Project #25597 - case study analysis

Under Armour—Challenging Nike in Sports Apparel   image

Arthur A. Thompson

The University of Alabama

Founded in 1996 by former University of Maryland football player Kevin Plank, Under Armour was the originator of performance apparel—gear engineered to keep athletes cool, dry, and light throughout the course of a game, practice, or workout. It started with a simple plan to make a T-shirt that provided compression and “wicked” perspiration from the wearer's skin, thereby regulating body temperature and avoiding the discomfort of sweat-absorbed apparel.

Fifteen years later, with 2011 sales of nearly $1.5 billion, Under Armour had a growing brand presence in the roughly $60 billion multisegment retail market for sports apparel and active wear in the United States. Its interlocking “U” and “A” logo had become almost as familiar and well-known as industry-leader Nike's swoosh. The company had boosted its market share from 0.6 percent in 2003 to an estimated 2.8 percent in 2011, which compared quite favorably with Nike's industry-leading market share of 7.0 percent and the 5.4 percent share of second-ranked adidas.1

Founder and CEO Kevin Plank believed Under Armour's potential for long-term growth was exceptional for three reasons: (1) the company had built an incredibly powerful and authentic brand in a relatively short time, (2) there were significant opportunities to expand the company's narrow product lineup and brand name appeal into product categories where it currently had little or no market presence, and (3) the company was only in the early stages of establishing its brand and penetrating markets outside North America.


Kevin Plank honed his competitive instinct growing up with four older brothers and playing football. As a young teenager, he squirmed under the authority of his mother, who was the town mayor of Kensington, Maryland. When he was a high-school sophomore, he was tossed out of Georgetown Prep for poor academic performance and ended up at Fork Union Military Academy, where he learned to accept discipline and resumed playing high-school football. After graduation, Plank became a walk-on special-teams football player for the University of Maryland in the early 1990s, ending his college career as the special-teams' captain in 1995. Throughout his football career, he regularly experienced the discomfort of practicing on hot days and the unpleasantness of peeling off sweatsoaked cotton T-shirts after practice. At the University of Maryland, Plank sometimes changed the cotton T-shirt under his jersey as it became wet and heavy during the course of a game.

During his later college years and in classic entrepreneurial fashion, Plank hit upon the idea of using newly available moisture-wicking, polyester-blend fabrics to create next-generation, tighter-fitting shirts and undergarments that would make it cooler and more comfortable to engage in strenuous activities during high-temperature conditions.2 While Plank had a job offer from Prudential Life Insurance at the end of his college days in 1995, he couldn't see himself being happy working in a corporate environment. As he told the author of a 2011 Fortune article on Under Armour, “I would have killed myself.” Despite a lack of business training, Plank opted to try to make a living selling high-tech microfiber shirts. Plank's vision was to sell innovative, technically advanced apparel products engineered with a special fabric construction that provided supreme moisture management. A year of fabric and product testing produced a synthetic compression T-shirt that was suitable for wear beneath an athlete's uniform or equipment, provided a snug fit (like a second skin) and remained drier and lighter than a traditional cotton shirt. Plank formed KP Sports as a subchapter S corporation in Maryland in 1996 and commenced selling the shirt to athletes and sports teams.

Copyright © 2012 by Arthur A. Thompson. All rights reserved.

The Company's Early Years

Plank's former teammates at high school, military school, and the University of Maryland included some 40 NFL players that he knew well enough to call and offer them the shirt he had come up with. He worked the phone and, with a trunk full of shirts in the back of his car, visited schools and training camps in person to show his products. Within a short time, Plank's sales successes were good enough that he convinced Kip Fulks, who played lacrosse at Maryland, to become a partner in his enterprise. Fulks' initial role was to leverage his connections to promote use of the company's shirts by lacrosse players. Their sales strategy was predicated on networking and referrals. But Fulks had another critical role—he had good credit and was able to obtain 17 credit cards that were used to make purchases from suppliers and charge expenses.3 Operations were conducted on a shoestring budget out of the basement of Plank's grandmother's house in Georgetown, a Washington, D.C. suburb. Plank and Fulks generated sufficient cash from their sales efforts and Fulks never missed a minimum payment on any of his credit cards. When cash flows became particularly tight, Plank's older brother Scott made loans to the company to help keep KP Sports afloat (in 2011, Scott owned 4 percent of the company's stock). It didn't take long for Plank and Fulks to learn that it was more productive to direct their sales efforts more toward equipment managers than to individual players. Getting a whole team to adopt use of the T-shirts that KP Sports was marketing meant convincing equipment managers that it was more economical to provide players with a pricey $25 high-performance T-shirt that would hold up better in the long-run than a cheap cotton T-shirt.

In 1998, the company's sales revenues and growth prospects were sufficient to secure a $250,000 small-business loan from a tiny bank in Washington, D.C.; the loan enabled the company to move its basement operation to a facility on Sharp Street in nearby Baltimore.4 As sales continued to gain momentum, the D.C. bank later granted KP Sports additional small loans from time to time to help fund its needs for more working capital. Then Ryan Wood, one of Plank's acquaintances from high school, joined the company in 1999 and became a partner. The company consisted of three jocks trying to gain a foothold in a growing, highly competitive industry against some 25 + brands, including those of Nike, adidas, Columbia, and Patagonia. Plank functioned as president and CEO, Kip Fulks was vice president of sourcing and quality assurance, and Ryan Wood was vice president of sales.

