Under Armour’s Founder Kevin Plank on the Brand’s New Vision

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Under Armour, a more than two-decade-old brand, is working to remain relevant and as engaging as its upstart competitors.

At the National Retail Federation conference in New York, Under Armour founder and former CEO Kevin Plank spoke with Rod Sides, vice chairman and U.S. leader of retail, wholesale and distribution at Deloitte, about the where the activewear company is headed.

Sticking to new vision of the consumer

In order for Under Armour to bring its retail vision to life, Plank said the company’s been on a journey to discover who its consumer is and identifying their needs—who Plank calls a “focus performer.” It’s led to Under Armour thinking of itself as a “human performance company,” he explained, one focused on the mindset of a specific kind of consumer as opposed to a demographic.

“The world doesn’t need another capable apparel and footwear manufacturer; they need a dream, a hope, and that’s the positioning, that’s where our respects play,” Plank said.

Becoming a “human performance company” is a long-term goal for Under Armour, and involves every aspect of the brand, from apparel to innovation and apps. Plank said Under Armour has “assembled a couple of apps that today give us the No. 1 health and fitness community on the planet,” with more than 300 million consumers and more than 70,000 downloads every day. (Under Armour’s family of apps include UA Record and MapMyFitness.) All of this data gives Under Armour a better look into how to develop a “human performance system” that studies how consumers “train, compete and recover.”

“It’s to really provide performance solutions that the consumer never thought they needed,” Plank said. “And once they have them, they recognize they could never live without them.”

A major investment in technology

“Innovation is at the heart and soul of everything we do,” Plank said, pointing to the brand’s line of Hovr platform and smart shoes that can track distance, cadence and more without a smartphone. Other parts of its technology stack include its family of apps, leading to data insights such as knowing that the average run is about 3.1 miles.

“That may sound like not much, but to the hardcore runner it means something [and] it speaks to the DNA that’s relevant to anybody,” Plank said.

Another piece of technology is Under Armour’s foray into designing spacewear for Virgin Galactic. Plank said creating these products is part of Under Armour’s bigger vision to help the world “dream” and think about something larger than life.

“That positioning of our brand to be the next generation, the thought leaders when it comes to innovation, that’s the position that people see as a purely performance and innovation brand,” he said.

Bringing Under Armour’s new vision to life

Moving forward, Under Armour plans to be a “really loud brand,” beginning with a new campaign launching today dubbed “The Only Way Is Through.” It won’t just be a TV ad, according to Plank—Under Armour has brought on 175 influencers from all over the world, including athletes like Michael Phelps and Lindsey Vonn, to connect with consumers on a different level.

“The influencers alone we have coming represent 170-plus million followers, and it’s a new day for us and how we’re communicating,” he said. “That ‘find a way’ mentality that is so much a part of the UA brand: underdog, and just get it done.”

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