In the event you spend any time at under armour shoes melbourne, you’ll hear that question repeatedly. Founder and CEO Kevin Plank really likes whiteboards, along with his favorite use on their behalf is always to write down 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 time: Expedite the inevitable. Perfection will be the enemy of innovation. Respect everyone, fear nobody.
These commandments are meant less simple inspiration or hard rules, he says, but together comprise a process of “guardrails” that permit everyone under him to work 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 & Game factory on the Baltimore waterfront. Think as an entrepreneur. Create just like an innovator. Perform similar to a teammate.
Plank offers the affect and concentration of a head coach–direct eye contact, military analogies, the environment of someone you may not want to disappoint. “Winning is part of our culture–it’s who we are,” he says in his lofty office overlooking the harbor. (The only real 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 main guardrail, and the company’s official mission, is trying to “make all athletes better.” It has long equaled thinking of clothes as high-performance gear, but recently it’s adopted a huge new meaning.
During the last 2 years, Under Armour has spent close to $1 billion buying and making an investment in three leading makers of activity- and diet-tracking mobile apps. In so doing, the company has amassed the world’s largest digital health-and-fitness community, with 150 million users. Plank envisions those users, in addition to their metrics, as being a big data engine to get 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 pair of the 3 companies were unprofitable–much less flourish in a space 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, including a large chunk 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 satisfaction gear they’re making for Plank’s alma mater, the University of Maryland.
Plank wants to point out that the real 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 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–manufactured from fabric for women’s undergarments–and testing it on ex-teammates, Plank setup shop in the grandmother’s basement and, before he went broke, scored his first big sale, to Georgia Tech. The company went on to create a totally 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 worldwide and nearly $4 billion in revenue. But Plank remains every bit the entrepreneur, chasing audacious dreams–chief one of them overtaking Nike as being the world’s largest sportswear maker. Under Armour leapfrogged the longtime # 2, Adidas, in the United states 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 is a part of why Plank would like to move so aggressively. Nike has regarding a fifth as much 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 true work is only beginning, though, as Plank has adopted the type of world-changing ambitions more usual to some 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 some 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 in the fast-growing wearables market. It’s a bold, characteristically Plankian bet–plus a “very risky” one, says Morningstar retail analyst Paul Swinand. (Morningstar and Inc. 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 once you’re hitting a home run every quarter in the core apparel business, why fool around by 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 a “moon shot.” But another of his whiteboard sayings comes up, this particular one thanks to his friend and former U.S. 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 a week, I log everything, I search for routes when I travel,” Plank began. “What are you doing with all the company?”
Thurston replied that he or she was about to boost more venture capital to pursue ambitious expansion plans: The organization had bought several hundred domains depending on every exercising, and planned to produce new services for every single. Thurston and his investors saw MapMyFitness as poised to become the best digital health-and-fitness network.
A couple of weeks later, Plank and three key lieutenants showed up early on the The Big Apple offices of Allen & Company, where Thurston with his fantastic team were huddling using their bankers. The MapMyFitness team got about 20 mins in a detailed PowerPoint presentation when Plank interrupted. “This is awesome,” he explained, “but I want to hold you back and go speak with 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 attend Baltimore, without delay, to check out the Under Armour campus.
It wasn’t 11 a.m. as soon as the group–in addition to under armour shoes 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, as well as 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 be Under Armour’s chief digital officer.
Thurston, a onetime professional cyclist who maintained MapMyFitness’s position as a top fitness app in the iPhone’s earliest days, tells the history in his new office in downtown Austin, within a 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 as well as other tech employees work. Initially, 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 each of the data MapMyFitness gathers about people’s personal habits in ways that could violate the trust he’d designed with the city. Under Armour had simply never occurred to him as a home for his company.
