Should you spend whenever at under armour melbourne australia, you’ll hear that question over and over. Founder and CEO Kevin Plank really likes whiteboards, along with his favorite use to them would be to create leadership maxims for his team. Outside and inside his office, whole walls of floor-to-ceiling whiteboards contain many curt principles he’s scrawled through 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 make up a method of “guardrails” that permit everyone under him to function as entrepreneurs by channeling his thinking. The Plank principles are drilled into new employees throughout a weeklong orientation, and they’re painted all over the hallways at company headquarters, a former Procter & factory about the Baltimore waterfront. Think such as an entrepreneur. Create like an innovator. Perform just like a teammate.
Plank has got the affect and intensity of a head coach–direct eye contact, military analogies, air of somebody you do not wish to disappoint. “Winning is an integral part of our culture–it’s who we are,” 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 formed on habits.” Perhaps the most important guardrail, as well as the company’s official mission, is trying to “make all athletes better.” It has long equaled contemplating clothes as high-performance gear, but recently it’s taken on a big new meaning.
During the last 2 yrs, Under Armour has spent near $1 billion buying and making an investment in three leading makers of activity- and diet-tracking mobile apps. By doing so, the company has amassed the world’s largest digital health-and-fitness community, with 150 million users. Plank envisions those users, and their metrics, as being a big data engine to operate anything from product development to merchandising to marketing. Many observers, though, balked at the $710 million value of the acquisitions, questioning whether Under Armour could quickly produce any roi–2 of the 3 companies were unprofitable–let alone flourish in a location 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, including a large slice of his winter vacation just last year, in one-on-one conversations to persuade them otherwise. “It was actually important,” he says, “this not simply 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 say 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 equipped with one particular insight: The cotton undershirts football players wore under their pads slowed them down whenever 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, just before he went broke, scored his first big sale, to Georgia Tech. The business went on to generate a whole 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 around the globe and nearly $4 billion in revenue. But Plank is still every bit the entrepreneur, chasing audacious dreams–chief and this includes overtaking Nike as being the world’s largest sportswear maker. Under Armour leapfrogged the longtime # 2, Adidas, inside the U.S. sportswear market in 2014, but worldwide it’s still third. And Nike remains far larger, exceeding $30 billion in revenue in 2015 Which happens to be component of why Plank wishes to move so aggressively. Nike has with regards to a fifth several users on its Nike platform as Under Armour does on its apps, and also in 2014 the shoe giant de-activate its FuelBand fitness-tracker business.
The actual effort is only beginning, though, as Plank has adopted the sort of world-changing ambitions more widespread 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 a couple of biometric fitness devices plus a smart scale made in partnership 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 generally properties of Joe Mansueto.)
“Under Armour has become a phenomenal success story,” Swinand says. Its stock has risen steadily–almost 2,000 percent inside the decade since its IPO. “However, when you’re hitting a house run every quarter around the core apparel business, why mess around having a moon shot?”
Plank rarely admits to much uncertainty or doubt, so it’s telling that he or she echoes Swinand in describing Connected Fitness’s ambitions as being a “moon shot.” But another of his whiteboard sayings comes to mind, that one 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 then 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 3 x a week, I log everything, I lookup routes once i travel,” Plank began. “Exactly what are you doing with the company?”
Thurston replied he was about to improve more venture capital to pursue ambitious expansion plans: The business had bought several hundred domains according to every exercising, and planned to launch new releases for each and every. Thurston and his awesome investors saw MapMyFitness as poised to be the top digital health-and-fitness network.
A few 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 minutes right into a detailed PowerPoint presentation when Plank interrupted. “This really is awesome,” he was quoted saying, “but I would like to stop you and go speak with Robin myself for a couple minutes”–without having bankers running interference. Forty minutes later, Plank and Thurston returned, and Plank asked the MapMyFitness team if they’d like to visit Baltimore, immediately, to check out the Under Armour campus.
It wasn’t 11 a.m. when the group–in addition to 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 in the campus, along with some oatmeal cookies, for the stunned app makers. Within 14 days, 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 as being a top fitness app from the iPhone’s earliest days, tells the tale in their new office in downtown Austin, within a brand-new building where giant images of Under Armour athletes adorn the walls (amid, of course, motivational mantras) and lots of hundred new engineers as well as other tech employees work. In the beginning, Thurston says, Under Armour’s interest had been 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 could violate the trust he’d constructed with the city. Under Armour had simply never occurred to him as a home for his company.
