In the event you spend any time at under armour melbourne australia, you’ll hear that question time and again. Founder and CEO Kevin Plank really likes whiteboards, and his awesome favorite use for these people is to create leadership maxims for his team. Outside and inside his office, whole walls of floor-to-ceiling whiteboards contain dozens of curt principles he’s scrawled through the years: Expedite the inevitable. Perfection may be the enemy of innovation. Respect everyone, fear no one.
These commandments are meant not quite as simple inspiration or hard rules, he says, but together constitute a process of “guardrails” which allow everyone under him to work as entrepreneurs by channeling his thinking. The Plank principles are drilled into new employees in a weeklong orientation, and they’re painted all over the hallways at company headquarters, a former Procter & factory around the Baltimore waterfront. Think such as an entrepreneur. Create like an innovator. Perform such as a teammate.
Plank offers the affect and power of a head coach–direct eye contact, military analogies, the air of somebody you do not desire to disappoint. “Winning is an element of our culture–it’s who our company is,” he says in the lofty office overlooking the harbor. (Really the only 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 main guardrail, along with the company’s official mission, is seeking to “make all athletes better.” It has long equaled considering clothes as high-performance gear, but recently it’s adopted a huge new meaning.
Over the past a couple of years, Under Armour has spent close to $1 billion buying and investing in 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 those users, in addition to their metrics, being a big data engine to get anything 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–a couple of the 3 companies were unprofitable–let alone succeed in an area 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, such as a large chunk of his winter vacation just last year, in a single-on-one conversations to persuade them otherwise. “It was important,” he says, “that it not only 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 real key to Under Armour’s success is the fact that he never centered on every one 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–created from fabric for women’s undergarments–and testing it on ex-teammates, Plank create shop in his grandmother’s basement and, right before he went broke, scored his first big sale, to Georgia Tech. The company continued to produce a completely new niche for performance apparel, IPO’d in 2005, and from now on 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 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 second, Adidas, within the U.S. sportswear market in 2014, but worldwide it’s still third. And Nike remains far larger, using more than $30 billion in revenue in 2015 That is a part of why Plank wishes to move so aggressively. Nike has in regards to a fifth as much 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 genuine work is 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 business will begin selling a pair of 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–plus a “very risky” one, says Morningstar retail analyst Paul Swinand. (Morningstar and Inc. are both belonging to Joe Mansueto.)
“Under Armour is a huge phenomenal success story,” Swinand says. Its stock has risen steadily–almost 2,000 percent in the decade since its IPO. “However when you’re hitting a home run every quarter in the core apparel business, why mess around using 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 a “moon shot.” But another of his whiteboard sayings one thinks of, 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 after which 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 which he loved Thurston’s app MapMyRun. “I run five miles 3 x weekly, I log everything, I lookup routes as i travel,” Plank began. “Exactly what are you doing together with the company?”
Thurston replied he was about to raise more venture capital to pursue ambitious expansion plans: The corporation had bought several hundred domains according to every exercise, and planned to produce new releases for each. Thurston with his fantastic investors saw MapMyFitness as poised to get the key digital health-and-fitness network.
A couple of weeks later, Plank and three key lieutenants showed up early in the The Big Apple offices of Allen & Company, where Thurston along with his team were huddling making use of their bankers. The MapMyFitness team got about 20 mins into a detailed PowerPoint presentation when Plank interrupted. “This is certainly awesome,” he said, “but I want to hold you back and go talk to Robin myself for several minutes”–with no bankers running interference. Forty minutes later, Plank and Thurston returned, and Plank asked the MapMyFitness team if they’d like to go to Baltimore, without delay, to check out the Under Armour campus.
It wasn’t 11 a.m. as soon as the group–as well as 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 of your campus, and also some oatmeal cookies, for 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 like a top fitness app through the iPhone’s earliest days, tells the history in the new office in downtown Austin, in a brand-new building where giant images of Under Armour athletes adorn the walls (amid, needless to say, motivational mantras) and plenty of hundred new engineers and also other tech employees work. At first, Thurston says, Under Armour’s interest had been a puzzler. He’d entertained partnering with insurance firms and media companies, but he always worried they’d exploit all of the data MapMyFitness gathers about people’s personal habits in ways that might violate the trust he’d designed with the community. Under Armour had simply never occurred to him as a home for his company.
