How Under Armour was founded

History of Under Armour

How Under Armour was founded

Athletes and active outdoorsmen and women choose Under Armour as their active wear because of its superior quality.

It is a relatively new company that started in 1996, but it has been producing a variety of sports gear and apparel that rivals to the s of giant sports brands Nike and Adidas.

The success of CEO and Founder Kevin Plank lies on breakthrough technology, celebrity endorsements and smart product placements, which made Under Armour a $15 billion athletic-apparel empire as of 2015.

How Under Armour started

In 1995, Kevin Plank was a special teams captain of the University of Maryland football team. He wasn’t the best player in the field – he was just a smart guy who wanted a little bit of an edge on the game.

He got tired of having to change sweat-soaked shirts he wore under his jersey, but he noticed that his compression shorts stayed dry.

He wondered why no one had ever addressed this issue, why don’t they make a better alternative for cotton shirts? He thought innovation in sports and sporting goods were limited to shoes and equipment, but apparel was always an afterthought.

This inspired him to make T-shirts that can deal with sweat. After graduating from the university, Plank developed his first prototype. After extensive research on the athletic benefits of synthetic fabrics, Plank designed the first HeatGear T-shirt, which he named the #37.

It helps keep the athletes cool, dry and light even in hot conditions. He gave it to his teammates and friends who had gone on to play in the NFL.

Once he perfected the design of the T-shirt built from microfibers that wicked moisture, he began selling the apparel the trunk of his car and his grandmother’s basement in Georgetown, Washington D.C.

Under Armour started in September 25, 1996 and got its funds from Plank’s personal savings worth $20,000 and $40,000 worth of credit card debt.

Origin of the Under Armour name

The Under Armour name was formed by accident. Back when the company was starting Kevin Plank wanted to call the company Heart, thinking that you can wear your heart on your sleeve. But it didn’t go through the patent and trademark process. His next idea was “Body Armor” and he told his friends and family that it’s the name he picked for his company.

But his friend who helped him negotiate patent and trademark said he shouldn’t get Body Armor since it’s already taken. He got disappointed.

His older brother Bill asked him one afternoon, “How’s that company you’re working on, uhh… Under Armor?” Bill got the wrong name, but Kevin thought it was perfect. Kevin quickly went back to his grandma’s house after that, filled out the paper work and sent it to the patent and trademark office.

The reason why stuck with the British spelling “Armour” was because he thought the phone number 888-4ARMOUR was much more compelling than 888-44ARMOR.

The Under Armour logo was the Under Armour name, combining the “U” in “Under” and a curved “A” in “Armour.” Today, the popularity of its logo is one of the driving forces behind their clothing and shoe sales. In almost all of Under Armour’s designs, their logo is the key design feature.

Early successes

By the end of 1996, Plank made his first team sale to Georgia Tech for about $17,000. His next team sale was to North Carolina State. The prototypes he sent to his friends in the NFL was favored by the players, and soon, word began to spread among the players.

In 1997, two dozen NFL teams followed, so by the end of his second year, he had sold $100,000 in product. He found a factory in Ohio who can make the shirts.

Due to this, major competing brands Nike, Adidas and Reebok would soon follow Plank’s footsteps in manufacturing their own moisture-wicking apparel.

Also in 1997, Under Armour introduced the first version of its now-famous ColdGear fabric, which keeps athletes warm, light and dry in cold conditions, as well as the AllSeasonGear line designed to keep athletes comfortable between extreme weather. By the end of 1998, the company outgrew grandma’s basement and moved in a new warehouse and office in Baltimore.

Another big break for Under Armour came in 1999, when Warner Brothers contracted the company to outfit two of its feature films, Any Given Sunday (a 1999 sports drama film), and The Replacements (a 2000 sports comedy). In Any Given Sunday, Jamie Foxx wore an Under Armour jockstrap. During the release of the film, Plank purchased an ad in ESPN The Magazine, which generated about $750,000 in sales.