Nonetheless, KP Sports' sales grew briskly as it expanded its product line to include high-tech undergarments tailored for athletes in different sports and for cold temperatures as well as hot temperatures, plus jerseys, team uniforms, socks, and other accessories. Increasingly, the company was able to secure deals not just to provide gear for a particular team but for most or all of a school's sports teams. However, the company's partners came to recognize the merits of tapping the retail market for high-performance apparel and began making sales calls on sports apparel retailers. In 2000, Galyan's, a large retail chain since acquired by Dick's Sporting Goods, signed on to carry KP Sports's expanding line of performance apparel for men, women, and youths. Sales to other sports apparel retailers began to explode, quickly making the retail segment of the sports apparel market the biggest component of the company's revenue stream. Revenues totaled $5.3 million in 2000, with an operating income of $0.7 million. The company's products were available in some 500 retail stores. Beginning in 2000, Scott Plank joined the company as vice president of finance, with operational and strategic responsibilities as well.

Rapid Growth Ensues

Over the next 11 years, the company's product line evolved to include a widening variety of shirts, shorts, underwear, outerwear, gloves, and other offerings. The strategic intent was to grow the business by replacing products made with cotton and other traditional fabrics with innovatively designed performance products that incorporated a variety of technologically advanced fabrics and specialized manufacturing techniques, all in an attempt to make the wearer feel “drier, lighter, and more comfortable.” In 1999, the company began selling its products in Japan through a licensee. On January 1, 2002, prompted by growing operational complexities, increased financial requirements, and plans for further geographic expansion, KP Sports revoked its “S” corporation status and became a “C” corporation. The company opened a Canadian sales office in 2003 and began efforts to grow its market presence in Canada. In 2004, KP Sports became the outfitter of the University of Maryland football team and was a supplier to some 400 women's sports teams at NCAA Division 1-A colleges and universities. The company used independent sales agents to begin selling its products in the United Kingdom in 2005. SportsScanINFO estimated that as of 2004, KP Sports had a 73 percent share of the U.S. market for compression tops and bottoms, more than seven times that of its nearest competitor.5

Broadening demand for the company's product offerings among professional, collegiate, and Olympic teams and athletes, active outdoor enthusiasts, elite tactical professionals and consumers with active lifestyles propelled revenue growth from $5.3 million in 2000 to $263.4 million for the 12 months ending September 30, 2005, equal to a compound annual growth rate of 127 percent. Operating income increased from $0.7 million in 2000 to $32.7 million during the same period, a compound annual growth rate of 124 percent. About 90 percent of the company revenues came from sales to some 6,000 retail stores in the United States and 2,000 stores in Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom. In addition, sales were being made to high-profile athletes and teams, most notably in the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and major collegiate and Olympic sports. KP Sports had574 employees at the end of September 2005.

Throughout 2005, KP Sports increased its offerings to include additional men's and women's performance products and, in particular, began entry into such off-field outdoor sports segments as hunting, fishing, running, mountain sports, skiing, and golf. Management expected that its new product offerings in 2006 would include football cleats.

KP Sports Is Renamed Under Armour

In late 2005, the company changed its name to Under Armour and became a public company with an initial public offering of 9.5 million shares of Class A common stock that generated net proceeds of approximately $114.9 million. Simultaneously, existing stockholders sold 2.6 million shares of Class A stock from their personal holdings. The shares were all sold at just above the offer price of $13 per share. On the first day of trading after the IPO, the shares closed at $25.30, after opening at $31 per share. Following these initial sales of Under Armour stock to the general public, Under Armour's outstanding shares of common stock consisted of two classes: Class A common stock and Class B common stock; both classes were identical in all respects except for voting and conversion rights. Holders of Class A common stock were entitled to one vote per share, and holders of Class B common stock were entitled to 10 votes per share, on all matters to be voted on by common stockholders. Shares of Class A and Class B common stock voted together as a single class on all matters submitted to a vote of stockholders. All of the Class B common stock was beneficially owned by Kevin Plank, which represented 83.0 percent of the combined voting power of all of the outstanding common stock. As a result, Plank was able to control the outcome of substantially all matters submitted to a stockholder vote, including the election of directors, amendments to Under Armour's charter, and mergers or other business combinations.

At the time of Under Armour's IPO, Kevin Plank, Kip Fulks, and Ryan Wood were all 33 years old; Scott Plank was 39 years old. After the IPO, Kevin Plank owned 15.2 million shares of Under Armour's Class A shares (and all of the Class B shares); Kip Fulks owned 2.125 million Class A shares, Ryan Wood owned 2.142 million Class A shares, and Scott Plank owned 3.95 million Class A shares. All four had opted to sell a small fraction of their common shares at the time of the IPO—these accounted for a combined 1.83 million of the 2.6 million shares sold from the holdings of various directors, officers, and other entities. Ryan Wood decided to leave his position as senior vice president of sales at Under Armour in 2007 to run a cattle farm. Kip Fulks assumed the position of chief operating officer at Under Armour in September 2011, after moving up the executive ranks in several capacities, chiefly those related to sourcing, quality assurance, product development, and product innovation. In 2011, Scott Plank was the company's executive vice president of business development and focused on domestic and international business development opportunities. Prior to that, he served as senior vice president of retail from March 2006 to July 2009 with responsibility for retail outlet and specialty stores and e-commerce, as chief administrative officer from January 2004 to February 2006, and vice president of finance from 2000 to 2003.