But one thing Plank did because private meeting in New York was pull-up 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 had been touch-sensitive and may get in touch with data displays and also change color with the tap of the finger. “I made this for yourself,” Plank believed to Thurston. (In truth, it had run as being a TV commercial; Plank told me it absolutely was made for someone like Robin 02dexipky though “I didn’t know who Robin will be.”) He wanted to be sure that Thurston wouldn’t bolt after the sale, but would instead see an exciting opportunity and lead it. Under Armour had been a tech company, in the way, Plank explained–but it really had struggled with digital.
At Under Armour headquarters, workers’ breaks often involve workouts, similar to this one by using an artificial-turf field overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
Not one of the products within the “Future Girl” video existed then–plus a variation of merely one is showing up in 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 where world was going. Plank had directed a team many years earlier to generate an “electric” product, and they’d think of the E39 compression shirt, that have sensors embedded in the fabric to trace an athlete’s heartrate. 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 contest with hardware firms that employ a large number of engineers and constantly come out incremental innovations.
“It’s absurd you are aware more details on your car than you understand your whole 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 is really what Under Armour is–to have gone down the path of attempting to make hardware,” says Thurston. “They are aware the distribution channels, they know how to sell products, they realize how to market them. But because they started doing their homework on what was happening within the space, they realized that the strength [of digital fitness] was really in the neighborhood.”
Plank also knew it might take years to build a community like Thurston’s. “It wasn’t that I didn’t are aware of the right answers to be seeking from engineers. I didn’t realize the proper questions you should ask,” Plank admits. “I’m a sporting goods guy.”
Right after the MapMyFitness acquisition closed in late 2013, Plank and Thurston proceeded uncharacteristically slowly, taking time to set priorities for Under Armour’s digital transformation. Thurston identified four key pillars of health–sleep, fitness, activity, and nutrition–he depending on Plank’s “make all athletes better” mission. Once that vision snapped into focus, Plank saw an opportunity not only to be described as a collector of human activity data but additionally being the central processor that turns that data–no matter what whose device or app collected it–into useful insights. “OK. Let’s do it,” he told Thurston some day at the end of 2014. By the following March, 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 their meals, and Copenhagen-based Endomondo, a private-training course whose users are almost entirely outside the Usa Under Armour suddenly had not merely the world’s largest digital fitness community but a huge selection of engineers and reams of user data at the same time.
Just one single big question loomed: How could any one of which help Under Armour chip away at Nike’s dominance, or at best sell considerably more workout shirts?
Over the railroad tracks through the 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, along with a psychologist to produce 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 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 couple of select employees and executives, who must pass a biometric scanner to enter.
Prior to taking over the innovation lab, Haley created the Under Armour consumer insights department. At the beginning, “the key in our success was that we were the individual,” Haley says. “Kevin was a football player. He just knew. But slowly, we got older than our consumer.” The organization 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 an individual swipes a charge card or not,” as Haley puts it–and also that only happens a few times each year for just about 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 who, having downloaded a training app, are exactly the target market: “There’s unbelievable data within. You already know their running pace, just how far they go, how often they go. You literally really know what model of Greek yogurt they prefer.”
It’s too soon to discover many new services because of all of the new data–developing a sheet of gear normally takes eighteen months–but Haley points to one. The business learned from MapMyFitness data how the average run is 3.1 miles–“not a few miles, not five miles, but 3.1,” Haley says. Then when it stumbled on making the Speedform Gemini running shoe, that has been released last January to largely rave reviews, the corporation added “charged foam” padding tailored to this form of run.
“The toughest question for people like us is not, Are there any cool technologies out there?” says Haley. “It’s, What would you like me to be effective on? This will give us unbelievable insight that’s both incredibly broad and deep, with the same population group we’re marketing toward.” That may be especially useful when you are both the huge growth opportunities for less than Armour. Over 60 % of Connected Fitness’s users are women, who make up just 30 percent of Under Armour’s apparel sales. And while no more than 11 percent of its sales are international, 35 percent of your Connected community is away from U.S.
Still, our prime-stakes bet on Connected Fitness will be slow to settle. Under Armour recently increased its projections for the upcoming 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–may come from Connected Fitness. But Thurston likens his digital community to “developing a Super Bowl-size audience daily,” and just about the most immediately practical moves will probably be using those apps as a marketing channel. A function called Gear Tracker, as an example, allows under armour outlet melbourne users to log the shoes they normally use when they go running, and get a reminder when their mileage suggests it’s time to buy brand new ones. A partnership with Zappos makes ordering replacements easy.