But the first thing Plank did in that private meeting in Ny 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 which were touch-sensitive and may get in touch with data displays and in many cases change color with all the tap of any finger. “I made this for you,” Plank believed to Thurston. (In truth, it had run as a TV commercial; Plank informed me it absolutely was designed for someone like Robin 02dexipky though “I didn’t know who Robin would be.”) He wanted to make certain that Thurston wouldn’t bolt after the sale, but would instead see a thrilling opportunity and lead it. Under Armour had for ages been a tech company, in the way, Plank explained–nevertheless it had struggled with digital.
At Under Armour headquarters, workers’ breaks often involve workouts, similar to this one upon an artificial-turf field overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
None of the products in the “Future Girl” video existed then–along with a variation of a single 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 several years earlier to create an “electric” product, and they’d develop the E39 compression shirt, that have sensors baked into the fabric to track 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 contest with hardware businesses that employ 1000s of engineers and constantly turn out incremental innovations.
“It’s absurd that you know more details on your car than you understand 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 any product company–that is really what Under Armour is–to have gone down the path of attempting to make hardware,” says Thurston. “They understand the distribution channels, they know how to sell products, they know how to market them. But since they started doing their homework on what was happening from the space, they found that the strength [of digital fitness] was actually in the neighborhood.”
Plank also knew it would take years to create a community like Thurston’s. “It wasn’t that we didn’t know the right answers to be seeking from engineers. I didn’t even know the best 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 depending on Plank’s “make all athletes better” mission. Once that vision snapped into focus, Plank saw the opportunity not just to become a collector of human activity data and also to become the central processor that turns that data–regardless of whose device or app collected it–into useful insights. “OK. Let’s practice it,” he told Thurston some day in late 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 folks to log the meals they eat, and Copenhagen-based Endomondo, your own-training curriculum whose users are almost entirely beyond the Usa Under Armour suddenly had not just 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 could any one of that help Under Armour chip away at Nike’s dominance, or at best sell a lot more workout shirts?
Over the railroad tracks from 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, as well as 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 better secretive the operations. The prototyping room is locked down from all of but a couple of select employees and executives, who must pass a biometric scanner to get in.
Prior to taking within the innovation lab, Haley created the Under Armour consumer insights department. In early stages, “the secret of the success was we were the individual,” Haley says. “Kevin was actually a football player. He just knew. But slowly, we got older than our consumer.” The organization 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 simply know if someone swipes a charge card or perhaps not,” as Haley puts it–and also that only happens a couple of times a year for just about any customer. “We call something a basketball shirt, but is definitely the guy wearing it to football practice? Is 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 people who, having downloaded a training app, are exactly the audience: “There’s unbelievable data in there. You understand their running pace, how far they go, how frequently they go. You literally know what make of Greek yogurt they use.”
It’s too soon to find out many new releases on account of every one of the new data–developing some gear typically takes 18 months–but Haley points to one. 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 got to making the Speedform Gemini running shoe, which had been released last January to largely rave reviews, the organization added “charged foam” padding tailored to that particular form of run.
“The toughest question for us is not really, Are available cool technologies out there?” says Haley. “It’s, What do you want me to be effective on? This offers us unbelievable insight that’s both incredibly broad and deep, with similar group of people we’re marketing toward.” Which can be especially useful in the two huge growth opportunities for Under Armour. Over 60 % of Connected Fitness’s users are women, who account for just 30 percent of Under Armour’s apparel sales. And although just about 11 percent of its sales are international, 35 percent in the Connected community is outside the Usa
Still, the top-stakes bet on Connected Fitness is going to be slow to repay. Under Armour recently increased its projections for the following 2 years, estimating that it would nearly double net revenue by 2018, to $7.5 billion (up from your 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 every single day,” and just about the most immediately practical moves is going to be using those apps as being a marketing channel. A characteristic called Gear Tracker, for instance, allows under armour sale melbourne users to log the sneakers they utilize every time they go running, and acquire a reminder when their mileage suggests it’s time and energy to buy new ones. A partnership with Zappos makes ordering replacements easy.