More success and developments in the 2000s to 2010s

In the year 2000, Under Armour became the official outfitter of the new XFL football league, gaining even more attention during the league’s debut on national TV. In 2003, the company launched its first TV commercial which centered on the campaign “We Must Protect This House.” The commercials associated the brand with discipline, hard work and football valor.

Plant took the company public in 2005, and raised $153 million in capital. By 2007, Under Armour already opened its first full-line, full-price retail location at the Westfield Annapolis Mall in Maryland.

The company gradually opened specialty stores and factory outlet locations in 39 states, as well as in Canada and China.

Besides Baltimore, Under Armour has global offices and headquarters in Austin, Houston, New York City, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco, Toronto, Mexico City, Panama City, Sao Paulo, Santiago, Amsterdam, London, Munich, Paris, Jakarta, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul.

Under Armour slowly landed big time endorsements. In 2010, they signed Tom Brady by giving him equity in the company. In the early 2010s, it is also the major commercial sponsor for the A&E reality TV show Duck Dynasty.

The company also started making software acquisitions. In 2013, it started acquisition of MapMyFitness for $150 million, as well as Endomondo and MyFitnessPal in 2015.

In 2014, Under Armour passed Adidas in the list of the best-selling sports apparel brand in the US, second to Nike.

That same year, the company signed Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen to expand the brand to women. Ballerina Misty Copeland also signed and starred in an ad that easily went viral.

In January 2014, Under Armour became the official uniform and athletic equipment provider for the University of Notre Dame.

Under Armour also faced backlash in 2014, when it provided the suits for the US speed skaters in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The team made its worse showing in 30 years, causing them to speculate that the suits were partially to blame. But when they reverted to the previous suits, the skaters continued to lose.

However, the news of the suits still spread, causing the stock of Under Armour to drop 2.38%.

Luckily in 2015, the brand landed a high-profile endorsement that made it popular worldwide. For many people who never heard of Under Armour before, it became familiar because of its partnership with NBA superstar Stephen Curry, who the face of their new Curry One shoe line.

Curry was originally signed to Nike, but joined Under Armour in the 2013 offseason. Because Curry became a two-time NBA MVP awardee and one of the most popular athletes in the world, the sales of the Curry One shoes became very significant for the company.

The rise and fall of stock price of the company became affected by the success of the Curry shoe line.

In 2016, the company partnered with big-time companies and associations IBM, North American Soccer League (NASL), UCLA and Major League Basketball (MLB).

Under Armour also became widely known for its partnership with PGA golfer Jordan Spieth, who had won major championships in2015 to 2017. The company has launched the first signature golf shoe line with Spieth, naming the line Spieth One.  You can check out best golf shorts reviews as well for great options.

The success story of Under Armour is inspiring, especially for up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Perhaps Kevin Plank never imagined that the small-time T-shirt business he started in 1996 would boom into the multi-billion athletic wear empire that it is today. That’s why he advises that if you have an idea, get it out there.


Under Armour Logo and Its History

How Under Armour was founded

This is the History of Under Armour and a look at their Logo Design.

Athletes and outdoorsmen everywhere rely on Under Armour to outfit them with superb quality clothing and apparel.

Since 1996, the Under Armour Logo and brand has been producing a wide variety of sports clothing, quickly becoming a company able to rival the s of giants such as Nike and Adidas.

Through great branding and even better products, Under Armour has risen to the top of the sports apparel industry. In this article, we’ll look at the history of the brand, as well as the significant role, Under Armour’s logo has played in their success.

History of Under Armour

Kevin Plank founded Under Armour in 1996. At the time, he was a 23-year-old special teams captain of the University of Maryland football team. Plank got the idea for the Under Armour brand after noticing how much dryer his compression shorts stayed than the shirts he wore while playing football.