Exhibit 1 summarizes Under Armour's financial performance in the six years following the company's 2005 IPO. The company stock was trading in the $72 to $78 range in January 2012. Following the announcement of better-than-expected first quarter 2012 earnings and management forecasts of full-year 2012 revenues of $1.78 to $1.80 billion, Under Armour's stock climbed to $102.70 per share in the last week of April 2012.


Under Armour's mission was “to make all athletes better through passion, design, and the relentless pursuit of innovation.” The company's principal business activities in 2012 were the development, marketing, and distribution of branded performance apparel, footwear, and accessories for men, women, and youths. The brand's moisture-wicking fabrications were engineered in many designs and styles for wear in nearly every climate to provide a performance alternative to traditional products. Its products were worn by athletes at all levels, from youth to professional, and by consumers with active lifestyles. Over 90 percent of Under Armour's sales were in North America, but international sales to distributors and retailers outside North America were growing. Exhibit 2shows the composition of Under Armour's revenues.

Growth Strategy

Under Armour's growth strategy in early 2012 consisted of several strategic initiatives:

  • Continuing to broaden the company's product offerings to men, women, and youths for wear in a widening variety of sports and recreational activities.
  • Targeting additional consumer segments for the company's ever-expanding lineup of performance products.
  • Securing additional distribution of Under Armour products in the retail marketplace in North America via not only store retailers and catalog retailers but also through Under Armour factory outlet and specialty stores and sales at the company's website.
  • Expanding the sale of Under Armour products in foreign countries and becoming a global competitor in the world market for sports apparel and performance products.
  • Growing global awareness of the Under Armour brand name and strengthening the appeal of Under Armour products worldwide.

Product Line Strategy

Under Armour's diverse product offerings in 2012 consisted of apparel, footwear, and accessories for men, women, and youths marketed at multiple price levels in a variety of styles and fits intended to regulate body temperature and enhance comfort, mobility, and performance regardless of weather conditions.

Apparel The company designed and merchandised three lines of apparel gear: HeatGear® for hot weather conditions; ColdGear® for cold weather conditions; and AllSeasonGear® for temperature conditions between the extremes.

HeatGear HeatGear was designed to be worn in warm to hot temperatures under equipment or as a single layer. The company's first compression T-shirt was the original HeatGear product and remained its signature style in 2012. In sharp contrast to a sweat-soaked cotton T-shirt that could weigh two to three pounds, HeatGear was engineered with a microfiber blend featuring what Under Armour termed a “Moisture Transport System” that ensured the body will stay cool, dry, and light. HeatGear was offered in a variety of tops and bottoms in a broad array of colors and styles for wear in the gym or outside in warm weather. Compression-fit HeatGear reduced muscle fatigue, was particularly popular for training sessions and competition, and was the company's top-selling gear line year-round.

ColdGear Under Armour high-performance fabrics were appealing to people participating in cold-weather sports and vigorous recreational activities like snow skiing who needed both warmth and moisture-wicking protection from a sometimes overheated body. ColdGear was designed to wick moisture from the body while circulating body heat from hotspots to maintain a core body temperature. All ColdGear apparel provided dry warmth in a single light layer that could be worn beneath a jersey, uniform, protective gear or ski-vest, or other cold weather outerwear. ColdGear products generally were sold at higher price levels than other Under Armour gear lines.

AllSeasonGear AllSeasonGear was designed to be worn in changing temperatures and used technical fabrics to keep the wearer cool and dry in warmer temperatures while preventing a chill in cooler temperatures.

Each of the three apparel lines contained three fit types: compression (tight fit), fitted (athletic fit) and loose (relaxed).

Footwear Under Armour began marketing footwear products for men, women, and youths in 2006 and had expanded its footwear line every year since. Currently, its offerings included football, baseball, lacrosse, softball and soccer cleats, slides, performance training footwear, running footwear, basketball footwear, and hunting boots. Under Armour's athletic footwear was innovatively designed to provide stabilization, directional cushioning, and moisture management, and was engineered to be light and breathable and to maximize the athlete's comfort and control.


Accessories Under Armour's accessory line in 2012 included gloves, socks, headwear, bags, knee-pads, custom-molded mouth guards, and eyewear designed to be used and worn before, during, and after competition. All of these featured performance advantages and functionality similar to other Under Armour products. For instance, the company's baseball batting, football, golf, and running gloves included Heat-Gear and ColdGear technologies and were designed with advanced fabrications to provide various highperformance attributes that differentiated its gloves from those of rival brands.

Under Armour had entered into licensing agreements with a number of firms to produce and market some of its accessories (bags, headgear, and socks). In these instances, Under Armour product, marketing, and sales teams were actively involved in all steps of the design process in order to maintain brand standards and consistency. By 2011, however, Under Armour had developed its own headwear and bag accessories and began selling them itself rather than through licensees. Revenues generated from the sale of all licensed accessories are included in the licensing revenue amounts shown in Exhibit 2A.

