer insights department. In the beginning, “the secrets in our success was we were the buyer,” 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 look 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 charge card or not,” as Haley puts it–and also that only happens once or twice annually for just about any customer. “We call something a basketball shirt, but is definitely 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 is able to take design cues from 150 million those who, having downloaded an exercise app, are the target market: “There’s unbelievable data inside. You already know their running pace, just how far they go, the frequency of which they go. You literally determine what type of Greek yogurt they normally use.”
It’s too early to see many new releases because of all the new data–developing a sheet of gear normally takes eighteen months–but Haley points to just one. The business learned from MapMyFitness data that the average run is 3.1 miles–“not a couple of miles, not five miles, but 3.1,” Haley says. When it arrived at making the Speedform Gemini running footwear, which was released last January to largely rave reviews, the business added “charged foam” padding tailored to that type of run.
“The toughest question for people like us is not really, Are available cool technologies around?” says Haley. “It’s, What do you want me to operate on? This provides us unbelievable insight that’s both incredibly broad and deep, with the exact same group of people we’re marketing toward.” That may be especially helpful in both huge growth opportunities for less than Armour. A lot more than 60 percent of Connected Fitness’s users are women, who take into account just 30 percent of Under Armour’s apparel sales. And even though approximately 11 percent from the sales are international, 35 percent of your Connected community is outside the U.S.
Still, the high-stakes bet on Connected Fitness will probably be slow to settle. Under Armour recently increased its projections for the next 2 years, estimating it would nearly double net revenue by 2018, to $7.5 billion (up from a previous estimate of $6.8 billion). Only $200 million–a paltry 2.7 percent–should come from Connected Fitness. But Thurston likens his digital community to “having a Super Bowl-size audience daily,” and one of the more immediately practical moves will probably be using those apps like a marketing channel. A characteristic called Gear Tracker, for example, allows under armour outlet melbourne users to log the footwear they normally use when they go running, and acquire a reminder when their mileage suggests it’s time to buy brand new ones. A partnership with Zappos makes ordering replacements easy.