Corvinus Executive MBA

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The Creative Award: Kevin Plank

2015. június 02. - Kevin Jackson

It is not a secret to most people that Nike and Adidas dominate the global athletic footwear and apparel space. What is a secret for most people is that Under Armour is rapidly building its global brand through creativity and innovation and steadily taking market share away from both Nike and Adidas. Under Armour aims to create the world’s largest digital health and fitness community by creating an open source platform that allows people to access it using any device. Kevin Plank, the CEO and founder of Under Armour, argues that the more people exercise, the more shirts and shoes they buy. Building a fitness community is not only a good way to motivate people to exercise, but it allows Under Armour to collect enormous amounts of data about its members. This data can then be used to create products designed for specific target groups and ultimately individuals. 

While playing football for the University of Maryland, Kevin Plank noticed that the compression shorts they used in practices stayed dry, while the other gear was always wet and heavy. After graduating in 1996, Plank used his personal money and $40,000 in credit card debt to create his own line of training gear made of quick drying material. In 1997, he was close to bankruptcy before making a sale to Georgia Tech University for $17,000. This marked the beginning of the incredible rise of Under Armour as its products quickly caught on with college football and NFL teams. In 2006, Under Armour expanded to footwear and bravely chose to directly compete with Nike and Adidas. Plank steadily extended their athletic footwear portfolio from football cleats to baseball, followed by training shoes, running shoes and then basketball shoes in 2010. This calculated and measured approach, combined with innovative products, has allowed Under Armour to compete in a space that few thought would ever be possible.

Under Armour announced this year that it was acquiring the fitness app, MyFitnessPal, for $475 million. Why? For starters, MyFitnessPal has more than 80 million users and is a leading resource for healthy living and nutrition. The company also acquired Denmark-based, Endomondo, that has more than 20 million registered users primarily based in Europe. Under Armour plans on using the data from these communities to create a line of sportswear that can be customized for each user and their preferences. A great example of Plank’s vision can be seen in the video called “Future Girl.”

Perhaps Nike and Adidas are no longer taking Kevin Plank lightly as Under Armour has overtaken Adidas as the second biggest sportswear maker in North America behind Nike. The interesting part is that Plank recognized that the sportswear industry is being transformed by technology and that throwing big money at athletes is an antiquated notion of brand building. He foresees the fusion between what we wear and who we are as the big opportunity to reach people of all ages. Kevin Plank gets the Creativity Award for his consistent ability to disrupt the status quo with ideas that are transforming the sportswear industry.


For more information on Leadership, please refer to the following articles:

Under Armour CEO is calling out Nike and Adidas, CNBC Matthew J. Belvedere

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Kevin Plank Discusses Under Armour’s ‘Dumbest Competitors’, Bloomberg, Dana Karlson, February 5, 2015

Under Armour Versus NIKE: Can David Beat The Footwear Goliath?, Market Realist, Phalguni Soni, December 10th, 2014  

Under Armour History:


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