If you spend whenever at under armour shoes melbourne, you’ll hear that question again and again. Founder and CEO Kevin Plank really likes whiteboards, with his fantastic favorite use on their behalf would be to write out leadership maxims for his team. In and out of his office, whole walls of floor-to-ceiling whiteboards contain many curt principles he’s scrawled over time: 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 constitute a method of “guardrails” which allow everyone under him to use as entrepreneurs by channeling his thinking. The Plank principles are drilled into new employees during a weeklong orientation, and they’re painted all around the hallways at company headquarters, a former Procter & Game factory on the Baltimore waterfront. Think like an entrepreneur. Create like an innovator. Perform just like a teammate.
Plank provides the affect and power of a head coach–direct eye-to-eye contact, military analogies, the atmosphere of somebody you may not desire to disappoint. “Winning is an integral part of our culture–it’s who we are,” he says within his lofty office overlooking the harbor. (The only real artwork behind his desk: a giant UA logo, its letters stacked to evoke arms raised in victory.) “And culture is actually created on habits.” Perhaps the most significant guardrail, and the company’s official mission, is wanting to “make all athletes better.” It offers long equaled contemplating clothes as high-performance gear, but recently it’s adopted a huge new meaning.
During the last two years, Under Armour has spent in close proximity to $1 billion buying and buying three leading makers of activity- and diet-tracking mobile apps. By doing this, the corporation 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, like a big data engine to get from product development to merchandising to marketing. Many observers, though, balked in the $710 million value of the acquisitions, questioning whether Under Armour could quickly produce any roi–two of the 3 companies were unprofitable–much less reach your goals in a place 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, including a large chunk of his winter vacation last year, in just one-on-one conversations to persuade them otherwise. “It absolutely was important,” he says, “that this not just be my decision.”
Under Armour team-sports designers, discussing concepts for uniforms and performance gear they’re making for Plank’s alma mater, the University of Maryland.
Plank likes to point out that the real key to Under Armour’s success is he never focused on all 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 easy insight: The cotton undershirts football players wore under their pads slowed them down once they became soaked with sweat. After prototyping a moisture-wicking, formfitting alternative–created from fabric for women’s undergarments–and testing it on ex-teammates, Plank set up shop in his grandmother’s basement and, right before he went broke, scored his first big sale, to Georgia Tech. The corporation continued to produce a completely new niche for performance apparel, IPO’d in 2005, now sponsors a number of the world’s greatest athletes, including Jordan Spieth, Stephen Curry, and Lindsey Vonn.
Today, Under Armour has 13,500 employees around the globe and nearly $4 billion in revenue. But Plank continues to be every bit the entrepreneur, chasing audacious dreams–chief one of them overtaking Nike since 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 happens to be a part of why Plank wants to move so aggressively. Nike has with regards to a fifth as many users on its Nike platform as Under Armour does on its apps, and then in 2014 the shoe giant de-activate its FuelBand fitness-tracker business.
The true work is only beginning, though, as Plank has adopted the sort 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 organization will start selling a set of biometric fitness devices and 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–along with a “very risky” one, says Morningstar retail analyst Paul Swinand. (Morningstar and Inc. are properties of Joe Mansueto.)
“Under Armour has been a 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 on 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 like a “moon shot.” But another of his whiteboard sayings comes to mind, this courtesy of 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 once the Under Armour founder cold-called him in July 2013. Plank explained that he loved Thurston’s app MapMyRun. “I run five miles three times weekly, I log everything, I look up routes after i travel,” Plank began. “Exactly what are you doing using the company?”
Thurston replied he was approximately to improve more venture capital to pursue ambitious expansion plans: The business had bought several hundred domains based upon every exercising, and planned to produce new releases for each and every. Thurston along with his investors saw MapMyFitness as poised in becoming the best digital health-and-fitness network.
A couple of weeks later, Plank and three key lieutenants showed up early with the Ny City offices of Allen & Company, where Thurston and his team were huddling making use of their bankers. The MapMyFitness team got about twenty or so minutes right into a detailed PowerPoint presentation when Plank interrupted. “This is awesome,” he was quoted saying, “but I would like to stop you and go speak with Robin myself for a couple 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, straight away, to check out the Under Armour campus.
It wasn’t 11 a.m. when the group–along with under armour outlet australia, 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, and also some oatmeal cookies, on the stunned app makers. Within fourteen days, 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 from your iPhone’s earliest days, tells the story in his 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 and other tech employees work. Initially, Thurston says, Under Armour’s interest was actually a puzzler. He’d entertained partnering with insurance carriers 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 might violate the trust he’d constructed with the city. Under Armour had simply never occurred to him being a home for his company.
