When you spend any moment at under armour outlet, you’ll hear that question over and over. Founder and CEO Kevin Plank really likes whiteboards, and his awesome favorite use for these people is usually to write out leadership maxims for his team. Outside and inside his office, whole walls of floor-to-ceiling whiteboards contain dozens of curt principles he’s scrawled throughout the years: Expedite the inevitable. Perfection will be 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 make up a system of “guardrails” that permit 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 all over the hallways at company headquarters, a former Procter & Game factory about the Baltimore waterfront. Think as an entrepreneur. Create as an innovator. Perform such as a teammate.
Plank provides the affect and intensity of a head coach–direct eye-to-eye contact, military analogies, the environment of somebody you do not would like to disappoint. “Winning is part of our culture–it’s who we are,” he says in the 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 actually created on habits.” Perhaps the most important guardrail, along with the company’s official mission, is seeking to “make all athletes better.” It has long equaled contemplating clothes as high-performance gear, but recently it’s adopted a major new meaning.
Within the last 2 years, Under Armour has spent near to $1 billion buying and purchasing three leading makers of activity- and diet-tracking mobile apps. In that way, the corporation has amassed the world’s largest digital health-and-fitness community, with 150 million users. Plank envisions those users, in addition to their metrics, being a big data engine to operate a vehicle anything from product development to merchandising to marketing. Many observers, though, balked at the $710 million cost of the acquisitions, questioning whether Under Armour could quickly produce any return on your investment–a couple of the 3 companies were unprofitable–much less be successful 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, such as a large chunk of his winter vacation a year ago, in a single-on-one conversations to persuade them otherwise. “It had been important,” he says, “this not only be my decision.”
Under Armour team-sports designers, discussing concepts for uniforms and gratification gear they’re making for Plank’s alma mater, the University of Maryland.
Plank loves to say that the real key to Under Armour’s success is that 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 easy 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–made of fabric for women’s undergarments–and testing it on ex-teammates, Plank setup shop within his grandmother’s basement and, just before he went broke, scored his first big sale, to Georgia Tech. The corporation continued to create a whole new niche for performance apparel, IPO’d in 2005, now sponsors some 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 remains to be every bit the entrepreneur, chasing audacious dreams–chief and this includes overtaking Nike as the world’s largest sportswear maker. Under Armour leapfrogged the longtime number 2, Adidas, inside the United states sportswear market in 2014, but worldwide it’s still third. And Nike remains far larger, exceeding $30 billion in revenue in 2015 Which happens to be component of why Plank would like 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 in 2014 the shoe giant shut down its FuelBand fitness-tracker business.
The genuine jobs are only beginning, though, as Plank has adopted the level 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 corporation will start selling a pair of biometric fitness devices plus a smart scale made together 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–and a “very risky” one, says Morningstar retail analyst Paul Swinand. (Morningstar and Inc. are generally owned by 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. “However when you’re hitting a property run every quarter around 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 comes to mind, this particular one courtesy of his friend and former United states Special Operations commander Admiral Eric Olson: Nobody ever won a horserace by yelling “Whoa!”
Robin Thurston, co-founder and then 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 which he loved Thurston’s app MapMyRun. “I run five miles 3 times a week, I log everything, I search for routes when I travel,” Plank began. “Exactly what are you doing using the company?”
Thurston replied that he was approximately to increase more venture capital to pursue ambitious expansion plans: The company had bought several hundred domains depending on every exercising, and planned to launch new products for each. Thurston with his fantastic investors saw MapMyFitness as poised to be the top digital health-and-fitness network.
