When you spend any moment at under armour shoes melbourne, you’ll hear that question repeatedly. Founder and CEO Kevin Plank really likes whiteboards, and his favorite use on their behalf is always to write out leadership maxims for his team. In and out of his office, whole walls of floor-to-ceiling whiteboards contain a large number of curt principles he’s scrawled throughout the years: Expedite the inevitable. Perfection is definitely 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 process of “guardrails” that enable everyone under him to operate as entrepreneurs by channeling his thinking. The Plank principles are drilled into new employees throughout a weeklong orientation, and they’re painted throughout the hallways at company headquarters, a former Procter & factory about the Baltimore waterfront. Think such as an entrepreneur. Create just like an innovator. Perform such as a teammate.
Plank has got the affect and intensity of a head coach–direct eye-to-eye contact, military analogies, air of somebody you may not would like to disappoint. “Winning is an integral part of our culture–it’s who we have been,” he says within his lofty office overlooking the harbor. (The only 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, along with the company’s official mission, is wanting to “make all athletes better.” It offers long equaled thinking of clothes as high-performance gear, but recently it’s adopted a huge new meaning.
During the last two years, Under Armour has spent close to $1 billion buying and purchasing three leading makers of activity- and diet-tracking mobile apps. By doing this, the business has amassed the world’s largest digital health-and-fitness community, with 150 million users. Plank envisions all of the users, as well as their metrics, like a big data engine to operate a vehicle everything from product development to merchandising to marketing. Many observers, though, balked in the $710 million cost of the acquisitions, questioning whether Under Armour could quickly produce any return–a pair of the 3 companies were unprofitable–let alone reach your goals 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 through the core business. Plank spent more hours than he cares to count, including a large slice of his winter vacation this past year, in just one-on-one conversations to persuade them otherwise. “It was actually 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 enjoys to say that the real key to Under Armour’s success is he never centered 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 armed with one particular 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–made of fabric for women’s undergarments–and testing it on ex-teammates, Plank set up shop in his grandmother’s basement and, before he went broke, scored his first big sale, to Georgia Tech. The company continued to generate a totally new marketplace for performance apparel, IPO’d in 2005, and now sponsors several 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 is still 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, from the United states sportswear market in 2014, but worldwide it’s still third. And Nike remains far larger, using more than $30 billion in revenue in 2015 Which happens to be element 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, as well as in 2014 the shoe giant de-activate its FuelBand fitness-tracker business.
The real work is only beginning, though, as Plank has adopted the level of world-changing ambitions more usual to 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 a set 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 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. are properties of Joe Mansueto.)
“Under Armour is a huge phenomenal success story,” Swinand says. Its stock has risen steadily–almost 2,000 percent inside the decade since its IPO. “But once you’re hitting a residence 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 that he or she echoes Swinand in describing Connected Fitness’s ambitions being a “moon shot.” But another of his whiteboard sayings pops into your head, this particular one courtesy of his friend and former United states 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 as soon as 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 x a week, I log everything, I look up routes once i travel,” Plank began. “What are you doing using the company?”
Thurston replied 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. 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 20 minutes in to a detailed PowerPoint presentation when Plank interrupted. “This can be awesome,” he said, “but I want to stop you and go talk to Robin myself for a few 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, right away, to check out the Under Armour campus.
It wasn’t 11 a.m. once the group–in addition to under armour shoes online, 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 in the campus, as well as some oatmeal cookies, on the stunned app makers. Within two weeks, the parties had agreed that Under Armour would get the startup for $150 million, and Thurston would remain atop MapMyFitness and turn into Under Armour’s chief digital officer.
Thurston, a onetime professional cyclist who maintained MapMyFitness’s position being a top fitness app from your iPhone’s earliest days, tells the tale in his new office in downtown Austin, inside a brand-new building where giant images of Under Armour athletes adorn the walls (amid, needless to say, motivational mantras) and several 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 providers and media companies, but he always worried they’d exploit each of the data MapMyFitness gathers about people’s personal habits in ways that will violate the trust he’d created with the neighborhood. Under Armour had simply never occurred to him as being a home for his company.