Plank set out to design a shirt made of synthetic fabric that would wick away moisture and began selling the apparel the trunk of his car and his grandmother’s basement. At the end of 1996, Plank made his first large sale, selling apparel to a team for $17,000.

Even the name of the company itself is a testament to Kevin Plank’s rags-to-riches success; he only chose the British spelling of the word “Armor” because of the toll-free vanity number for that name was still available.

Today, however, Under Armour could certainly afford the buy out any number they choose. The brand netted $232.6 million in 2015 and has been the go-to apparel for some of the biggest sports stars in the world today. Soon after the company’s inception, even the s of Nike, Adidas, and Reebok began following Under Armour’s lead, releasing their own versions of moisture-wicking shirts.

While the Under Armour brand was built on this moisture-wicking design, today, Under Armour offers a wide variety of clothing and apparel, from cold-weather gear designed to keep outdoorsmen warm in the harshest climates, to normal, everyday t-shirts and jackets. Of course, staying true to their roots, the brand continues to offer gear to athletes as well, constantly pushing the line to make their shirts, pants, cleats, and other gear lighter, stronger, and more comfortable to wear.

Whether it’s for the casual sports fan or the NFL athlete, one thing all of Under Armour’s gear has in common is their recognizable logo.

Use our Fitness Logo Maker and make your own logo in just 5 minutes.

The Under Armour logo was born from the Under Armour name, which was essentially formed by accident. Back when the company was first starting, Kevin Plank mentioned the idea of calling it “Body Armor”. His brother, Bill, misheard him and thought he said:“under armor”.

 The name stuck, of course, with the British spelling being used in order to get the phone number Plank wanted.

The logo was designed soon thereafter, combining the “U” in “Under” with the “A” in “Armour” to form a very simplistic logo that is now recognizable around the world.

The Under Armour logo is a very simplistic design, combing an upside-down “U” with an “A” missing the crossbar in all black text with the words “Under Armour” spelled out beneath it.

Combined together though, the two elements of the logo form a really crisp, unique looking crisscross that is immediately recognizable and aesthetically appealing enough to be the central design on all of Under Armour’s clothing.

The Under Armour logo also features a custom typeface that was designed specifically for the company. It’s an interesting typeface that combines both smooth edges and sharp points, conveying the message that Under Armour’s clothing is both comfortable to wear while also being tough and aggressive.

Under Armour actually owes the entire foundation of their initial success to the reorganizability of their logo. Back in the company’s first year, before Under Armour had landed any major contracts, the Oakland Raiders quarterback Jeff George appeared on the cover of USA Today wearing an Under Armour turtleneck.

Shortly after that major boost in media attention, teams across the country took notice. Kevin Plank was soon filling orders for teams such as the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, the Arizona State Sun Devils, the NC State Wolfpack, and a number of other DI football teams, all because of the brand’s logo getting noticed.

The popularity of the Under Armour logo is still one of the driving forces behind their clothing sales.

Of course, much of the company’s marketing is the functionality of their clothing and apparel, however, in the clothing industry, fashion and aesthetic appeal are always one of the most critical factors.

In almost every one of Under Armour’s clothing designs, their logo is the key design feature.

Under Armour has attached meaning to their logo. Much the Rolex crown is a symbol of wealth and luxury, the Under Armour logo is a symbol of speed, strength, and athleticism.

People are proud to wear clothing that displays the Under Armour logo because they see it as a message about their own lifestyle and interests.

By attaching such a positive connotation to their logo, Under Armour is able to produce clothing and apparel that flies off the shelf even if the logo is the only design feature that sets the clothing apart from its competitors.

In this way, Under Armour is genuinely one of the biggest success stories of the impact a good logo can have. Of course, in order to achieve success Under Armour’s, you have a great logo combined with even better marketing.

Without the marketing, Under Armour put in to give their logo such a desirable connotation, people’s associations with the Under Armour logo’s design might not be quite as beneficial to the brand’s bottom line as it is today.