Marketing, Promotion, and Brand Management Strategies

Under Armour had an in-house marketing and promotions department that designed and produced most of its advertising campaigns to drive consumer demand for its products and build awareness of Under Armour as a leading performance athletic brand. The company's total marketing expenses, including endorsements and advertising, were $167.9 million in 2011, $128.2 million in 2010, and $108.9 million in 2009. These totals included the costs of sponsoring events and various sports teams, the costs of athlete endorsements, and advertising expenses.

Sports Marketing A key element of Under Armour's marketing and promotion strategy was to promote the sales and use of its products to high-performing athletes and teams on the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. This strategy included entering into outfitting agreements with a variety of collegiate and professional sports teams, sponsoring an assortment of collegiate and professional sports events, and selling Under Armour products directly to team equipment managers and to individual athletes.

Management believed that having audiences see Under Armour products (with the interlocking UA logo prominently displayed) being worn by athletes on the playing field helped the company establish on-field authenticity of the Under Armour brand with consumers. Considerable effort went into giving Under Armour products broad exposure at live sporting events, as well as on television, in magazines, and on a wide variety of Internet sites. Exhibit 3 shows a sampling of the Under Armour logo and its use on Under Armour products.

In 2011, Under Armour was the official outfitter of all the athletic teams at Boston College, Texas Tech University, the University of Maryland, the University of South Carolina, Auburn University, and the University of South Florida and selected sports teams at the University of Illinois, Northwestern University, the University of Delaware, the University of Hawaii, Southern Illinois University, Wagner College, Whittier College, and La Salle University. All told, it was the official outfitter of over 100 Division I men's and women's collegiate athletic teams, rapidly growing numbers (over 40) of high school athletic teams, and several Olympic sports teams; and it supplied sideline apparel and fan gear for many collegiate teams as well. In addition, Under Armour sold products to high profile professional athletes and teams, most notably in the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Hockey League. Since 2006, Under Armour had been an official supplier of football cleats to the National Football League (NFL). In 2010, it signed an agreement to become an official supplier of gloves to the NFL beginning in 2011 and to supply the NFL with training apparel for athletes attending NFL tryout camps beginning in 2012.

Internationally, Under Armour was building its brand image by selling products to European soccer and rugby teams. It was the official supplier of performance apparel to the Hannover 96 football club and the Welsh Rugby Union, among others. In addition, it was an official supplier of performance apparel to Hockey Canada, had advertising rights at many locations in the Air Canada Center during the Toronto Maple Leafs' home games, and was the Official Performance Product Sponsor of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Under Armour also had sponsorship agreements with individual athletes. Its strategy was to secure the endorsement of such newly emerging sports stars as Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings, U.S. professional skier and Olympic gold medal winner Lindsey Vonn, professional lacrosse player Paul Rabil, Baltimore Orioles catcher Matthew Wieters, 2010 National League Rookie of the Year Buster Posey, UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre, the number one pick in the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft (Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals), NBA rookie Kemba Walker, and the number 2 pick in the 2001 NBA draft (Derrick Williams). In addition, the company's roster of athletes included established stars: NFL football players Tom Brady, Ray Lewis, Brandon Jacobs, Miles Austin, Vernon Davis, and Anquan Boldin; triathlon championChris “Macca”McCormack; professional baseball players Ryan Zimmerman and Jose Reyes; U.S. Women's National Soccer Team players Heather Mitts and Lauren Cheney; U.S. Olympic and professional volleyball player Nicole Branagh; U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps; and professional golfer Hunter Mahan.

In 2010, Under Armour hosted over 50 combines, camps, and clinics for male and female athletes in many sports at various regional sites in the United States. It sponsored American Youth Football ( an organization that promoted the development of youth), the Under Armour All-America Football Game (a nationally televised annual competition between the top seniors in high school football), the Under Armour Senior Bowl (a televised annual competition between the top seniors in college football), The Under Armour (Baltimore) Marathon, The Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Classic, and the All-America games in softball and volleyball for elite high school athletes. Under Armour had partnered with Ripken Baseball to outfit some 35,000 Ripken Baseball participants and to be the title sponsor for all 25 Ripken youth baseball tournaments. It had partnered with the Baseball Factory to outfit top high school baseball athletes from head to toe and serve as the title sponsor for nationally recognized baseball tournaments and teams. In addition, it was the presenting sponsor for the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine and, beginning with the 2011 season, Under Armour became the Official Footwear Supplier of Major League Baseball.

Under Armour spent approximately $43.5 million in 2011 for athlete endorsements and various sponsorships, compared to about $29.4 million in 2010. The company was contractually obligated to spend a minimum of $52.9 million for endorsements and sponsorships during 2012, and at least an additional $115.7 million during 2013-2017.6 The company did not know precisely what its future sponsorship costs for individual athletes would be because its contractual agreements with these athletes were subject to certain performance-based variables.

Retail Marketing and Product Presentation The primary thrust of Under Armour's retail marketing strategy was to increase the floor spaceexclusively dedicated to Under Armour products in the stores of its major retail accounts. The key initiative here was to design and fund Under Armour “concept shops”—including flooring, in-store fixtures, product displays, life-size athlete mannequins, and lighting— within the stores of its major retail customers. This shop-in-shop approach was seen as an effective way to gain the placement of Under Armour products in prime floor space, educate consumers about Under Armour products, and create a more engaging and sales-producing way for consumers to shop for Under Armour products.

