Founded in 1996, Under Armour is now one of the nation’s leading athletic apparel brands. You’d think in a space crowded with Nike, Fila, and official gear straight from the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB, there wouldn’t be much room for competition.
But somehow, Under Armour’s grown from around a value of $6 per share in 2005 to about $72 per share today. Now, it has a market capitalization of $15.5 billion, with annual revenues of more than $3 billion.
So how’d they manage to make this happen in a space dominated by Nike?
Now-CEO Kevin Plank was the special teams captain of the Maryland football team. Back in 1996, they wore cotton T-shirts underneath their equipment. The shirts soaked up the sweat, making them feel heavy and holding even more heat in. Kevin and his teammates didn’t like how that negatively impacted their performance.
To make a long story short, he invented wicked T-shirts that kept him and his teammates cool, dry, and feeling light. Many Division 1 sports teams and 24 NFL teams quickly bought the shirts after learning about them.
They were an effective solution to a pressing problem faced by athletes.
That was just the beginning for Under Armour. Today, they continue to lead innovation in the world of athletic wear.
They also even have infrared technology that recirculates heat around the wearer’s body in some of their clothing lines. And they also use “Coldback” technology, which reflects heat and keeps athletes cool in the sun. Finally, “MagZip” technology allows wearers to unzip zippers with just a single hand.
Nike hasn’t thought of any of those things, and Under Armour absolutely dominates each of those sub-niches.
It’s hard for companies in high-growth mode to scale their brand, while staying true to the original promise that made the brand so popular in the first place. With Under Armour, they have a unique, “I will” brand slogan to compete with Nike’s “Just Do It.”
They’ve held true to their promise, while continuing to deliver uniquely functional products that Nike still hasn’t found a way to compete with.
Growing big in a competitive space isn’t easy to do. But Under Armour is one company that’s pulled it off.
What can you learn from its success story?