As it stands though, the Under Armour logo has helped put the brand on the map in more ways than one and is one of our favorite case studies on the difference a great logo can make.


Under Armour’s Founder on Learning to Leverage Celebrity Endorsements

How Under Armour was founded

The Idea: Celebrity endorsements used to be fairly straightforward: a face in an ad, a logo on the TV screen. But that world is rapidly changing, and Under Armour’s CEO is nimbly navigating it.

I started Under Armour in 1996, when I was 23 years old and just college. The idea for the product was pretty simple. I had played football in high school and college, and I’d hated how the T-shirts I wore under my shoulder pads became soaked with sweat.

It wasn’t just uncomfortable—I really believed the extra weight hurt an athlete’s performance. I saw the need for a shirt that would stay dry. I looked at all sorts of fabrics and eventually settled on one that would wick away moisture and stay light even if the wearer sweat heavily.

I asked a tailor to turn the material into a T-shirt, and I produced a bunch of prototypes. Then I set out to sell them.

To do that, I turned to my network. I had attended St. John’s College High School, in Washington, DC, which has a powerhouse football program.

At least eight of my high school teammates went on to play Division I football at places Syracuse, Wake Forest, and Virginia, and two of them made it to the NFL.

After high school I spent a year at a prep school called Fork Union Military Academy, which was another factory for athletes. Among my Fork Union teammates, 23 signed to play Division I football in college, and one of them—Eddie George—won the Heisman Trophy.

Four years after we graduated from Fork Union, 13 of my former teammates were drafted into the NFL. In college I walked on to the football team at the University of Maryland, and 20 or 25 of my teammates during my four years there went on to play professional football.

This is a piece of the Under Armour story that most people don’t appreciate. They focus on the innovative product. But I wasn’t just a guy who created a new kind of athletic wear.

I had friends inside the locker rooms of more than a dozen professional football teams. Although Under Armour has become a $1 billion brand by selling to consumers, I created it as a product for elite athletes.

And when I was laying plans for the business, my contacts among these NFL players were a vital part of my strategy.

What began as a word-of-mouth brand-building strategy has evolved into a multimillion-dollar expense item. But it’s a lot of fun.

But knowing these guys didn’t necessarily make navigating the world of celebrity endorsements any less complicated. What began as an informal word-of-mouth brand-building strategy has evolved into a multimillion-dollar expense item that requires elaborate negotiations and constant attention to the return on investment. But it’s also a lot of fun.

Managing Freebies

Simply getting my first products into players’ hands was challenging. This was pre-, and I had to work to track down the guys I went to high school or college with. When I did reach them, I was careful in my approach.

A lot of people ask these guys for help, and I didn’t want to sound the obnoxious third cousin who tries to borrow $500. So I wouldn’t say, “Do me a favor and wear this shirt.” Instead I’d say, “I have this neat product and this cool company I’m working with—you should check it out.

” If they sounded interested, I’d say, “Hey, let me send you a couple of shirts. If you them, wear one—and give the other one to the guy with the locker next to yours.” It was a grassroots approach.

I tried to emphasize that if an Under Armour shirt could help these athletes improve their performance just a little bit, they’d be able to earn even more money. I positioned wearing it as a tool to help them rather than a favor to me.

I thought that once a few players on a team began wearing the shirts and talking them up, the team would feel obliged to buy them for everyone, the way it buys other equipment. That was the business model I had in mind, and in fact, that’s what happened.

Our first order came in 1996, from the Georgia State football team, and soon after that we made big sales to the Atlanta Falcons and the New York Giants.

I was still giving free shirts to individual players in the hope that they’d spread the word, but I made the money back with sales to teams.

Then, in the summer of 1997, the equipment manager for the Miami Dolphins called. “Hey, Kev,” he said, “a couple of our guys have your shirts, and we love them. If you do me a favor and send me 150 of them, I’ll make sure every Dolphin—including Dan Marino—is wearing one on Sunday.