In stores that did not have Under Armour concept shops, Under Armour worked with retailers to establish optimal placement of its products. In “big-box” sporting goods stores, it was important to be sure that the growing variety of Under Armour products was represented in all of the various departments (hunting apparel in the hunting goods department, footwear and socks in the footwear department, and so on). Except for the retail stores with Under Armour concept shops, company personnel worked with retailers to employ in-store fixtures and displays that highlighted the UA logo and conveyed a performance-oriented, athletic look (chiefly through the use of life-size athlete mannequins). The idea was not only to enhance the visibility of Under Armour products but also reinforce the message that the company's brand was distinct from those of competitors.

Media and Promotion Under Armour advertised in a variety of national digital, broadcast, and print media outlets and its advertising campaigns included a variety of lengths and formats. The company's “Protect this House” and “Click-Clack” campaigns featured several NFL players, and its “Protect this House” campaign had been used in several NFL and collegiate stadiums during games as a crowd prompt. A related ad campaign, “Protect this House.® I Will,” focused heavily on the training aspect of sports. On several occasions, the company had secured the use of Under Armour products in movies, television shows, and video games; management believed the appearance of Under Armour products in these media reinforced authenticity of the brand and provided brand exposure to audiences that may not have seen Under Armour's other advertising campaigns. In 2011, Under Armour significantly grew the company's “fan base” via social sites like Facebook and Twitter, surpassing the million-fan mark and bringing attention to what management considered as the company's most compelling brand stories.

Distribution Strategy

Under Armour products were available in over 25,000 retail stores worldwide at the end of 2011, of which about 18,000 retail stores were in North America. Under Armour also sold its products directly to consumers through its own factory outlet and specialty stores, website, and catalogs.

Wholesale Distribution In 2011, 70 percent of Under Armour's net revenues were generated from sales to retailers. The company's principal customers included Dick's Sporting Goods, about 18 percent of sales), The Sports Authority (about 8 percent of sales), Academy Sports and Outdoors, Hibbett Sporting Goods, Modell's Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela's, Footlocker, Finish Line, and The Army and Air Force Exchange Service. In Canada, the company's biggest customers were Sportchek International and Sportman International. Roughly 75 percent of all sales made to retailers were to large-format national and regional retail chains. The remaining 25 percent of wholesale sales were to lesser-sized outdoor and other specialty retailers, institutional athletic departments, leagues, teams, and fitness specialists. Independent and specialty retailers were serviced by a combination of in-house sales personnel and third-party commissioned manufacturer's representatives.

Direct-to-Consumer Sales In late 2007, Under Armour opened its first company-owned retail location at the Westfield Annapolis mall in Annapolis, Maryland. In May 2008, Under Armour also opened a larger 6,000-square-foot store at Westfield Fox Valley in Aurora, Illinois (a Chicago suburb). Going into 2012, the company had five Under Armour specialty stores (in Annapolis; Aurora; Natick, Massachusetts—a Boston suburb; Bethesda, Maryland; and Vail, Colorado) and 80 factory outlet locations in 34 states. The first Under Armour specialty store outside of North America was opened in Edinburgh, Scotland—it was owned and operated by First XV, a rugby store that was situated next door. In 2012, Under Armour opened a 25,000-square-foot showroom and retail store at its Tide Point headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. In 2011, 27 percent of Under Armour's net revenues were generated through direct-to-consumer sales, including discounted sales at its factory outlet stores and sales through its specialty stores, global website (, and catalog.

Product Licensing About 3 percent of the company's net revenues came from licensing arrangements to manufacture and distribute Under Armour branded products. Under Armour pre-approved all products manufactured and sold by its licensees, and the company's quality assurance team strived to ensure that licensed products met the same quality and compliance standards as company-sold products. In 2012, Under Armour had relationships with several licensees for team uniforms, eyewear, and custom-molded mouth guards, as well as the distribution of Under Armour products to college bookstores and golf pro shops. In addition, Under Armour had a relationship with a Japanese licensee, Dome Corporation, that had the exclusive rights to distribute Under Armour products in Japan. Dome sold Under Armour products to professional baseball and soccer teams (including Omiya Ardija, a professional soccer club in Saitama, Japan) and to over 2,000 independent specialty stores and large sporting goods retailers, such as Alpen, Himaraya, The Sports Authority, and Xebio. Under Armour made a minority equity investment in Dome Corporation in January 2011.

Distribution Outside North America Because Under Armour management was convinced that the trend toward using performance products was global, it had begun entering foreign country markets as rapidly as was prudent. A European headquarters was opened in 2006 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, to conduct and oversee sales, marketing, and logistics activities across Europe. The strategy was to first sell Under Armour products directly to teams and athletes and then leverage visibility in the sports segment to access broader audiences of potential consumers. By 2011, Under Armour had succeeded in selling products to Premier League Football clubs and multiple running, golf, and cricket clubs in the United Kingdom, soccer teams in France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Sweden, as well as First Division Rugby clubs in France, Ireland, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

Sales to European retailers quickly followed on the heels of gains being made in the sports team segment. In 2012, Under Armour had 4,000 retail customers in Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, and the United Kingdom and was generating revenues from third-party distributors who sold Under Armour products to retailers in Australia, Italy, Greece, Scandinavia, and Spain. In 2010–2011, sales efforts commenced in Latin America and Asia. In Latin America, Under Armour sold directly to retailers in some countries and in other countries sold its products to independent distributors who then were responsible for securing sales to retailers. In 2011, Under Armour opened a specialty store in Shanghai, China, to begin learning about Chinese consumers.

