Monday, August 04, 2008
Under Armour enters new territory in sports marketing
In only 14 years, Under Armour's founder,Kevin A. Plank has taken his company from an invention in his basement to one of the most-recognized athletic gear brands in the country.
His moisture-absorbing undershirt is now a favorite among major college football teams, including Auburn, Maryland, South Carolina and Texas Tech.
Earlier this summer, Under Armour unveiled its first line of footwear to the sports market, which included cleats and training shoes. UA plans to expand its footwear to the point that it overshadows the apparel.
During his Q&A session with the New York Times,Plank explained the reasoning behind the entry into footwear, where UA will face stiff competition from Nike,Reebok and the other giants in the industry.
Some of his marketing concepts, as simple as they sounded, stood out to me. Judging from his footwear strategy, it's obvious that UA truly listens the consumer's input and demand, regardless of what the economic analysts may tell him. When NYT wondered why they pursued the cross-trainer shoe category, Plank replied:
It’s the same reason we went after football cleats- because our customer asked us for it. We learn a lot online, we listen a lot and we hear they want something to train in because the way today’s athlete is training is very different than five or six years ago. There’s need for a lateral stability movement, and that requires something different than a linear built running shoe. So our campaign’s theme is: Stop training in running shoes.
Sounds simple enough, right? Research and development is nothing new, but you've got to appreciate the fact that UA is planning its future according to the voice of their progressive consumer base. UA's humble approach is a stark contrast from Nike's philosophy ,which believes in TELLING the athlete what's best for them. Plank continued:
Under Armour controls its own destiny. We believe there are better fabrics, better technology and better innovations, and because of our big share of the market, people are going to try us. I’ve been in this business long enough to know our biggest competition is ourselves- making sure we can execute.
Maybe it's just the former sports journalist in me, but the different philosophies actually remind me of two different coaching personalities- where Nike is the loud, stubborn,"know-it-all" type and Under Armour is the player-friendly coach, who listen's to his players feedback and adjusts his game-plan accordingly.
Both styles can win games, but if you're too stubborn for too long, your players may lose their loyalty and end up in the the opponent's jersey. Maybe Under Armour can absorb some of those Nike defectors and continue its nation-wide expansion in the sports market. Just food for thought.
By Matt O'Hern at 08:36 AM | Comments (2)