Should you spend whenever at under armour melbourne australia, you’ll hear that question again and again. Founder and CEO Kevin Plank really likes whiteboards, and his awesome favorite use to them is usually to write down leadership maxims for his team. Inside and outside his office, whole walls of floor-to-ceiling whiteboards contain lots of curt principles he’s scrawled over the years: Expedite the inevitable. Perfection is the enemy of innovation. Respect everyone, fear no one.
These commandments are meant not as simple inspiration or hard rules, he says, but together comprise a method of “guardrails” which allow everyone under him to work as entrepreneurs by channeling his thinking. The Plank principles are drilled into new employees throughout a weeklong orientation, and they’re painted all around the hallways at company headquarters, a former Procter & factory in the Baltimore waterfront. Think just like an entrepreneur. Create as an innovator. Perform similar to a teammate.
Plank offers the affect and intensity of a head coach–direct eye contact, military analogies, the air of an individual you may not wish to disappoint. “Winning is part of our culture–it’s who we have been,” he says within his lofty office overlooking the harbor. (Really the only artwork behind his desk: a huge UA logo, its letters stacked to evoke arms raised in victory.) “And culture is created on habits.” Perhaps the main guardrail, as well as the company’s official mission, is planning to “make all athletes better.” It has long equaled thinking of clothes as high-performance gear, but recently it’s taken on a big new meaning.
Within the last two years, Under Armour has spent near $1 billion buying and making an investment in three leading makers of activity- and diet-tracking mobile apps. In that way, 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, as a big data engine to drive anything 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 roi–two of the 3 companies were unprofitable–much less be successful 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 your core business. Plank spent more hours than he cares to count, such as a large chunk of his winter vacation this past year, in just one-on-one conversations to persuade them otherwise. “It was actually important,” he says, “that it not simply 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 loves to point out that the key to Under Armour’s success is that he never focused entirely on each of the reasons it couldn’t happen. A former Division 1 college football player, Plank famously bootstrapped Under Armour’s launch in 1995 furnished with one particular 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 setup shop in their grandmother’s basement and, before he went broke, scored his first big sale, to Georgia Tech. The corporation proceeded to create a totally new niche for performance apparel, IPO’d in 2005, and today sponsors a few of the world’s greatest athletes, including Jordan Spieth, Stephen Curry, and Lindsey Vonn.
Today, Under Armour has 13,500 employees all over the world and nearly $4 billion in revenue. But Plank continues 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 second, Adidas, in the Usa 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 wants to move so aggressively. Nike has regarding a fifth as many users on its Nike platform as Under Armour does on its apps, and in 2014 the shoe giant turn off its FuelBand fitness-tracker business.
The real jobs are 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 corporation will start selling some 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 inside 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 belonging to Joe Mansueto.)
“Under Armour has been 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 property run every quarter about 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 echoes Swinand in describing Connected Fitness’s ambitions as being a “moon shot.” But another of his whiteboard sayings one thinks of, this one thanks to his friend and former Usa Special Operations commander Admiral Eric Olson: Nobody ever won a horserace by yelling “Whoa!”
Robin Thurston, co-founder 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 that he or she loved Thurston’s app MapMyRun. “I run five miles 3 times per week, I log everything, I lookup routes after i travel,” Plank began. “What are you doing together with the company?”
Thurston replied which he was about to boost more venture capital to pursue ambitious expansion plans: The company had bought several hundred domains according to every physical activity, and planned to produce new products for each and every. Thurston and his investors saw MapMyFitness as poised to become the key digital health-and-fitness network.
A few weeks later, Plank and three key lieutenants showed up early at the New York offices of Allen & Company, where Thurston with his fantastic team were huddling with their bankers. The MapMyFitness team got about 20 mins right into a detailed PowerPoint presentation when Plank interrupted. “This really is awesome,” he was quoted saying, “but I want to stop you and go talk to Robin myself for a few minutes”–with no bankers running interference. Forty minutes later, Plank and Thurston returned, and Plank asked the MapMyFitness team if they’d like to visit Baltimore, without delay, to check out the Under Armour campus.
It wasn’t 11 a.m. if the group–in addition to under armour outlet australia, 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 of your campus, as well as some oatmeal cookies, on the stunned app makers. Within 2 weeks, the parties had agreed that Under Armour would get 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 from the iPhone’s earliest days, tells the story in the new office in downtown Austin, within a brand-new building where giant images of Under Armour athletes adorn the walls (amid, naturally, motivational mantras) and lots of hundred new engineers and other tech employees work. At the beginning, Thurston says, Under Armour’s interest was really a puzzler. He’d entertained partnering with insurance companies and media companies, but he always worried they’d exploit all of the data MapMyFitness gathers about people’s personal habits in ways that would violate the trust he’d constructed with the community. Under Armour had simply never occurred to him as a home for his company.
