When you spend at any time 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 for these people would be to create leadership maxims for his team. In and out of his office, whole walls of floor-to-ceiling whiteboards contain lots of curt principles he’s scrawled throughout the years: Expedite the inevitable. Perfection is the enemy of innovation. Respect everyone, fear no one.
These commandments are meant much less simple inspiration or hard rules, he says, but together form a system of “guardrails” which allow everyone under him to work as entrepreneurs by channeling his thinking. The Plank principles are drilled into new employees during a weeklong orientation, and they’re painted all over the hallways at company headquarters, a former Procter & Game factory about the Baltimore waterfront. Think like an entrepreneur. Create like an innovator. Perform like a teammate.
Plank has got the affect and concentration of a head coach–direct eye contact, military analogies, the atmosphere of somebody you do not want to disappoint. “Winning is an integral part of our culture–it’s who our company is,” 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 formed on habits.” Perhaps the main guardrail, and the company’s official mission, is seeking to “make all athletes better.” It has long equaled contemplating clothes as high-performance gear, but recently it’s taken on a huge new meaning.
In the last two years, Under Armour has spent near to $1 billion buying and purchasing three leading makers of activity- and diet-tracking mobile apps. In that way, the business has amassed the world’s largest digital health-and-fitness community, with 150 million users. Plank envisions those users, in addition to their metrics, as being a big data engine to operate 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 return on investment–a pair of three of the companies were unprofitable–let alone flourish 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 the core business. Plank spent more hours than he cares to count, including a large slice of his winter vacation this past year, in a single-on-one conversations to persuade them otherwise. “It had been important,” he says, “this not simply be my decision.”
Under Armour team-sports designers, discussing concepts for uniforms and gratification gear they’re making for Plank’s alma mater, the University of Maryland.
Plank loves to point out that the important thing to Under Armour’s success is the fact he never focused entirely on all 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 whenever 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 create shop in his grandmother’s basement and, right before he went broke, scored his first big sale, to Georgia Tech. The business proceeded to make a totally 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 remains 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 number 2, Adidas, in 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 component of why Plank wants to move so aggressively. Nike has regarding a fifth several 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 genuine job is only beginning, though, as Plank has adopted the sort of world-changing ambitions more widespread 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 start selling some biometric fitness devices as well as a smart scale made together with the Taiwanese smartphone company HTC. The move will put Plank in direct competition with Fitbit and Apple from 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 both belonging to Joe Mansueto.)
“Under Armour is a huge phenomenal success story,” Swinand says. Its stock has risen steadily–almost 2,000 percent from the decade since its IPO. “However when you’re hitting a property run every quarter in the core apparel business, why mess around with 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 up, this 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 after which 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 a week, I log everything, I search for routes as i travel,” Plank began. “Exactly what are you doing with the company?”
Thurston replied that he was approximately to raise more venture capital to pursue ambitious expansion plans: The organization had bought several hundred domains based upon every exercising, and planned to launch new services for each and every. Thurston and his investors saw MapMyFitness as poised in becoming the best digital health-and-fitness network.
A few weeks later, Plank and three key lieutenants showed up early on the New York City offices of Allen & Company, where Thurston with his fantastic team were huddling using their bankers. The MapMyFitness team got about twenty or so minutes in to a detailed PowerPoint presentation when Plank interrupted. “This really is awesome,” he said, “but I wish to stop you and go speak with Robin myself for several minutes”–without the 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–together with under armour shoes 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 of the campus, along with some oatmeal cookies, to the stunned app makers. Within fourteen days, the parties had agreed that Under Armour would obtain the startup for $150 million, and Thurston would remain atop MapMyFitness and become 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 tale within his new office in downtown Austin, in a brand-new building where giant images of Under Armour athletes adorn the walls (amid, of course, motivational mantras) and plenty of hundred new engineers as well as other tech employees work. At the beginning, Thurston says, Under Armour’s interest was a puzzler. He’d entertained partnering with insurance carriers and media companies, but he always worried they’d exploit each 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 very first 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 had been touch-sensitive and could call up data displays and in many cases change color with all the tap of a finger. “I made this to suit your needs,” Plank said to Thurston. (In reality, it had run as a TV commercial; Plank informed me it absolutely was designed for someone like Robin 02dexipky though “I didn’t know who Robin could be.”) He wanted to ensure that Thurston wouldn’t bolt after the sale, but would instead see a fascinating 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 by using an artificial-turf field overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
No products from 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 was a top Under Armour priority, given Plank’s instinct that that’s the location where the world was going. Plank had directed a team a few years earlier to make an “electric” product, and they’d think of the E39 compression shirt, which in fact had sensors baked into the material to monitor an athlete’s heart rate. The shirt launched at 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 businesses that employ 1000s of engineers and constantly prove incremental innovations.