Product Design and Development

UA products were manufactured with technical fabrications produced by third parties and developed in collaboration with the company's product development team. Under Armour favored the use of superior, technically advanced fabrics, produced to its specifications, and focused its product development efforts on design, fit, climate, and product end-use. The company regularly upgraded its products as next-generation fabrics when better performance characteristics became available and as the needs of athletes changed. Product development efforts also aimed at broadening the company's product offerings in both new and existing product categories and market segments. An effort was made to design products with “visible technology,” utilizing color, texture, and fabrication that would enhance customers' perception and understanding of the use and benefits of Under Armour products.

Under Armour's product development team had significant prior industry experience at leading fabric and other raw material suppliers and branded athletic apparel and footwear companies throughout the world. The team worked closely with Under Armour's sports marketing and sales teams as well as professional and collegiate athletes to identify product trends and determine market needs. Collaboration among the company's product development, sales, and sports marketing team had proved important in identifying the opportunity and market for the recently introduced Catalyst products (made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles) that were the cornerstone of the Under Armour Green Collection.

Sourcing, Manufacturing, and Quality Assurance

Many of the technically advanced specialty fabrics and other raw materials used in UA products were developed by third parties and, typically, were available only from a limited number of sources. In 2011, approximately 50 to 55 percent of the fabric used in UA products came from six suppliers, with locations in Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Taiwan, and the United States. Because a big fraction of the materials used in UA products were petroleum-based synthetics, the costs of the fabrics sourced from suppliers were subject to crude oil price fluctuations. Beginning in 2011, Under Armour introduced a line of Charged Cotton™ products that incorporated cotton fabrics subject to price fluctuations and varying cotton harvests.

In 2011, substantially all UA products were manufactured by 23 primary manufacturers, operating in 16 countries; seven manufacturers produced approximately 45 percent of UA's products. Approximately 60 percent were manufactured in Asia, 22 percent in Central and South America, 8 percent in Mexico, and 8 percent in the Middle East. All manufacturers used only fabrics preapproved by Under Armour, and all were evaluated for quality systems, social compliance, and financial strength by Under Armour's quality assurance team, prior to being selected and also on an ongoing basis. Under Armour required its contract manufacturers to adhere to a code of conduct regarding quality of manufacturing, working conditions, and other social concerns. The company strived to qualify multiple manufacturers for particular product types and fabrications and to seek out vendors that could perform multiple manufacturing stages, such as procuring raw materials and providing finished products, which helped UA control its cost of goods sold. The company had an office in Hong Kong to support its manufacturing, quality assurance, and sourcing efforts for apparel, and offices in Guangzhou, China, to support its manufacturing, quality assurance, and sourcing efforts for footwear.

Under Armour had a 17,000-square-foot Special Make-Up Shop located at one of its distribution facilities in Maryland where it had the capability to make and ship customized apparel products on tight deadlines for high-profile athletes, leagues, and teams. While these apparel products represented a tiny fraction of Under Armour's revenues, management believed the facility helped provide superior service to an important customer segment.

Distribution Facilities and Inventory Management

Under Armour packaged and shipped the majority of its products for the North American market at two distribution facilities located approximately 15 miles from its Baltimore, Maryland, headquarters. One was a 359,000-square-foot facility built in 2000 and the other was a 308,000-square-foot facility; both were leased. In addition, the company utilized the services of a third-party logistics provider with primary locations in California and in Florida; the company's agreement with this provider was set to expire in December 2013. Distribution to European customers was handled by a third-party logistics provider based in Venlo, The Netherlands. Under Armour had contracted with a third-party logistics provider to handle packing and shipment to customers in Asia. Management expected that the company would add additional distribution facilities in the future.

Under Armour based the amount of inventory it needed to have on hand for each item in its product line on existing orders, anticipated sales, and the need to rapidly deliver orders to customers. Its inventory strategy was focused on (1) having sufficient inventory to fill incoming orders promptly and (2) putting strong systems and procedures in place to improve the efficiency with which it managed its inventories of individual products and total inventory. The amounts of seasonal products it ordered from manufacturers were based on current bookings, the need to ship seasonal items at the start of the shipping window in order to maximize the floor space productivity of retail customers, and the need to adequately stock its factory outlet stores. Excess inventories of particular products were either shipped to its factory outlet stores or earmarked for sale to third-party liquidators.