But the very first thing Plank did because 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 that were touch-sensitive and might contact data displays and even change color with the tap of any finger. “I made this to suit your needs,” Plank thought to Thurston. (In reality, it had run as a TV commercial; Plank explained to me it had been created for someone like Robin 02dexipky though “I didn’t know who Robin could be.”) He wanted to be sure that Thurston wouldn’t bolt following the sale, but would instead see a fascinating opportunity and lead it. Under Armour had always been a tech company, in its way, Plank explained–but it really 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.
No products inside 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 had been a top Under Armour priority, given Plank’s instinct that that’s the location where the world was going. Plank had directed a team many years earlier to create an “electric” product, and they’d come up with the E39 compression shirt, that had sensors baked into the fabric to follow an athlete’s heart rate. The shirt launched with 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 businesses that employ a huge number of engineers and constantly turn out incremental innovations.
“It’s absurd that you know a little more about your car or truck than you know 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 to get a product company–that is really what Under Armour is–to have gone along the path of attempting to produce hardware,” says Thurston. “They understand the distribution channels, they understand how to sell products, they realize how to market them. But since they started doing their homework about what was happening in the space, they discovered that the strength [of digital fitness] was really in the community.”
Plank also knew it could take years to build a community like Thurston’s. “It wasn’t that we didn’t are aware of the right techniques to be seeking from engineers. I didn’t even know the correct things to ask,” Plank admits. “I’m a sporting goods guy.”
Once the MapMyFitness acquisition closed at the end of 2013, Plank and Thurston proceeded uncharacteristically slowly, taking time to put priorities for Under Armour’s digital transformation. Thurston identified four key pillars of health–sleep, fitness, activity, and nutrition–that he or she based on Plank’s “make all athletes better” mission. Once that vision snapped into focus, Plank saw a chance not only to become a collector of human activity data but additionally to be 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 1 day in late 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 individuals to log the meals they eat, and Copenhagen-based Endomondo, an individual-training curriculum whose users are almost entirely beyond the United states Under Armour suddenly had not merely the world’s largest digital fitness community but numerous engineers and reams of user data as well.
Merely one big question loomed: How would any of that assist Under Armour chip away at Nike’s dominance, or at least sell much more workout shirts?
Over the railroad tracks from your Under Armour campus, a small 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. There are actually 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 greater number of secretive the operations. The prototyping room is locked down from all of the but a few select employees and executives, who must pass a biometric scanner to get into.
Prior to taking within the innovation lab, Haley came up with the Under Armour consumer insights department. In the beginning, “the key of our own success was which we were the individual,” 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 search 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 merely know if someone swipes a credit card or otherwise not,” as Haley puts it–as well as that only happens a couple of times each year for almost any customer. “We call something a basketball shirt, but will be the guy wearing it to football practice? Will 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 can take design cues from 150 million people that, having downloaded a fitness app, are the target audience: “There’s unbelievable data within. You understand their running pace, just how far they go, the frequency of which they go. You literally determine what model of Greek yogurt they normally use.”
It’s too soon to discover many new releases on account of all the new data–developing a bit of gear normally takes eighteen months–but Haley points to one. The organization learned from MapMyFitness data the average run is 3.1 miles–“not 1 or 2 miles, not five miles, but 3.1,” Haley says. When it came to making the Speedform Gemini athletic shoes, that was released last January to largely rave reviews, the business added “charged foam” padding tailored to that type of run.
“The toughest question for all of us is just not, Are available cool technologies available?” says Haley. “It’s, What are you wanting me to function on? This offers us unbelievable insight that’s both incredibly broad and deep, with similar group we’re marketing toward.” That might be especially useful in both huge growth opportunities for Under Armour. A lot more than 60 percent of Connected Fitness’s users are women, who account for just 30 percent of Under Armour’s apparel sales. And even though no more than 11 percent of the sales are international, 35 percent in the Connected community is outside the U.S.
Still, the high-stakes bet on Connected Fitness will likely be slow to get rid of. Under Armour recently increased its projections for the following 2 years, estimating that this 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–should come from Connected Fitness. But Thurston likens his digital community to “using a Super Bowl-size audience each day,” and one of 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 online melbourne users to log the sneakers they use when they go running, and obtain a reminder when their mileage suggests it’s time and energy to buy new ones. A partnership with Zappos makes ordering replacements easy.