A few weeks later, Plank and three key lieutenants showed up early with the Ny City offices of Allen & Company, where Thurston with his fantastic team were huddling because of their bankers. The MapMyFitness team got about 20 minutes in a detailed PowerPoint presentation when Plank interrupted. “This is certainly awesome,” he said, “but I want to hold you back and go talk to Robin myself for several minutes”–with no bankers running interference. Forty minutes later, Plank and Thurston returned, and Plank asked the MapMyFitness team if they’d like to go to Baltimore, immediately, to look into 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 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 in the campus, and also some oatmeal cookies, on the stunned app makers. Within 2 weeks, the parties had agreed that Under Armour would discover 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 being a top fitness app in the iPhone’s earliest days, tells the history 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 plenty of hundred new engineers as well as other tech employees work. At first, Thurston says, Under Armour’s interest was really 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 such a way that will 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 first thing Plank did for the reason that private meeting in Ny 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 which were touch-sensitive and could call up data displays and even change color with the tap of a finger. “I made this to suit your needs,” Plank thought to Thurston. (Actually, it had run as a TV commercial; Plank explained it absolutely was made for someone like Robin 02dexipky though “I didn’t know who Robin can be.”) He wanted to ensure that Thurston wouldn’t bolt once the sale, but would instead see an exciting opportunity and lead it. Under Armour had for ages been a tech company, in their way, Plank explained–nevertheless it had struggled with digital.
At Under Armour headquarters, workers’ breaks often involve workouts, this way one on an artificial-turf field overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
No products from the “Future Girl” video existed then–as well as a variation of one is hitting 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 create an “electric” product, and they’d develop the E39 compression shirt, that have sensors a part of the fabric to trace 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 companies that employ thousands of engineers and constantly end up incremental innovations.
“It’s absurd you are aware of more about your vehicle than you understand about your body,” 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 can be really what Under Armour is–to obtain gone down the path of trying to create hardware,” says Thurston. “They are aware the distribution channels, they understand how to sell products, they realize how to market them. But as they started doing their homework on which was happening within the space, they saw that the strength [of digital fitness] was actually locally.”
Plank also knew it could take years to create a community like Thurston’s. “It wasn’t that we didn’t be aware of right techniques to be seeking from engineers. I didn’t know the proper questions you should 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 Under Armour’s digital transformation. Thurston identified four key pillars of health–sleep, fitness, activity, and nutrition–he according to 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 also 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. With the following March, 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 away from United states Under Armour suddenly had not simply the world’s largest digital fitness community but countless engineers and reams of user data as well.
Only one big question loomed: How would some of that will help Under Armour chip away at Nike’s dominance, or otherwise sell much more workout shirts?
Throughout 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, 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 more secretive the operations. The prototyping room is locked down from all of but a few select employees and executives, who must pass a biometric scanner to enter.
Before you take over the innovation lab, Haley created the Under Armour consumer insights department. Early on, “the key in our success was we were the consumer,” Haley says. “Kevin was actually 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 simply know when someone swipes a credit card or perhaps not,” as Haley puts it–and in many cases that only happens a couple of times annually for any customer. “We call something a basketball shirt, but is the guy wearing it to football practice? May be 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 those who, having downloaded an exercise app, are precisely the potential audience: “There’s unbelievable data inside. You know their running pace, just how far they go, how many times they go. You literally understand what make of Greek yogurt they normally use.”
It’s too soon to find out many new services because of each of the new data–developing a bit of gear often takes 18 months–but Haley points to one. The company learned from MapMyFitness data that the average run is 3.1 miles–“not a few miles, not five miles, but 3.1,” Haley says. So when it got to making the Speedform Gemini running shoe, which was released last January to largely rave reviews, the organization added “charged foam” padding tailored to that type of run.
“The toughest question for us is not really, Are available cool technologies on the market?” says Haley. “It’s, What would you like me to work on? This will give us unbelievable insight that’s both incredibly broad and deep, with similar population group we’re marketing toward.” That may be especially useful in both the huge growth opportunities for Under Armour. Over 60 % of Connected Fitness’s users are women, who make up just 30 percent of Under Armour’s apparel sales. Even though only about 11 percent of the sales are international, 35 % of the Connected community is away from U.S.
Still, our prime-stakes bet on Connected Fitness will likely be slow to get rid of. Under Armour recently increased its projections for the upcoming 2 years, estimating that 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–will come from Connected Fitness. But Thurston likens his digital community to “using a Super Bowl-size audience every single day,” and just about the most immediately practical moves will be using those apps as a marketing channel. An attribute called Gear Tracker, as an illustration, allows under armour sale melbourne users to log the footwear they utilize every time they go running, and get a reminder when their mileage suggests it’s time for you to buy new ones. A partnership with Zappos makes ordering replacements easy.