When you spend any time at under armour shoes melbourne, you’ll hear that question over and over. Founder and CEO Kevin Plank really likes whiteboards, along with his favorite use on their behalf is always to create 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 through the years: Expedite the inevitable. Perfection will 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 system of “guardrails” which allow everyone under him to use as entrepreneurs by channeling his thinking. The Plank principles are drilled into new employees during the weeklong orientation, and they’re painted everywhere in the hallways at company headquarters, a former Procter & factory on the Baltimore waterfront. Think just like an entrepreneur. Create as an innovator. Perform like a teammate.
Plank has got the affect and concentration of a head coach–direct eye-to-eye contact, military analogies, the atmosphere of someone you may not wish to disappoint. “Winning is part of our culture–it’s who our company is,” he says in the lofty office overlooking the harbor. (Really the only artwork behind his desk: a giant UA logo, its letters stacked to evoke arms raised in victory.) “And culture is formed on habits.” Perhaps the most significant guardrail, as well as 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 large new meaning.
In the last 2 years, Under Armour has spent near $1 billion buying and investing in three leading makers of activity- and diet-tracking mobile apps. By doing this, the business 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 a big data engine to get anything from product development to merchandising to marketing. Many observers, though, balked on the $710 million price of the acquisitions, questioning whether Under Armour could quickly produce any return–2 of three of the companies were unprofitable–not to mention 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 from the core business. Plank spent more hours than he cares to count, together with a large chunk of his winter vacation a year ago, in just one-on-one conversations to persuade them otherwise. “It was actually important,” he says, “that it not just 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 wants to say that the key to Under Armour’s success is that he never focused 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 armed with one easy 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–made from fabric for women’s undergarments–and testing it on ex-teammates, Plank put in place shop within his grandmother’s basement and, prior to he went broke, scored his first big sale, to Georgia Tech. The organization went on to create a whole new niche for performance apparel, IPO’d in 2005, and from now on sponsors a number 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 is still every bit the entrepreneur, chasing audacious dreams–chief and this includes overtaking Nike because the world’s largest sportswear maker. Under Armour leapfrogged the longtime number 2, Adidas, inside the U.S. sportswear market in 2014, but worldwide it’s still third. And Nike remains far larger, with more than $30 billion in revenue in 2015 Which can be part of why Plank desires to move so aggressively. Nike has about a fifth as much 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 effort is only beginning, though, as Plank has adopted the type of world-changing ambitions more usual into a Google or Facebook. He envisions that Under Armour Connected Fitness will “fundamentally affect global health.” This month–doubters be damned–the organization begins 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 within 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 owned by Joe Mansueto.)
“Under Armour has become a phenomenal success story,” Swinand says. Its stock has risen steadily–almost 2,000 percent in the decade since its IPO. “But when you’re hitting a house run every quarter on the core apparel business, why mess around using a moon shot?”
Plank rarely admits to much uncertainty or doubt, so it’s telling which he echoes Swinand in describing Connected Fitness’s ambitions as being a “moon shot.” But another of his whiteboard sayings comes up, this one thanks to 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 after that 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 he loved Thurston’s app MapMyRun. “I run five miles 3 x every week, I log everything, I lookup routes when I travel,” Plank began. “Exactly what are you doing with all the company?”
Thurston replied which he was about to improve more venture capital to pursue ambitious expansion plans: The company had bought several hundred domains based upon every physical activity, and planned to produce new items for every. Thurston and his investors saw MapMyFitness as poised to get the top digital health-and-fitness network.
A couple of 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 using their bankers. The MapMyFitness team got about twenty minutes into a detailed PowerPoint presentation when Plank interrupted. “This can be awesome,” he said, “but I would like to stop you and go speak with Robin myself for several minutes”–without the bankers running interference. Forty minutes later, Plank and Thurston returned, and Plank asked the MapMyFitness team if they’d like to see Baltimore, straight away, to look into the Under Armour campus.