However, the growing number of individual items in UAs product line and uncertainties surrounding upcoming consumer demand for individual items made it difficult to accurately forecast how many units to order from manufacturers and what the appropriate stocking requirements were for many items. Under Armour's year-end inventories rose from $148.4 million in 2009 to $215.4 million in 2010 to $324.4 million in 2011—percentage increases that exceeded the gains in companywide revenues and that caused days of inventories to climb from 121.4 days in 2009 to 148.4 days in 2010 and to 155.8 days in 2011. The increases were due, in part, to long lead-times for design and production of some products and from having to begin manufacturing many products before receiving any orders for them. In January 2012, management announced that because inventory growth of 118 percent over the past two years had outstripped revenue growth of 72 percent, it was instituting a review of UA's entire product line and was contemplating cutbacks in the number of products offered, perhaps by as much as 20 percent.


The multisegment global market for sports apparel, athletic footwear, and related accessories was fragmented among some 25 brand-name competitors with diverse product lines and varying geographic coverage and numerous small competitors with specialized-use apparel lines that usually operated within a single country or geographic region. Industry participants included athletic and leisure shoe companies, athletic and leisure apparel companies, sports equipment companies, and large companies having diversified lines of athletic and leisure shoes, apparel, and equipment. In 2011, the global market for athletic footwear was about $65 billion, and the global market for sports apparel was approximately $125 billion. Nike was the clear market leader, with a footwear market share of about 17 percent and a sports apparel share of about 4.4 percent. Other prominent competitors besides Under Armour included adidas, Puma, Columbia, Fila, and Polo Ralph Lauren. Exhibit 4 shows a representative sample of the best-known companies and brands.

Competition was intense and revolved around performance and reliability, new product development, price, product identity through marketing and promotion, and customer support and service. It was common for the leading companies to actively sponsor sporting events and clinics and to contract with prominent and influential athletes, coaches, teams, colleges, and sports leagues to endorse their brands and use their products.

Nike, Inc.

Incorporated in 1968, Nike was engaged in the design, development, and worldwide marketing and selling of footwear, sports apparel, sports equipment, and accessory products. Its principal businesses in 2012 are shown in the table at the bottom of this page.

Total companywide sales were $20.9 billion in fiscal 2011. Nike was the world's largest seller of athletic footwear and athletic apparel, with over 40,000retail accounts, over 470 company-owned stores, 19 distribution centers, and selling arrangements with independent distributors and licensees in over 170 countries (see Exhibit 5). About 57 percent of Nike's sales came from outside the United States. Nike's retail account base in the U.S. included a mix of footwear stores, sporting goods stores, athletic specialty stores, department stores, skate, tennis and golf shops, and other retail accounts. During fiscal 2011, Nike's three largest customers accounted for approximately 23 percent of U.S. sales in the United States; its three largest customers outside the U.S. accounted for 9 percent of total non-U.S. sales. In fiscal 2011, Nike had sales of $3.2 billion at its company-owned stores and website.


Principal Products Nike's athletic footwear models and styles were designed primarily for specific athletic use, although many were worn for casual or leisure purposes. Running, training, basketball, soccer, sport-inspired casual shoes, and kids' shoes were the company's top-selling footwear categories. It also marketed footwear designed for baseball, cheerleading, football, golf, lacrosse, outdoor activities, skateboarding, tennis, volleyball, walking, and wrestling. The company designed and marketed Nike-branded sports apparel and accessories for most all of these same sports categories, as well as sports-inspired lifestyle apparel, athletic bags, and accessory items. Footwear, apparel, and accessories were often marketed in “collections” of similar design or for specific purposes. It also marketed apparel with licensed college and professional team and league logos. Nike-brand offerings in sporting equipment included bags, socks, sport balls, eyewear, timepieces, electronic devices, bats, gloves, protective equipment, and golf clubs.

Exhibit 6 shows a breakdown of Nike's sales of footwear, apparel, and equipment by geographic region for fiscal years 2009–2011.

Marketing, Promotions, and Endorsements Nike responded to trends and shifts in consumer preferences by (1) adjusting the mix of existing product offerings, (2) developing new products, styles, and categories, and (3) striving to influence sports and fitness preferences through aggressive marketing, promotional activities, sponsorships, and athlete endorsements. Nike spent $2.45 billion in fiscal 2011, $2.36 billion in fiscal 2010, and $2.35billion for what it termed “demand creation expenses” that included advertising and promotion expenses and the costs of endorsement contracts. Well over500 professional, collegiate, club, and Olympic sports teams in football, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, rugby, speed skating, tennis, swimming, and other sports wore Nike uniforms with the Nike swoosh prominently visible. There were over 1,000 prominent professional athletes with Nike endorsement contracts in 2011–2012, including NFL players Drew Brees, Tim Tebow, Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, and Clay Mathews; Major League Baseball players Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez; NBA players LeBron James and Dwayne Wade; professional golfers Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie; and professional tennis players Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, Venus and Serena Williams, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal. When Tiger Woods turned pro, Nike signed him to a five-year $100 million endorsement contract and made him the centerpiece of its campaign to make Nike a factor in the golf equipment and golf apparel marketplace. LeBron James's recent endorsement deal with Nike was said to be worth $120 million. Because soccer was such a popular sport globally, Nike had more endorsement contracts with soccer athletes than with athletes in any other sport; track and field athletes had the second-largest number of endorsement contracts.

Research and Development Nike management believed R&D efforts had been and would continue to be a key factor in the company's success. Technical innovation in the design of footwear, apparel, and athletic equipment received ongoing emphasis in an effort to provide products that helped reduce injury, enhance athletic performance, and maximize comfort.