But the first thing Plank did in this private meeting in Ny was pullup a concept 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 might get in touch with data displays as well as change color with all the tap of any finger. “I made this for yourself,” Plank believed to Thurston. (In truth, it had run like a TV commercial; Plank explained to me it had been manufactured for someone like Robin 02dexipky though “I didn’t know who Robin will be.”) He wanted to make sure that Thurston wouldn’t bolt once the sale, but would instead see a thrilling opportunity and lead it. Under Armour had always been a tech company, in their way, Plank explained–however it had struggled with digital.
At Under Armour headquarters, workers’ breaks often involve workouts, like this one on an artificial-turf field overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
None of the products within the “Future Girl” video existed then–plus a variation of merely one is striking the market now–but merging performance products with performance data and interactive technology was a top Under Armour priority, given Plank’s instinct that that’s in which the world was going. Plank had directed a team several years earlier to generate an “electric” product, and they’d put together the E39 compression shirt, which in fact had sensors a part of the fabric to follow an athlete’s heart 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 compete with hardware companies that employ 1000s of engineers and constantly prove incremental innovations.
“It’s absurd you know much more about your car than you know about the 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 obtain gone down the path of trying to make hardware,” says Thurston. “They understand the distribution channels, they realize how to sell products, they realize how to market them. But as they started doing their homework about what was happening from the space, they discovered that the strength [of digital fitness] was really locally.”
Plank also knew it could take years to develop a community like Thurston’s. “It wasn’t that we didn’t be aware of right solutions to be seeking from engineers. I didn’t even know the right questions you should ask,” Plank admits. “I’m a sporting goods guy.”
Following the MapMyFitness acquisition closed in late 2013, Plank and Thurston proceeded uncharacteristically slowly, taking time to put priorities for less than Armour’s digital transformation. Thurston identified four key pillars of health–sleep, fitness, activity, and nutrition–he based on Plank’s “make all athletes better” mission. Once that vision snapped into focus, Plank saw an opportunity not just to become a collector of human activity data and also to be the central processor that turns that data–no matter what whose device or app collected it–into useful insights. “OK. Let’s practice it,” he told Thurston some day at the end of 2014. Through the following March, that they had spent more than 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 program whose users are almost entirely outside of the United states 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 big question loomed: How would any of which help Under Armour chip away at Nike’s dominance, or at a minimum sell much more workout shirts?
Across the railroad tracks from your 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, and a psychologist to build up shoe and apparel concepts. There are 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 but a couple of select employees and executives, who must pass a biometric scanner to penetrate.
Before you take over the innovation lab, Haley come up with Under Armour consumer insights department. In the beginning, “the key of our success was we were the customer,” Haley says. “Kevin was a football player. He just knew. But slowly, we got more than our consumer.” The corporation stopped bragging about not using focus groups and started tapping its sponsored athletes for product insights, sending researchers to look 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 a person swipes a charge card or perhaps not,” as Haley puts it–and also that only happens once or twice annually for almost any customer. “We call something a basketball shirt, but may be 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 can take design cues from 150 million those who, having downloaded an exercise app, are precisely the target audience: “There’s unbelievable data in there. You know their running pace, how far they go, how many times they go. You literally really know what model of Greek yogurt they utilize.”
It’s too soon to see many new services because of all the new data–developing a sheet of gear normally takes eighteen months–but Haley points to one. The business learned from MapMyFitness data that this average run is 3.1 miles–“not 1 or 2 miles, not five miles, but 3.1,” Haley says. And once it stumbled on making the Speedform Gemini athletic shoes, which had been released last January to largely rave reviews, the company added “charged foam” padding tailored for that form of run.
“The toughest question for us will not be, Are there cool technologies on the market?” says Haley. “It’s, What do you need me to operate on? This offers us unbelievable insight that’s both incredibly broad and deep, using the same population group we’re marketing toward.” That could be especially useful when you are both huge growth opportunities for Under Armour. More than 60 percent of Connected Fitness’s users are women, who are the cause of just 30 percent of Under Armour’s apparel sales. And while only about 11 percent of its sales are international, 35 % from the Connected community is away from United states
Still, the high-stakes bet on Connected Fitness will likely be slow to repay. Under Armour recently increased its projections for the upcoming two years, estimating which it would nearly double net revenue by 2018, to $7.5 billion (up from the 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 “developing a Super Bowl-size audience every single day,” and one of the most immediately practical moves is going to be using those apps as a marketing channel. A characteristic called Gear Tracker, for instance, allows under armour outlet melbourne users to log the shoes they normally use every time they go running, and have a reminder when their mileage suggests it’s time to buy new ones. A partnership with Zappos makes ordering replacements easy.