Should you spend whenever at under armour melbourne australia, you’ll hear that question again and again. Founder and CEO Kevin Plank really likes whiteboards, with his fantastic favorite use for these people would be to write down 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 through the years: Expedite the inevitable. Perfection will be the enemy of innovation. Respect everyone, fear no-one.
These commandments are meant less simple inspiration or hard rules, he says, but together comprise a process of “guardrails” that enable 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 everywhere in the hallways at company headquarters, a former Procter & Game factory in the Baltimore waterfront. Think as an entrepreneur. Create as an innovator. Perform just like a teammate.
Plank offers the affect and concentration of a head coach–direct eye-to-eye contact, military analogies, the atmosphere of an individual you do not would like to disappoint. “Winning is a part of our culture–it’s who we are,” he says in the 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 most crucial guardrail, and also the company’s official mission, is trying to “make all athletes better.” They have long equaled thinking about clothes as high-performance gear, but recently it’s taken on a major new meaning.
In the last two years, Under Armour has spent near $1 billion buying and making an investment in three leading makers of activity- and diet-tracking mobile apps. In so doing, the corporation has amassed the world’s largest digital health-and-fitness community, with 150 million users. Plank envisions those users, as well as their metrics, being a big data engine to drive 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–two of three of the companies were unprofitable–let alone succeed 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 the core business. Plank spent more hours than he cares to count, such as a large slice of his winter vacation last year, in a single-on-one conversations to persuade them otherwise. “It had been important,” he says, “that it not merely be my decision.”
Under Armour team-sports designers, discussing concepts for uniforms and satisfaction gear they’re making for Plank’s alma mater, the University of Maryland.
Plank enjoys to point out 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 furnished with one easy 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 in their grandmother’s basement and, prior to he went broke, scored his first big sale, to Georgia Tech. The corporation went on to produce 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 all over the world and nearly $4 billion in revenue. But Plank remains to be every bit the entrepreneur, chasing audacious dreams–chief and this includes overtaking Nike as the world’s largest sportswear maker. Under Armour leapfrogged the longtime second, Adidas, in the Usa 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 element of why Plank would like to move so aggressively. Nike has regarding a fifth as much 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 job is only beginning, though, as Plank has adopted the level of world-changing ambitions more common to a Google or Facebook. He envisions that Under Armour Connected Fitness will “fundamentally affect global health.” This month–doubters be damned–the company begins selling some biometric fitness devices plus 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–and a “very risky” one, says Morningstar retail analyst Paul Swinand. (Morningstar and Inc. are generally owned by Joe Mansueto.)
“Under Armour has been a 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 on the core apparel business, why fool 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 being a “moon shot.” But another of his whiteboard sayings comes up, this 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 after which CEO of Austin-based app maker MapMyFitness, got his first taste of Plank’s high-speed force-of-will approach if 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 thrice a week, I log everything, I search for routes after i travel,” Plank began. “What are you doing using the company?”
Thurston replied that he or she was about to increase more venture capital to pursue ambitious expansion plans: The organization had bought several hundred domains depending on every physical exercise, and planned to produce new products for each and every. Thurston with his fantastic investors saw MapMyFitness as poised to become the top digital health-and-fitness network.
A few weeks later, Plank and three key lieutenants showed up early in the New York offices of Allen & Company, where Thurston along with his team were huddling making use of their bankers. The MapMyFitness team got about 20 mins in to a detailed PowerPoint presentation when Plank interrupted. “This can be awesome,” he was quoted saying, “but I wish to hold you back and go speak 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 attend Baltimore, right away, to look into the Under Armour campus.
It wasn’t 11 a.m. as soon as the group–in addition to under armour outlet australia, who’d been waiting with 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, towards the stunned app makers. Within fourteen days, the parties had agreed that Under Armour would get 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 like a top fitness app from the iPhone’s earliest days, tells the story in his 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 many hundred new engineers and also other tech employees work. Initially, Thurston says, Under Armour’s interest was really 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 such a way that could violate the trust he’d built with the community. Under Armour had simply never occurred to him as a home for his company.
