A company that started of pretty slow in the 1990’s (1996, to be more precise) has stirred up the sports apparel market in the past few years. In fact, Under Armour has passed Adidas to become the No. 2 sports apparel retailer in the United States. That’s no joke because for a long time we thought there isn’t a sports brand out there that can come close to Adidas, and especially Nike. Under Armour did it. From a company that had $17,000 in revenue in 1996 they are expected to reach $3,76 billion in 2015. Talk about a leap. And it didn’t happen by accident, their CEO Kevin Plank has a dream they follow. It took a lot of hard work, but it’s all paying off. Big.

Focused on innovation

It was hard for Under Armour at the very beginning, because they had to fight with the “big dogs”. Nike and Adidas were sponsoring most of major sports in the US, so UA had to find a different way to sell their product. They sponsored some minor league teams, colleges, organized camps etc. Their focus was on undershirts and tights insted of uniforms. They knew what they’re up against and never gave up. Just like any business, they had their ups and downs, but they kept going because they had a vision of what UA is supposed to represent. Even now, when they are the 2nd largest brand in the US sports market, they don’t intend to stop developing. They are not settling. That doesn’t mean they will go after Nike to take the No. 1 place in the sports market in the world. They are aware this is quite imposssible at this time or in the near future. Therefore, Kevin Plank and his company are focused on what they do best – being innovative and creating high quality products. 

Hiting the jackpot with high profile athletes 

As it is often the case, high profile endorsement deals help sell products. Under Armour did a magnificent job of scoring/signing great athletes.

First among many is Stephen Curry, who has been a part of the Under Armour family since 2013. You can say UA hit the jackpot with him. Two years after they’ve signed him, he won the MVP title and became the NBA champion with his Golden State Wariors. His Curry One shoes are sold out in most sizes on the UA website in the US. Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank said they will try to build a $1 billion brand around Steph Curry, which, when put in numbers, means they will need to grow 30% annually for the next ten years. “I will what I want”, right?  

Take a look at this ad from the “Charged by belief” campaign with Jamie Foxx.

Just this past week, Curry was on an Under Armour Roadshow – a five day trip to Asia for the launch of the Curry Two shoes. Great experience for him, and a great way to expand UA’s reach outside the US.  

Day 3 of the #UARoadshow tipped off in Beijing, where the MVP Stephen Curry, along with our CEO Kevin Plank, celebrated the exclusive launch of his second signature shoe, the #CurryTwo, in China.Next stop: Chongqing.

Geplaatst door Under Armour op Zondag 6 september 2015


UPDATE (Sept 18, 2015): Stephen Curry signed a new deal with Under Armour through the 2024 season. Sources say the new deal includes ownership of the company. “Stephen is a once-in-a-generation talent and has unprecedented influence on the game of basketball,” said Adam Peake, the company’s executive vice president of global marketing (Source: espn.com)

In order to reach more audience/customers in Europe, earlier this year Under Armour signed Great Britain’s Andy Murray, #3 tennis player in the world. Murray was an Adidas athlete prior to signing a £15 mil. four-year deal with UA. This is an ad showing that Andy is ready for the next step in his career, or going for the #1 spot in the world. 

However, UA still has some problems making hard court shoes for Murray, so the company had to allow him to play in Adidas shoes in this year’s US OPEN. Adidas knew this so they used this situation to poke at Under Armour. 

Curry and Murray are not the only ambassadors of Under Armour. The UA family has one Tom Brady, one of the best QB’s (if not the best) in the NFL, and a 4-time Super Bowl winner. Another valuable asset is Jordan Spieth, a pro golfer who won the US Open and Masters Tournament shortly after signing with Under Armour. The shirt Jordan wears while winning a PGA tournament is imediatelly sold out on the UA website, which shouldn’t seem strange because the more you see the brand, the more likely you are to buy it. Michael Phelps is another UA athlete. Former Olympic medalist (most decorated Olympian of all time) hasn’t been in top form lately, but is still one of the most recognized faces on the planet. He came out of retirement and will try to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. There are many more athletes in the UA family that I did not mention, and they all play a meaningful role in telling the Under Armour story. 

Women know what they want

How did UA manage to expand so rapidly in the past few years? It was rough at the start when Under Armour products were targeted at male athletes while women apparel was sort of unimportant (or it seemed like it). A lot has changed since then, which is best seen through the “I will what I want” campaign, which caused their women’s apparel to be responsible for 30% of total UA sales last year. This is in part due to a deal between Under Armour and one of the best marketing agencies in the world, Droga5. They have done some amazing campaings with/for Under Armour since they signed a parnership agreement in 2013. The Under Armour women (Gisele Bündchen, Misty Copeland, Sloane Stephens, Lindsey Vonn, Kelley O’Hara, Brianna Cope) are a part of the largest ever global marketing campaign for women – “I will what I want”. The campaign is about women who do not wait for other people’s permission or advice to take action. They disregard what society has to say to stop them from achieving their goals. 

Lindsey Vonn

Gisele Bündchen (This ad also won the Cyber Lion Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions Festival) 

A look forward

Under Armour is very careful about global expansion, as they have a lot of ground to cover at home. But they are slowly reaching out, starting with China and Asia in general. A great example of innovation can be seen in their store in Shanghai, where focus is on experience over product. Upon entrance, you have to see a video before entering the retail part of the store. Take a look at what’s behind the flashy exterior. 

UA recently lost the bid for Kevin Durant to Nike, but their CEO wasn’t worried about this. “We wanted to send a message to every athletic director, to every president of every team club, to every league commissioner, that if you have a deal, there’s no deal too big for us,” Kevin Plank said in an interview for Bloomberg TV. (source: Business Insider)

At Under Armour they intend on keeping the No. 2 spot in the US, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they dip a bit more into Nike territory because they are able. They have a vision, a dream, and their customers see it. They are special, and their products are special. If they keep delivering great products, and keep having creative marketing campaigns, it is just a matter of time before they become the No.2 globally. And after that, anything is possible. 


PHOTO: YouTube screenshot 

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