When we look at the history of the Under Armour company, a $15 billion athletic apparel empire, we see a business that has really just gone from strength to strength. Perhaps the most surprising part is that this is a company that has only been in existence since 1995, but in just a few years they certainly managed to build up a sterling reputation.
The Under Armour brand was created by Kevin Plank who, at the time, was the captain of the special teams unit at the University of Maryland. However, this in its own way helped to pave the future for the entire brand due to him noticing that the cotton t-shirts that they were forced to wear beneath all of their padding would end up soaking with sweat. He also noticed that the shorts he would wear managed to stay dry, so the idea behind changing the t-shirts to something more comfortable was born.
The First Product
After graduation, Plank set about trying to create a t-shirt that used a special synthetic material that was able to absorb a lot more moisture. His first prototype was then given to his old football team as well as people he played with that had then gone on to appear in the NFL. The initial prototypes were very well received with Plank then managing to secure his first sale in 1996 for a total of $17,000 with this being the first income for a company that has since gone on to generate over $2 billion in revenue each year.
The Big Breakthrough
Even though his prototype was well received, it was not until a photograph appeared featuring the quarterback of the Oakland Raiders, Jeff George, wearing one of their items. By 1997, the company had orders worth a grand total of $100,000 and their future as one of the premier sportswear suppliers was now set in stone.
The next two years led to the gradual development of the company, but 1999 saw another major breakthrough when the company was contacted by Warner Bros to supply clothing for characters in two football movies they were producing. Thanks to the income from the movie, Plank was able to place an advert in the ESPN magazine and this, in turn, helped to really push the company to a new level with more than $750,000 worth of sales being generated as a direct result from this one single advert.
In the year 2000, Under Armour were chosen as the main kit suppliers for the brand new XFL football league with this helping them to gain more nationwide exposure. This then led to them launching their very first television advert in 2003 in order to take advantage of having previously been shown on television thanks to the XFL. Once again, this led to a major increase in their turnover and by 2007 the company decided to make the move into the retail world by launching their very first actual store, which was based in Annapolis, Maryland.
Under Armour have managed to maintain continued growth on a year on year basis. This has been achieved through gradual expansion not only in the US, but also in other countries with them opening their first store outside the United States in Edinburgh, Scotland. They are also the sponsors for the NFL Combine and are responsible for kitting out a number of teams as well as individual players.
From a retail point of view, the company now has a range of retail outlets in Canada as well as China and within the US they now have locations in 39 different states. They have also taken steps to expand into other areas thanks to them making several purchases of other companies including the MyFitnessPal app for $475 million as well as an app maker company for a total of $85 million. It is certainly a sign of the direction that the company wishes to move in with them acquiring companies that can certainly enhance their brand hence them focusing on apps that deal with both fitness and nutrition.
This expansion is possible thanks to the continued improvement of their sales figures thanks to hooking up with more teams including a 10 year deal as the major supplier to the University of Notre Dame. After the company was floated, their revenue has broken through $2.3 billion per year and they currently employ more than 7,000 employees around the world.
The very first product was of course the revolutionary t-shirt, but since then they have developed a wider range of products including branching out into more apparel over the years. Indeed, their fastest growing line is now their sports shoes with sales in this department alone now counting for well over $200 million of their total income. It is now also possible to purchase a full range of sportswear right down to the simple baseball cap sporting their now familiar logo. The days of them simply providing a variety of undergarments for football players are certainly long behind them.
They have also branched out into even more sports, and football only accounts for a small percentage of their total product line. Now, you can find athletes and teams in sports such as ice hockey, boxing, golf, rugby, and a whole host of other sports that, at first, you may not associate with this brand. However, it is often due to their moisture resistant technology making it more comfortable for the player that has helped them to achieve a status within the sports industry that really is second to none.
Initially, Under Armour focused on products for men, but today they have expanded to include women’s clothing and shoes.
Kevin Plank is still the CEO of the company and takes an active role in the development and continued expansion even today. Their revenue is still increasing on a yearly basis and the future is certainly looking very bright for the company. Their website has helped to increase total revenue and even their sponsorship of various TV programs has helped to further enhance their general visibility. With the progress that they have made in just under 20 years, it will be no surprise if the company manages to eventually break through the $3 billion revenue mark in the not too distant future.