” I told him I couldn’t give away that many shirts for the promotional value: It wasn’t in my budget. “Are you crazy?” he said. “The exposure will be unbelievable.

” He was right—the Dolphins game would be nationally televised, and with the Under Armour logo visible on the neck of every shirt, our brand would be in front of millions of people.

That was a defining moment, one of those decisions that determine the future of a company. “Look,” I said. “I you very much, and I do have the shirts in stock. But I can’t send them to you free—I just can’t. We make a good product, we charge a fair price, and other teams are paying for them.

If I give them away to you, I’ll need to do it for everybody, and I can’t keep up with that game.” He was apologetic, but he said he didn’t have the money, and he hung up. I was kicking myself. Had I done the right thing? I considered sending the shirts down anyway, despite what I’d said.

That phone conversation took place on a Wednesday, and the game was on Sunday. On Thursday he called me back. “Okay, I have an idea,” he said. “We’ll pay for the shirts, but you’ll bill us on a 45-day cycle, which will help me take the money next month’s budget.” We shipped them overnight.

When you deal with products for which endorsements are important, you have to make decisions that all the time. When is it worthwhile to give away your product, and when do you stand your ground and demand a fair price? As Under Armour grew, that calculation became even more difficult. Star players began asking to be paid to wear our gear.

By 1998 Barry Bonds had become a big advocate of our product. We didn’t know how he was getting the shirts (we weren’t sending them to him), but he was wearing them all the time, and he really d them. Some of our guys asked him if he’d be willing to do a photo shoot for us. “You know, I love your product—I’d love to,” he said. It was a very big deal for us.

We flew a photographer down to spring training to do the shoot, and I went with him.

Barry came down to the set that morning and said, “I’m not going to do it.” He had his manager with him. I pleaded with him: “Barry, it will take five minutes—let’s just get a picture of you in the shirt.” He told me he wanted $5,000 to let us take the photo. At the time, we weren’t paying any players to wear Under Armour, and I told him that.

We came up with a compromise: We’d give him $5,000 in merchandise and a promise that if we ever began paying players to wear the brand, we’d pay him whatever we were paying our top-earning athlete. (In 2001 we gave him $5,000 for his charity as well as $5,000 in merchandise; he was still our top-earning athlete that year.

) He looked at me, grabbed hold of his manager, and said, “Kevin, if you ever screw with me, I’m going to kill this guy.” Everyone laughed. We took the photos and put one in our catalog. It was cool. But as time went on, we were constantly dealing with things that.

Celebrities became even more important to our business after 2000, when we began selling apparel at retail.

“What’s Up with the Stock?”

One thing people don’t realize about endorsements is how few athletes are instantly recognizable—and how effective an endorsement can be from someone who’s relatively unknown but has the right personality.

Many of the early athletes we used only looked famous—they were big, athletic, strong. Eric Ogbogu was a teammate of mine at Maryland who played with the Jets, the Bengals, and the Cowboys. He looks a million bucks.

But 800 players in the NFL, there are only about 10 that most people would recognize with their helmets off—and Eric wasn’t one of them.

Nonetheless, we put him in an Under Armour ad screaming, “We must protect this house!” The catchphrase became really well known, and Eric became famous as the Under Armour guy. The point is that you don’t need to have Tiger Woods in a commercial for it to be effective.

By some estimates, 14% to 19% of all U.S. advertisements feature celebrity endorsements, and in 2010 the athletes Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and LeBron James earned seven times as much from endorsements as from playing their sports.

But do endorsements really drive sales? In a July 2011 paper, Anita Elberse of Harvard Business School and Jeroen Verleun of Barclays Capital studied the impact of endorsement announcements on stock price and sales—and how an athlete’s subsequent performance affects returns over time.

Their paper, which examined 178 athlete endorsers and 95 companies, concluded that endorsements pump up a brand’s sales by $10 million a year, on average, and increase short-term return on equity. And when an endorser wins an athletic championship, the brand enjoys another sales bump.