But the first thing Plank did for the reason that private meeting in New York City 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 and even change color together with the tap of your finger. “I made this for you,” Plank believed to Thurston. (In fact, it had run as being a TV commercial; Plank explained it was actually created for someone like Robin 02dexipky though “I didn’t know who Robin would be.”) He wanted to be sure 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–however it had struggled with digital.
At Under Armour headquarters, workers’ breaks often involve workouts, such as this one upon an artificial-turf field overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
None of the products from the “Future Girl” video existed then–as well as a variation of one is showing up in 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 in which the world was going. Plank had directed a team a long period earlier to create an “electric” product, and they’d come up with the E39 compression shirt, which in fact had sensors embedded in the fabric to trace 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 firms that employ a huge number of engineers and constantly prove incremental innovations.
“It’s absurd you know much more about your car or truck than you understand about your system,” 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–which is really what Under Armour is–to get gone on the path of attempting to make hardware,” says Thurston. “They are fully aware the distribution channels, they understand how to sell products, they learn how to market them. But since they started doing their homework about what was happening from the space, they realized that the strength [of digital fitness] was really in the community.”
Plank also knew it could take years to develop a community like Thurston’s. “It wasn’t which i didn’t be aware of right solutions to be seeking from engineers. I didn’t know the proper questions you should ask,” Plank admits. “I’m a sporting goods guy.”
After the MapMyFitness acquisition closed at the end of 2013, Plank and Thurston proceeded uncharacteristically slowly, taking time setting priorities for Under Armour’s digital transformation. Thurston identified four key pillars of health–sleep, fitness, activity, and nutrition–he according to Plank’s “make all athletes better” mission. Once that vision snapped into focus, Plank saw the opportunity not only to be considered a collector of human activity data but also to become 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 in late 2014. Through the following March, that they had spent over half a billion dollars acquiring two more companies: San Francisco-based MyFitnessPal, a nutrition-tracking system for individuals to log their meals, and Copenhagen-based Endomondo, an individual-training course whose users are almost entirely outside of the U.S. Under Armour suddenly had not simply the world’s largest digital fitness community but hundreds of engineers and reams of user data also.
Only one big question loomed: How could any one of which help Under Armour chip away at Nike’s dominance, or at a minimum sell considerably more workout shirts?
Across the railroad tracks through the Under Armour campus, a low 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 build up 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 secretive the operations. The prototyping room is locked down coming from all but a few select employees and executives, who must pass a biometric scanner to get in.
Prior to taking within the innovation lab, Haley came up with the Under Armour consumer insights department. In early stages, “the secret of our own success was that people were the buyer,” Haley says. “Kevin was really a football player. He just knew. But slowly, we got older than our consumer.” The corporation 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 merely know if a person swipes a credit card or perhaps not,” as Haley puts it–as well as that only happens once or twice per year for virtually any customer. “We call something a basketball shirt, but is the guy using it to football practice? Is the boyfriend shirt he gives to his girlfriend something she wears as pajamas?”
But equipped with data from Connected Fitness apps, Haley says, he could take design cues from 150 million individuals who, having downloaded a training app, are exactly the target market: “There’s unbelievable data in there. You already know their running pace, how far they go, how frequently they go. You literally know what brand of Greek yogurt they utilize.”
It’s too soon to discover many new releases on account of every one of the new data–developing a bit of gear typically takes 18 months–but Haley points to a single. The company learned from MapMyFitness data the average run is 3.1 miles–“not a few miles, not five miles, but 3.1,” Haley says. When it came to making the Speedform Gemini athletic shoes, that has been released last January to largely rave reviews, the corporation added “charged foam” padding tailored to this type of run.
“The toughest question for people is not, Exist cool technologies on the market?” says Haley. “It’s, What would you like me to function on? This gives us unbelievable insight that’s both incredibly broad and deep, with similar population group we’re marketing toward.” That could be especially useful when you are both huge growth opportunities for less than Armour. Greater 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 even though no more than 11 percent from the sales are international, 35 % of the Connected community is outside the U.S.
Still, the high-stakes bet on Connected Fitness will probably be slow to repay. Under Armour recently increased its projections for the upcoming 2 yrs, estimating it 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–will come from Connected Fitness. But Thurston likens his digital community to “having a Super Bowl-size audience every single day,” and probably the most immediately practical moves will likely be using those apps as a marketing channel. An attribute called Gear Tracker, as an illustration, allows under armour outlet melbourne users to log the footwear they prefer every time they go running, and get a reminder when their mileage suggests it’s time for you to buy new ones. A partnership with Zappos makes ordering replacements easy.