If 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, along with his favorite use for these people is 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 over time: Expedite the inevitable. Perfection will be the enemy of innovation. Respect everyone, fear no person.
These commandments are meant much less simple inspiration or hard rules, he says, but together form a system of “guardrails” that permit 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 all over the hallways at company headquarters, a former Procter & factory on the Baltimore waterfront. Think like an entrepreneur. Create just like an innovator. Perform just like a teammate.
Plank provides the affect and power of a head coach–direct eye contact, military analogies, the atmosphere of somebody you do not want to disappoint. “Winning is an element 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 most important guardrail, along with the company’s official mission, is trying to “make all athletes better.” It provides long equaled thinking of clothes as high-performance gear, but recently it’s taken on a huge new meaning.
Over the past 2 years, Under Armour has spent near $1 billion buying and buying three leading makers of activity- and diet-tracking mobile apps. By doing this, the company 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 operate a vehicle from product development to merchandising to marketing. Many observers, though, balked with the $710 million price of the acquisitions, questioning whether Under Armour could quickly produce any return on your investment–a pair of three of the companies were unprofitable–not to mention flourish 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 in the core business. Plank spent more hours than he cares to count, including a large slice of his winter vacation just last year, in just one-on-one conversations to persuade them otherwise. “It was important,” he says, “that it not merely 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 key to Under Armour’s success is the fact he never focused entirely on every one 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 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 put in place shop in his grandmother’s basement and, right before he went broke, scored his first big sale, to Georgia Tech. The organization proceeded to make a completely new niche for performance apparel, IPO’d in 2005, 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 around the globe and nearly $4 billion in revenue. But Plank remains every bit the entrepreneur, chasing audacious dreams–chief among them overtaking Nike as being the world’s largest sportswear maker. Under Armour leapfrogged the longtime number 2, Adidas, in the United states sportswear market in 2014, but worldwide it’s still third. And Nike remains far larger, with over $30 billion in revenue in 2015 Which is a part of why Plank would like to move so aggressively. Nike has regarding a fifth as numerous users on its Nike platform as Under Armour does on its apps, as well as in 2014 the shoe giant shut down its FuelBand fitness-tracker business.
The true job is only beginning, though, as Plank has adopted the level of world-changing ambitions more widespread to a Google or Facebook. He envisions that Under Armour Connected Fitness will “fundamentally affect global health.” This month–doubters be damned–the business will begin selling a set of biometric fitness devices as well as a smart scale made in partnership 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–along with a “very risky” one, says Morningstar retail analyst Paul Swinand. (Morningstar and Inc. are owned by Joe Mansueto.)
“Under Armour has been a phenomenal success story,” Swinand says. Its stock has risen steadily–almost 2,000 percent within the decade since its IPO. “However, when you’re hitting a property run every quarter in the core apparel business, why fool around with a moon shot?”
Plank rarely admits to much uncertainty or doubt, so it’s telling that he or she echoes Swinand in describing Connected Fitness’s ambitions as a “moon shot.” But another of his whiteboard sayings pops into your head, 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 as soon as the Under Armour founder cold-called him in July 2013. Plank explained he loved Thurston’s app MapMyRun. “I run five miles 3 x per week, I log everything, I check out routes after i travel,” Plank began. “Just what are you doing together with the company?”
Thurston replied that he or she was about to raise more venture capital to pursue ambitious expansion plans: The organization had bought several hundred domains according to every exercise, and planned to launch new items for every single. Thurston and his investors saw MapMyFitness as poised to get the key digital health-and-fitness network.
A few weeks later, Plank and three key lieutenants showed up early in the New York City offices of Allen & Company, where Thurston and his team were huddling with their bankers. The MapMyFitness team got about 20 minutes in to a detailed PowerPoint presentation when Plank interrupted. “This is certainly awesome,” he stated, “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 see Baltimore, immediately, to look into the Under Armour campus.
It wasn’t 11 a.m. as soon as the group–along with melbourne under armour outlet 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 from the campus, in addition to some oatmeal cookies, to the stunned app makers. Within 14 days, the parties had agreed that Under Armour would discover 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 as a top fitness app through the iPhone’s earliest days, tells the tale in their new office in downtown Austin, inside a brand-new building where giant images of Under Armour athletes adorn the walls (amid, obviously, motivational mantras) and several hundred new engineers as well as other tech employees work. In the beginning, Thurston says, Under Armour’s interest was a puzzler. He’d entertained partnering with insurance firms 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 constructed with the neighborhood. Under Armour had simply never occurred to him like a home for his company.
