Should you spend any time at under armour outlet, you’ll hear that question over and over. Founder and CEO Kevin Plank really likes whiteboards, and his favorite use on their behalf is usually to write out leadership maxims for his team. In and out of his office, whole walls of floor-to-ceiling whiteboards contain dozens of curt principles he’s scrawled over the years: Expedite the inevitable. Perfection is the enemy of innovation. Respect everyone, fear no-one.
These commandments are meant not quite as simple inspiration or hard rules, he says, but together comprise a system of “guardrails” that enable 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 everywhere in the hallways at company headquarters, a former Procter & factory about the Baltimore waterfront. Think as an entrepreneur. Create such as an innovator. Perform like a teammate.
Plank provides the affect and power of a head coach–direct eye-to-eye contact, military analogies, the atmosphere of someone you do not would like to disappoint. “Winning is a part of our culture–it’s who our company is,” he says in his lofty office overlooking the harbor. (The sole artwork behind his desk: a huge UA logo, its letters stacked to evoke arms raised in victory.) “And culture is actually created on habits.” Perhaps the most crucial guardrail, and the company’s official mission, is trying to “make all athletes better.” It provides long equaled considering clothes as high-performance gear, but recently it’s adopted a huge new meaning.
In the last 2 yrs, Under Armour has spent in close proximity to $1 billion buying and making an investment in three leading makers of activity- and diet-tracking mobile apps. In so doing, the business has amassed the world’s largest digital health-and-fitness community, with 150 million users. Plank envisions those users, as well as their metrics, like a big data engine to drive anything from product development to merchandising to marketing. Many observers, though, balked in the $710 million price of the acquisitions, questioning whether Under Armour could quickly produce any return on investment–a couple of the 3 companies were unprofitable–let alone 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 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-on-one conversations to persuade them otherwise. “It was actually important,” he says, “that this not only 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 loves to point out that the important thing to Under Armour’s success is the fact 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 simple insight: The cotton undershirts football players wore under their pads slowed them down when 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 create shop in their grandmother’s basement and, just before he went broke, scored his first big sale, to Georgia Tech. The company went on to produce a whole new industry for performance apparel, IPO’d in 2005, and now sponsors a few 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 one of them overtaking Nike as the world’s largest sportswear maker. Under Armour leapfrogged the longtime number 2, Adidas, within the U.S. sportswear market in 2014, but worldwide it’s still third. And Nike remains far larger, with over $30 billion in revenue in 2015 Which can be a part of why Plank wishes to move so aggressively. Nike has with regards to a fifth as much users on its Nike platform as Under Armour does on its apps, and then in 2014 the shoe giant de-activate its FuelBand fitness-tracker business.
The genuine job is only beginning, though, as Plank has adopted the kind of world-changing ambitions more usual to your 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 set of 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 from 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 belonging to Joe Mansueto.)
“Under Armour is a phenomenal success story,” Swinand says. Its stock has risen steadily–almost 2,000 percent in the decade since its IPO. “However when you’re hitting a property run every quarter in the core apparel business, why mess around by 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 being a “moon shot.” But another of his whiteboard sayings one thinks of, 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 after which 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 that he or she loved Thurston’s app MapMyRun. “I run five miles 3 times per week, I log everything, I search for routes once i travel,” Plank began. “What are you doing together with the company?”
Thurston replied he was approximately to increase more venture capital to pursue ambitious expansion plans: The business had bought several hundred domains based on every physical activity, and planned to produce new services for each and every. Thurston and his awesome investors saw MapMyFitness as poised to become the best digital health-and-fitness network.
A few weeks later, Plank and three key lieutenants showed up early with the New York offices of Allen & Company, where Thurston with his fantastic team were huddling because of their bankers. The MapMyFitness team got about 20 mins into a detailed PowerPoint presentation when Plank interrupted. “This is certainly awesome,” he was quoted saying, “but I want to hold you back and go speak with Robin myself for a few minutes”–without having bankers running interference. Forty minutes later, Plank and Thurston returned, and Plank asked the MapMyFitness team if they’d like to attend Baltimore, immediately, to check out the Under Armour campus.
It wasn’t 11 a.m. as soon as the group–along with 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 from the campus, along with some oatmeal cookies, towards the stunned app makers. Within fourteen days, 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 the iPhone’s earliest days, tells the tale within his new office in downtown Austin, in a brand-new building where giant images of Under Armour athletes adorn the walls (amid, of course, motivational mantras) and several hundred new engineers as well as other tech employees work. At the beginning, 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 the data MapMyFitness gathers about people’s personal habits in such a way that would violate the trust he’d constructed with the neighborhood. Under Armour had simply never occurred to him as being a home for his company.