It wasn’t 11 a.m. if the group–along with 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 of your campus, as well as some oatmeal cookies, for the stunned app makers. Within fourteen days, 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 like a top fitness app through 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, naturally, motivational mantras) and several hundred new engineers and other tech employees work. At first, Thurston says, Under Armour’s interest had been a puzzler. He’d entertained partnering with insurance firms and media companies, but he always worried they’d exploit all the data MapMyFitness gathers about people’s personal habits in ways that might violate the trust he’d designed with the community. Under Armour had simply never occurred to him as a home for his company.
But the very first thing Plank did for the reason that private meeting in New York 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 have been touch-sensitive and may call up data displays as well as change color using the tap of any finger. “I made this for you,” Plank believed to Thurston. (In truth, it had run like a TV commercial; Plank informed me it had been designed for someone like Robin 02dexipky though “I didn’t know who Robin will be.”) He wanted to make certain that Thurston wouldn’t bolt following the sale, but would instead see a fantastic opportunity and lead it. Under Armour had been a tech company, in their way, Plank explained–but it had struggled with digital.
At Under Armour headquarters, workers’ breaks often involve workouts, such as this one by using an artificial-turf field overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
No products in the “Future Girl” video existed then–plus a variation of one is striking 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 where the world was going. Plank had directed a team a long period 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 track an athlete’s pulse rate. 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 firms that employ 1000s of engineers and constantly prove incremental innovations.
“It’s absurd you are aware a little more about your vehicle 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 a product company–which is really what Under Armour is–to possess gone down the path of attempting to produce hardware,” says Thurston. “They know the distribution channels, they learn how to sell products, they understand how to market them. But as they started doing their homework on what was happening in the space, they discovered that the strength [of digital fitness] was really in the community.”
Plank also knew it would take years to develop 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 know the right questions you should ask,” Plank admits. “I’m a sporting goods guy.”
After the MapMyFitness acquisition closed in late 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–that he or she according to 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 in addition to be the central processor that turns that data–regardless 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. From 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, a private-training curriculum whose users are almost entirely away from U.S. Under Armour suddenly had not only the world’s largest digital fitness community but hundreds of engineers and reams of user data at the same time.
Just one single big question loomed: How would any one of that will help Under Armour chip away at Nike’s dominance, or at a minimum sell far more workout shirts?
Throughout the railroad tracks through 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 produce 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 a few select employees and executives, who must pass a biometric scanner to get in.
Prior to taking across the innovation lab, Haley came up with the Under Armour consumer insights department. In early stages, “the trick of our own success was that we were the consumer,” Haley says. “Kevin was 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 surveys online.
What Under Armour didn’t know with much precision, though, was how people used its products after buying them. “You just know when someone swipes a credit card or otherwise,” as Haley puts it–and also that only happens a few times a year for almost any customer. “We call something a basketball shirt, but is definitely the guy using 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, he can take design cues from 150 million people that, having downloaded a fitness app, are the potential audience: “There’s unbelievable data inside. You understand their running pace, just how far they go, how frequently they go. You literally determine what make of Greek yogurt they utilize.”
It’s too early to view many new releases on account of all the new data–developing a piece of gear often takes 18 months–but Haley points to just one. The company learned from MapMyFitness data that this 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 running shoe, that was released last January to largely rave reviews, the business added “charged foam” padding tailored to this type of run.
“The toughest question for people is not really, Exist cool technologies available?” says Haley. “It’s, What do you need me to work on? This offers us unbelievable insight that’s both incredibly broad and deep, with similar group of people we’re marketing toward.” That might be especially useful when you are both the huge growth opportunities for less than Armour. Greater than 60 % of Connected Fitness’s users are women, who take into account just 30 percent of Under Armour’s apparel sales. Even though no more than 11 percent of their sales are international, 35 % from the Connected community is outside of the United states
Still, our prime-stakes bet on Connected Fitness is going to be slow to repay. Under Armour recently increased its projections for the next 2 yrs, estimating which 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 daily,” and just about the most immediately practical moves will likely be using those apps being a marketing channel. A function called Gear Tracker, for example, allows under armour outlet melbourne users to log the sneakers they prefer when they go running, and have a reminder when their mileage suggests it’s a chance to buy new ones. A partnership with Zappos makes ordering replacements easy.