“In general,” Elberse and Verleun write, “enlisting the help of celebrity endorsers pays off.”

At a certain point in our evolution, it began to make sense to pay athletes to promote our brand. Once we’d established a big consumer business—and especially as we’ve expanded into new categories, such as footwear—the value of endorsements became clear. Consumers know that Under Armour is an authentic brand that was built on the field.

Athletes’ endorsements reinforce that, and they provide us with a bigger platform to communicate our product stories. We are strategic with our partnerships—our athletes talk about the benefits of our gear because it helps them perform. Today our most prominent athlete is Tom Brady, the Patriots quarterback, whom we signed in November 2010.

We’ve never disclosed how much we pay him, but Tom’s deal is unique in that it includes equity in the company. It’s a great arrangement, because I want our biggest partners rooting for Under Armour. One day last summer our stock took a pounding, and I received a text from Tom: “What’s up with the stock? I’m buying more tonight.

” That’s exactly what I want—an athlete who has truly bought into our success.

Sometimes we decide not to spend money on particular athletes, and that can be a hard decision, too. Recently the endorsement market for players selected in the NBA draft has been really high.

In 2010 John Wall was the number one pick, and another company paid more than $5 million for an endorsement deal with him. He hadn’t even dribbled a ball in the NBA yet! The number two pick was Evan Turner, Ohio State. We wanted to sign him. We figured a deal with him was worth $150,000 a year.

Another company came in and paid him more than $2 million a year. To us, that didn’t make sense.

Often these deals aren’t just about the money. You need to find out who is on the other side of the table and whom you should be talking to.

There’s the athlete, of course, but sometimes a friend or a handler or the mom or dad is the key decision maker. You have to build trust and explain your story. These athletes have everybody in the world coming after them.

Your job is to break through the clutter and the noise and show them why your brand would be a good fit.

Once we have a top athlete on board, we look to him for more than just endorsements. Ideally, he’ll help us drive product innovation, too. One of our top athletes is Brandon Jennings, who’s in his third year in the NBA and plays for the Milwaukee Bucks.

When the NBA locked out last summer, Brandon didn’t feel going home to LA, so we offered him an internship. He had an office at our Baltimore headquarters. He worked out here and ate in the dining hall. His official title was Curator of Cool. He hung out with our designers.

A guy that helped them come up with new ideas.

Sometimes when we enter a new category, we have to pay more to get athletes to wear our gear. We were signing up baseball players to wear our cleats before we even made baseball cleats, so it was a leap of faith by them. Deals that are more difficult. But when we enter a new category, we work hard to get it right as quickly as possible.

When we launched football shoes, everyone said we couldn’t compete. But within a few years we had Tom Brady winning the Super Bowl MVP in our shoes, and Cam Newton, the number one NFL draft pick, led Auburn to the 2011 national championship in a pair.

We launched basketball shoes in 2010, and I guarantee that within four or five years our athletes will be winning championships in them, too.

Tom Brady’s deal is unique in that it includes equity in the company. It’s a great arrangement, because I want our biggest partners rooting for Under Armour.

When we started out, the way companies used endorsements was fairly simple: You put the athlete in an ad or hoped your logo showed clearly on TV during games. In the past few years that’s changed, too.

As athletes continue to build their own brand identities, they seek endorsements that reflect their lifestyle and values.

A successful endorsement should facilitate a conversation between the brand and the athlete and between the athlete and the consumer.

Today social media give us infinitely more opportunities to tell our story. Most of our athletes are on , and our marketing department has social media experts.

They’re usually 25, with two years of experience, but they know more about this stuff than anybody else.

Looking at how communication has changed in the past few years, with the emergence of and mobile technology, it’s hard to say how the endorsement business is going to change over the next decade. I do know that we’ll continue to embrace those changes.

A version of this article appeared in the May 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review.


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