In addition to Nike's own staff of specialists in the areas of biomechanics, chemistry, exercise physiology, engineering, industrial design, and related fields, the company utilized research committees and advisory boards made up of athletes, coaches, trainers, equipment managers, orthopedists, podiatrists, and other experts who reviewed designs, materials, concepts for product improvements, and compliance with product safety regulations around the world. Employee athletes, athletes engaged under sports marketing contracts, and other athletes wear-tested and evaluated products during the design and development process.


Manufacturing About 98 percent of Nike's footwear was produced by contract manufacturers in Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and India, but the company had manufacturing agreements with independent factories in Argentina, Brazil, India, and Mexico to manufacture footwear for sale primarily within those countries. Nike-branded apparel was manufactured outside of the United States by independent contract manufacturers located in 33 countries; most production occurred in China, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Turkey, Cambodia, El Salvador, and Mexico.

In 2011, Nike established a fiscal 2015 revenue target of $28–$30 billion and reaffirmed its ongoing target of annual earnings per share growth in the 14–16 percent range.

The adidas Group

The mission of The adidas Group is to be the global leader in the sporting goods industry with brands built on a passion for sports and a sporting lifestyle. Headquartered in Germany, its businesses and brands consist of:

In 2011, The adidas Group produced record sales of €13.3 billion, increased profits to €670 (from €567 million in 2010), and significantly reduced long-term borrowings from €1,337 million to €991 million. Exhibit 7 shows the company's financial highlights for 2008–2011.

The company sold products in virtually every country of the world. In 2011, its extensive product offerings were marketed through third-party retailers (sporting goods chains, department stores, independent sporting goods retailer buying groups, lifestyle retailing chains, and Internet retailers), 1,355company-owned and franchised adidas and Reebok “concept” stores, 734 company-owned adidas and Reebok factory outlet stores, 312 other adidas and Reebok stores with varying formats, and various company websites (such as, and

Like Under Armour and Nike, both adidas and Reebok were actively engaged in sponsoring major sporting events, teams, and leagues and in using athlete endorsements to promote their products. Recent high-profile sponsorships and promotional partnerships included Official Sportwear Partner of the 2012 Olympic Games (adidas), outfitting all volunteers, technical staff, and officials as well as all the athletes in Team Great Britain; Official Sponsors and ball supplier of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Germany, and numerous other important soccer tournaments held by FIFA and the Union of European Football Associations or UEFA (adidas); Official Outfitters of NHL (Reebok), NFL (Reebok), NBA (adidas), WNBA (adidas), and NBA-Development League (adidas); Official Apparel and Footwear Outfitter for Boston Marathon (adidas); Official Licensee of Major League Baseball fan and lifestyle apparel (Reebok). Athletes that were under contract to endorse some of the company's brands included NBA players Derrick Rose, Tim Duncan, and John Wall; professional golfers Paula Creamer (LPGA), Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen, Dustin Johnson, Kenny Perry, Justin Rose, and Mike Weir; soccer player David Beckham; and various participants in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. In 2003, David Beckham, who had been wearing adidas products since the age of 12, signed a $160 million lifetime endorsement deal with adidas that called for an immediate payment of $80 million and subsequent payments said to be worth an average of $2 million annually for the next 40 years.7 adidas was anxious to sign Beckham to a lifetime deal not only to prevent Nike from trying to sign him but also because soccer was considered the world's most lucrative sport and adidas management believed that Beckham's endorsement of adidas products resulted in more sales than all of the company's other athlete endorsements combined. In 2011, the company launched its biggest-ever global advertising campaign for adidas-brand products. Companywide expenditures for advertising, event sponsorships, athlete endorsements, and other marketing activities were €1.36 billion in 2011, up from €1.29 billion in 2010.

Research and development activities commanded considerable emphasis at The adidas Group. Management had long stressed the critical importance of innovation in improving the performance characteristics of its products. New apparel and footwear collections featuring new fabrics, colors, and the latest fashion were introduced on an ongoing basis to heighten consumer interest, as well as to provide performance enhancements—35 “major product launches” were conducted in 2009, 39 in 2010, and 48 in 2011. About 1,000 people were employed in R&D activities at 11 locations, of which 5 were devoted to adidas products, 3 to Reebok products, and 1 each for TaylorMade-adidas Golf, Rockport, and Reebok-CCM Hockey. In addition to its own internal activities, the company drew upon the services of well-regarded researchers at universities in Canada, England, and Germany. R&D expenditures in 2011 were €115 million, up from €81 million in 2008, €86 million in 2009, and €102 million in 2010.

Over 95 percent of production was outsourced to 308 independent contract manufacturers located in China and other Asian countries (77 percent), the Americas (15 percent), Europe (7 percent), and Africa (1 percent). The Group operated 9 relatively small production and assembly sites of its own in Germany (1), Sweden (1), Finland (1), the United States (4), Canada (3), and China (1). Close to 97 percent of the Group's production of footwear was performed in Asia; annual volume sourced from footwear suppliers had ranged from a low of 191 million pairs to a high of 245 million pairs during 2007–2011. During the same time frame, apparel production ranged from 239 million to 321 million units and the production of hardware products ranged from 34 million to 51 million units.

Subject Business
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