But the first thing Plank did in this private meeting in The Big Apple 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 have been touch-sensitive and might call up data displays as well as change color together with the tap of any finger. “I made this for you,” Plank said to Thurston. (In fact, it had run as a TV commercial; Plank informed me it absolutely was made for someone like Robin 02dexipky though “I didn’t know who Robin can be.”) He wanted to make sure that Thurston wouldn’t bolt following the sale, but would instead see a fascinating opportunity and lead it. Under Armour had been a tech company, in the way, Plank explained–however it 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.
None of the products from the “Future Girl” video existed then–and a variation of a single 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 where the world was going. Plank had directed a team several years earlier to make an “electric” product, and they’d put together the E39 compression shirt, which had sensors embedded in the fabric to trace an athlete’s heartrate. 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 contend with hardware companies that employ 1000s of engineers and constantly come out incremental innovations.
“It’s absurd you are aware of a little more about your automobile than you understand your 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 get gone across the path of attempting to produce hardware,” says Thurston. “They are aware the distribution channels, they understand how to sell products, they understand 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 actually in the neighborhood.”
Plank also knew it would take years to develop a community like Thurston’s. “It wasn’t that we didn’t understand the right techniques to be seeking from engineers. I didn’t know the correct things to 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 create priorities for less than Armour’s digital transformation. Thurston identified four key pillars of health–sleep, fitness, activity, and nutrition–that he based on Plank’s “make all athletes better” mission. Once that vision snapped into focus, Plank saw the opportunity not just to be described as a collector of human activity data but also to be the central processor that turns that data–no matter 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. Through 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 individuals to log the meals they eat, and Copenhagen-based Endomondo, a private-training program whose users are almost entirely away from 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 some of that will help Under Armour chip away at Nike’s dominance, or otherwise sell considerably more workout shirts?
Throughout 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, along with 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 more secretive the operations. The prototyping room is locked down from all of but a number of select employees and executives, who must pass a biometric scanner to get in.
Prior to taking across the innovation lab, Haley created the Under Armour consumer insights department. At the beginning, “the secret in our success was that people were the buyer,” Haley says. “Kevin was actually 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 check 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 charge card or not,” as Haley puts it–and even that only happens a few times a year for virtually any customer. “We call something a basketball shirt, but is the guy wearing it to football practice? May 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 could take design cues from 150 million individuals who, having downloaded an exercise app, are exactly the target market: “There’s unbelievable data within. You realize their running pace, how far they go, the frequency of which they go. You literally really know what make of Greek yogurt they normally use.”
It’s too early to see many new products due to every one of the new data–developing a sheet of gear normally takes eighteen months–but Haley points to just one. The organization learned from MapMyFitness data how the average run is 3.1 miles–“not one or two miles, not five miles, but 3.1,” Haley says. Then when 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 people is just not, Exist cool technologies around?” says Haley. “It’s, What would you like me to work on? This offers us unbelievable insight that’s both incredibly broad and deep, with the exact same population group we’re marketing toward.” That may be especially useful when you are the 2 huge growth opportunities for less than Armour. Over 60 percent of Connected Fitness’s users are women, who are the cause of just 30 percent of Under Armour’s apparel sales. And although just about 11 percent of the sales are international, 35 percent of the Connected community is outside the U.S.
Still, the high-stakes bet on Connected Fitness will likely be slow to pay off. Under Armour recently increased its projections for the upcoming two years, estimating 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 “having a Super Bowl-size audience each day,” and probably the most immediately practical moves will probably be using those apps as being a marketing channel. A characteristic called Gear Tracker, as an example, allows under armour online melbourne users to log the shoes they normally use when they go running, and get a reminder when their mileage suggests it’s time and energy to buy new ones. A partnership with Zappos makes ordering replacements easy.