But the very first thing Plank did because private meeting in New York 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 that were touch-sensitive and might get in touch with data displays as well as change color using the tap of a finger. “I made this for you,” Plank said to Thurston. (In truth, it had run being a TV commercial; Plank informed me it absolutely was manufactured for someone like Robin 02dexipky though “I didn’t know who Robin will be.”) He wanted to make sure that Thurston wouldn’t bolt after the sale, but would instead see a fantastic opportunity and lead it. Under Armour had been a tech company, in the way, Plank explained–but it really had struggled with digital.
At Under Armour headquarters, workers’ breaks often involve workouts, similar to this one on an artificial-turf field overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
None of the products from the “Future Girl” video existed then–plus a variation of merely one is hitting the market now–but merging performance products with performance data and interactive technology had been 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 few years earlier to create an “electric” product, and they’d put together the E39 compression shirt, which in fact had sensors embedded in the fabric to monitor an athlete’s heartbeat. 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 businesses that employ a huge number of engineers and constantly come out incremental innovations.
“It’s absurd that you know a little more about your car than you understand about your whole 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–that is really what Under Armour is–to have gone across the path of trying to produce hardware,” says Thurston. “They are aware the distribution channels, they know how to sell products, they know how to market them. But since they started doing their homework about what was happening within the space, they discovered that the strength [of digital fitness] was actually locally.”
Plank also knew it could take years to build a community like Thurston’s. “It wasn’t that we didn’t be aware of right solutions to be seeking from engineers. I didn’t even know 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, taking time setting priorities for less than Armour’s digital transformation. Thurston identified four key pillars of health–sleep, fitness, activity, and nutrition–which he according to Plank’s “make all athletes better” mission. Once that vision snapped into focus, Plank saw a chance not just to be described as 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 undertake it,” he told Thurston one day in late 2014. By 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 individuals to log their meals, and Copenhagen-based Endomondo, a private-exercise program whose users are almost entirely outside of the Usa Under Armour suddenly had not simply the world’s largest digital fitness community but hundreds of engineers and reams of user data as well.
Merely one big question loomed: How would any kind of which help Under Armour chip away at Nike’s dominance, or otherwise sell much more workout shirts?
Across the railroad tracks through the Under Armour campus, a low 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 formulate 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 several select employees and executives, who must pass a biometric scanner to get in.
Before you take within the innovation lab, Haley come up with Under Armour consumer insights department. In early stages, “the secret of the success was which we were the individual,” Haley says. “Kevin was really a football player. He just knew. But slowly, we got over the age of our consumer.” The organization stopped bragging about not using focus groups and started tapping its sponsored athletes for product insights, sending researchers to check 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 an individual swipes credit cards or perhaps not,” as Haley puts it–and in many cases that only happens once or twice annually for any customer. “We call something a basketball shirt, but may be the guy wearing it to football practice? Will be the boyfriend shirt he gives to his girlfriend something she wears as pajamas?”
But furnished with data from Connected Fitness apps, Haley says, they can take design cues from 150 million people who, having downloaded an exercise app, are the audience: “There’s unbelievable data inside. You already know their running pace, how far they go, how often they go. You literally understand what make of Greek yogurt they prefer.”
It’s too early to see many new releases because of each of the new data–developing a piece of gear typically takes eighteen months–but Haley points to a single. The organization 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 stumbled on making the Speedform Gemini athletic shoes, which had been released last January to largely rave reviews, the company added “charged foam” padding tailored to that sort of run.
“The toughest question for us is not, Are there any cool technologies around?” says Haley. “It’s, What are you wanting me to operate on? This offers us unbelievable insight that’s both incredibly broad and deep, with the same group we’re marketing toward.” That could be especially useful in the 2 huge growth opportunities for Under Armour. Greater than 60 % of Connected Fitness’s users are women, who account for just 30 percent of Under Armour’s apparel sales. And while only about 11 percent of its sales are international, 35 % in the Connected community is away from U.S.
Still, the high-stakes bet on Connected Fitness will likely be slow to settle. Under Armour recently increased its projections for the following a couple of years, estimating that 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 daily,” and just about the most immediately practical moves will be using those apps as being a marketing channel. A feature called Gear Tracker, as an example, allows under armour online melbourne users to log the sneakers they utilize when they go running, and get a reminder when their mileage suggests it’s time to buy new ones. A partnership with Zappos makes ordering replacements easy.