Under Armour—Challenging Nike in Sports Apparel
Founded in 1996 by former University of Maryland football player Kevin Plank, Under Armour was the originator of performance apparel— gear engineered to keep athletes cool, dry, and light throughout the course of a game, practice, or workout. It started with a simple plan to make a T-shirt that provided compression and "wicked" perspiration from the wearer's skin, thereby regulating body temperature and avoiding the discomfort of sweat-absorbed apparel.
Fifteen years later, with 2011 sales of nearly $1.5 billion, Under Armour had a growing brand presence in the roughly $60 billion multi segment retail market for sports apparel and active wear in the United States. Its interlocking "U" and "A" logo had become almost as familiar and well-known as industry-leader Nike's swoosh. The company had boosted its market share from 0.6 percent in 2003 to an estimated 2.8 percent in 2011, which compared quite favorably with Nike's industry-leading market share of 7.0 percent and the 5.4 percent share of second-ranked adidas.1
Founder and CEO Kevin Plank believed Under Armour's potential for long-term growth was exceptional for three reasons: (1) the company had built an incredibly powerful and authentic brand in a relatively short time, (2) there were significant opportunities to expand the company's narrow product lineup and brand name appeal into product categories where it currently had little or no market presence, and (3) the company was only in the early stages of establishing its brand and penetrating markets outside North America.
Kevin Plank honed his competitive instinct growing up with four older brothers and playing football. As a young teenager, he squirmed under the authority ofhis mother, who was the town mayor of Kensington, Maryland. When he was a high-school sophomore, he was tossed out of Georgetown Prep for poor academic performance and ended up at Fork Union Military Academy, where...