But the first thing Plank did because private meeting in The Big Apple was pull-up 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 had been touch-sensitive and can get in touch with data displays as well as change color with the tap of your finger. “I made this for you,” Plank thought to Thurston. (In truth, it had run as a TV commercial; Plank explained it absolutely was manufactured for someone like Robin 02dexipky though “I didn’t know who Robin would be.”) He wanted to ensure that Thurston wouldn’t bolt after the sale, but would instead see a thrilling opportunity and lead it. Under Armour had been a tech company, in the way, Plank explained–but it had struggled with digital.
At Under Armour headquarters, workers’ breaks often involve workouts, such as this one with an artificial-turf field overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
Not one of the products from the “Future Girl” video existed then–and a variation of a single 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 in which the world was going. Plank had directed a team a long period earlier to create an “electric” product, and they’d develop the E39 compression shirt, that had sensors embedded in the material to monitor an athlete’s heart rate. The shirt launched on 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 companies 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 car than you understand about your system,” says Plank. He’s betting athletes’ personal data will turbocharge their fitness and Under Armour’s future.
“It’s very normal to get a product company–which is really what Under Armour is–to obtain gone on the path of attempting to produce hardware,” says Thurston. “They know the distribution channels, they understand how to sell products, they understand how to market them. But because they started doing their homework about what was happening within the space, they saw that the strength [of digital fitness] was really locally.”
Plank also knew it would take years to build a community like Thurston’s. “It wasn’t which i didn’t be aware of right techniques to be seeking from engineers. I didn’t have any idea 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 setting priorities for less than Armour’s digital transformation. Thurston identified four key pillars of health–sleep, fitness, activity, and nutrition–that he or she according to Plank’s “make all athletes better” mission. Once that vision snapped into focus, Plank saw an opportunity not just to be considered a collector of human activity data and also to be 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 one day in late 2014. With 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 people to log their meals, and Copenhagen-based Endomondo, a private-training curriculum whose users are almost entirely away from Usa Under Armour suddenly had not simply the world’s largest digital fitness community but countless engineers and reams of user data too.
Only one big question loomed: How would any of that help Under Armour chip away at Nike’s dominance, or at best sell a lot more workout shirts?
All over the railroad tracks in 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, along with 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 more secretive the operations. The prototyping room is locked down coming from all but a few select employees and executives, who must pass a biometric scanner to get in.
Prior to taking on the innovation lab, Haley created the Under Armour consumer insights department. Early on, “the secret of our own success was that people were the individual,” Haley says. “Kevin was really 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 search 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 a charge card or otherwise,” 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? Will be the boyfriend shirt he gives to his girlfriend something she wears as pajamas?”
But equipped with data from Connected Fitness apps, Haley says, he could take design cues from 150 million those who, having downloaded a workout app, are exactly the audience: “There’s unbelievable data within. You already know their running pace, just how far they go, how often they go. You literally really know what brand of Greek yogurt they normally use.”
It’s too early to see many new items due to every one of the new data–developing a piece of gear often takes eighteen months–but Haley points to 1. The corporation learned from MapMyFitness data the average run is 3.1 miles–“not a few miles, not five miles, but 3.1,” Haley says. So when it stumbled on making the Speedform Gemini running shoe, which had been released last January to largely rave reviews, the company added “charged foam” padding tailored to this form of run.
“The toughest question for people like us will not be, Exist cool technologies around?” says Haley. “It’s, What are you wanting me to operate on? This provides us unbelievable insight that’s both incredibly broad and deep, using the same population group we’re marketing toward.” That could be especially helpful in the two huge growth opportunities for Under Armour. More than 60 percent of Connected Fitness’s users are women, who make up just 30 percent of Under Armour’s apparel sales. And although just about 11 percent of the sales are international, 35 % of your Connected community is outside of the U.S.
Still, the top-stakes bet on Connected Fitness will likely be slow to pay off. Under Armour recently increased its projections for the upcoming two years, 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 daily,” and probably the most immediately practical moves will be using those apps like a marketing channel. An attribute called Gear Tracker, as an example, allows under armour online melbourne users to log these shoes they utilize when they go running, and have a reminder when their mileage suggests it’s a chance to buy brand new ones. A partnership with Zappos makes ordering replacements easy.