But the initial thing Plank did in this private meeting in The Big Apple 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 can contact data displays and in many cases change color together with the tap of the finger. “I made this for yourself,” Plank said to Thurston. (Actually, it had run as a TV commercial; Plank explained it had been designed for someone like Robin 02dexipky though “I didn’t know who Robin can be.”) He wanted to ensure that Thurston wouldn’t bolt following the sale, but would instead see an exciting opportunity and lead it. Under Armour had for ages been a tech company, in its way, Plank explained–nevertheless it 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 in the “Future Girl” video existed then–and a variation of merely one 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 in which the world was going. Plank had directed a team several years earlier to create an “electric” product, and they’d think of the E39 compression shirt, which in fact had sensors a part of the material to follow an athlete’s pulse 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 contest with hardware firms that employ a large number of engineers and constantly turn out incremental innovations.
“It’s absurd that you know 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 for any product company–which happens to be really what Under Armour is–to possess gone across the path of trying to create hardware,” says Thurston. “They are aware the distribution channels, they understand how to sell products, they know how to market them. But because they started doing their homework about what was happening inside the space, they saw that the strength [of digital fitness] was really in the neighborhood.”
Plank also knew it might take years to construct a community like Thurston’s. “It wasn’t which i didn’t know the right strategies to be seeking from engineers. I didn’t know the correct questions you should ask,” Plank admits. “I’m a sporting goods guy.”
After the MapMyFitness acquisition closed in late 2013, Plank and Thurston proceeded uncharacteristically slowly, spending time to set 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 the opportunity not just to be 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 get it done,” he told Thurston one day at the end of 2014. From the following March, that they had spent over fifty percent a billion dollars acquiring two more companies: San Francisco-based MyFitnessPal, a nutrition-tracking system for people to log their meals, and Copenhagen-based Endomondo, a private-exercise program whose users are almost entirely outside 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 will help Under Armour chip away at Nike’s dominance, or at least sell a lot more workout shirts?
Across the railroad tracks from your 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, and a psychologist to develop 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 greater secretive the operations. The prototyping room is locked down from all of but several 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 secret of our own success was which we were the buyer,” Haley says. “Kevin had been 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 online surveys.
What Under Armour didn’t know with much precision, though, was how people used its products after buying them. “You just know if an individual swipes a charge card or otherwise not,” as Haley puts it–and even that only happens a few times per year for any customer. “We call something a basketball shirt, but is the guy using it to football practice? Is definitely the boyfriend shirt he gives to his girlfriend something she wears as pajamas?”
But equipped with data from Connected Fitness apps, Haley says, he can take design cues from 150 million people that, having downloaded a training app, are the target market: “There’s unbelievable data inside. You understand their running pace, how far they go, the frequency of which they go. You literally determine what make of Greek yogurt they normally use.”
It’s too soon to discover many new releases because of all of the new data–developing a bit of gear normally takes eighteen months–but Haley points to just one. The business learned from MapMyFitness data that the average run is 3.1 miles–“not one or two miles, not five miles, but 3.1,” Haley says. So when it got to making the Speedform Gemini athletic shoes, that was released last January to largely rave reviews, the business added “charged foam” padding tailored to this form of run.
“The toughest question for all of us is not really, Are available cool technologies out there?” says Haley. “It’s, What are you wanting me to work on? This offers us unbelievable insight that’s both incredibly broad and deep, with similar group of people we’re marketing toward.” That might be especially useful when you are the 2 huge growth opportunities for Under 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 while just about 11 percent of their sales are international, 35 % from the Connected community is beyond the Usa
Still, the top-stakes bet on Connected Fitness will probably be slow to repay. Under Armour recently increased its projections for the upcoming a couple of years, estimating that this 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–should come from Connected Fitness. But Thurston likens his digital community to “using a Super Bowl-size audience each day,” and one of the more immediately practical moves is going to be using those apps being a marketing channel. A feature called Gear Tracker, for instance, allows under armour online melbourne users to log these shoes they use when they go running, and obtain a reminder when their mileage suggests it’s time and energy to buy brand new ones. A partnership with Zappos makes ordering replacements easy.