“It’s absurd you are aware a little more about your automobile than you know 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 happens to be really what Under Armour is–to obtain gone down the path of trying to generate hardware,” says Thurston. “They are aware the distribution channels, they understand how to sell products, they know how to market them. But while they started doing their homework on which was happening within the space, they found that the strength [of digital fitness] was actually in the community.”
Plank also knew it could take years to build a community like Thurston’s. “It wasn’t that I didn’t are aware of the right techniques to be seeking from engineers. I didn’t know the right questions to ask,” Plank admits. “I’m a sporting goods guy.”
Once the MapMyFitness acquisition closed in late 2013, Plank and Thurston proceeded uncharacteristically slowly, taking time to create priorities for Under Armour’s digital transformation. Thurston identified four key pillars of health–sleep, fitness, activity, and nutrition–that he or she based upon Plank’s “make all athletes better” mission. Once that vision snapped into focus, Plank saw the opportunity not just to become a collector of human activity data but in addition to be 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 a day in late 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 folks to log their meals, and Copenhagen-based Endomondo, an individual-exercise program whose users are almost entirely away from United states Under Armour suddenly had not simply the world’s largest digital fitness community but numerous engineers and reams of user data too.
Only one big question loomed: How could some of which help Under Armour chip away at Nike’s dominance, or at best sell considerably more workout shirts?
Over 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 formulate 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 enter in the long, narrow lab space, the better secretive the operations. The prototyping room is locked down from all but several select employees and executives, who must pass a biometric scanner to get into.
Before taking across the innovation lab, Haley created the Under Armour consumer insights department. At the beginning, “the secrets in our success was that we were the customer,” Haley says. “Kevin was actually a football player. He just knew. But slowly, we got more than our consumer.” The company stopped bragging about not using focus groups and started tapping its sponsored athletes for product insights, sending researchers to check 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 simply know when someone swipes credit cards or not,” as Haley puts it–and even that only happens a few times each year for almost 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 armed with data from Connected Fitness apps, Haley says, he could take design cues from 150 million those who, having downloaded a workout app, are 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 really know what make of Greek yogurt they use.”
It’s too soon to view many new releases because of every one of the new data–developing a piece of gear typically takes 18 months–but Haley points to just one. The organization learned from MapMyFitness data the average run is 3.1 miles–“not one or two miles, not five miles, but 3.1,” Haley says. Then when it arrived at making the Speedform Gemini running footwear, that was released last January to largely rave reviews, the company added “charged foam” padding tailored to that sort of run.
“The toughest question for people is not really, Are there cool technologies available?” says Haley. “It’s, What do you want me to operate on? This gives us unbelievable insight that’s both incredibly broad and deep, with similar population group we’re marketing toward.” That might be especially useful when you are both the huge growth opportunities for Under Armour. A lot 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 just about 11 percent of its sales are international, 35 percent from the Connected community is away from Usa
Still, the top-stakes bet on Connected Fitness will be slow to pay off. Under Armour recently increased its projections for the following 2 yrs, estimating that 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 “developing a Super Bowl-size audience each day,” and probably the most immediately practical moves will be using those apps being a marketing channel. An attribute called Gear Tracker, for example, allows under armour online melbourne users to log these shoes they utilize every time they go running, and obtain a reminder when their mileage suggests it’s time for you to buy brand new ones. A partnership with Zappos makes ordering replacements easy.