Under Armour has emerged as one of the main challengers to sportswear's global elite of Nike, Adidas and Puma, and was until recently one of the fastest-growing in the sector. It overtook Adidas in 2014 to become the #2 sportswear brand in the US behind Nike. That lead was surrendered again in 2016 but competition with Adidas for the #2 spot remains neck-and-neck. Revenues more than doubled between 2014 and 2017, but performance began to slow dramatically in the US during the latter year. Topline hit a high of $5.2bn in 2018 but that was only up 4% on the year before, with strong growth internationally offsetting a decline in North America. Steep restructuring and impairment charges resulted in a second consecutive net loss, only slightly lower than the year before at negative $46.3m. Globally, Under Armour is now the #3 in the sector, ahead of Puma. Unlike its main rivals, apparel rather than footwear accounts for the largest proportion of UA's revenues. The brand has partnership arrangements to supply kit to several major US collegiate conferences and sports associations, most notably the US gymnastics team. It surrendered a financially onerous Major League Baseball contract to Nike. It has personal contracts with several notable sportsmen including Tom Brady, Stephen Curry, Anthony Joshua and Andy Murray. The company has also signed up a small but significant team of high-powered non-athletic endorsement partners including actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, ballerina Misty Copeland and supermodel Gisele Bundchen. In 2019, UA signed up to design space apparel and footwear, as well as an astronaut performance training program for Virgin Galactic. Launched in 1996 by former athlete Kevin Plank, the company's original focus, as its name suggests, was to create weatherproof, sweatproof sports clothing to keep athletes dry and comfortable. It also now produces footwear, as well as wearables like the HealthBox fitness band, but sports apparel still generates two-thirds of revenues. Plank has a majority of voting shares, and remained CEO until 2019, when he stepped down in favour of Patrik Frisk, previously COO.
Capsule checked 13th February 2019
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Adbrands Daily Update 22nd Oct 2019: Under Armour's founder Kevin Plank is to relinquish the CEO role at the end of 2019, though he will remain executive chairman. Patrik Frisk, currently COO, will take over as CEO. He joined the group two years ago from shoe retailer Aldo, where he had been CEO. Under Armour's once-dynamic double-digit growth curve has slowed dramatically since 2017, falling to just 1.5% for the first half of 2019.
Adbrands Weekly Update 29th Mar 2018: Ads of the Week "Build The Belief". If you only know Dwayne Johnson from his movies, you've probably come to expect that goofy self-deprecating charm in all his public appearances. Not so. Underneath there's steely determination; that's how he made himself into the top-earning Hollywood star of the current era, and here's a taste of the metal core. Gives you a sense of what it felt like to face him across the wrestling ring. Just a bit scary. It's also a twin outing for two of his latest ventures: the Project Rock apparel partnership with Under Armour, and his own new creative agency Seven Bucks, which made the ad. Remember that Apple ad of a few months ago where he multi-tasks a thousand different jobs simultaneously? Not so far from the truth.
Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Nov 2017: Sportswear challenger Under Armour reported its first ever decline in quarterly sales, bringing to an abrupt end the upstart company's six-year growth surge. The 4.5% decline in sales was matched by a 58% fall in net profits for the quarter, though Under Armour still expects to report modest overall growth for the year as a whole. The biggest problem is in its home market: North America sales slumped by 12% in 3Q. Under Armour said it hopes to arrest some of that slump with an aggressive push into direct to consumer sales, rather than rely on America's hard-pressed sportswear retail chains. It is also cutting back on non-core lines such as fitness trackers. There were also a number of management changes, including the departure of marketing chief Andrew Dwonkin after only a year in his role. His replacement has yet to be named.
Adbrands Weekly Update 17th Aug 2017: In an otherwise quiet couple of weeks for corporate news, several major US companies have instead been wrestling with issues of diversity, race and gender. Business leaders yesterday moved to disband two White House advisory councils as a result of President Trump's inconsistent comments regarding a white supremacist rally in South Carolina where one left-wing protester was murdered and 19 others injured. Trump initially demurred on condemning the supremacists, saying instead that both sides were to blame for the violence. That prompted the immediate resignation of Merck's Kenneth Frazier, one of America's most senior African-American CEOs. "America's leaders must honour our fundamental values," he said, "by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal." Trump's typically ill-mannered response was to attack Frazier in two tweets about pharmaceutical pricing. That braggart reaction prompted the departure of two further members, Under Armor's Kevin Plank and Intel's Brian Krzanich. "I resigned because I want to make progress," said Krzanich, "while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them."
Trump attempted to calm the storm by voicing an explicit condemnation of the far-right (no doubt at the insistence of his more moderate advisers) only to change his position again the following day, and once again blame both sides for the violence. At the same time, he ramped up his attack on the departing CEOs who, he said, were "not taking their jobs seriously" and had resigned "out of embarrassment because they make their products outside" the US. That prompted the resignation of two further CEOs, Campbell Soup Company's Denise Morrison and 3M's Inge Thulin. The remaining members of both councils then took the decision to disband. Typically, Trump tried to save face by claiming the decision to disband was made by him. Shortly before the councils were disbanded, the New York Times asked why so few CEOs speak out against Trump, concluding that "privately, many chief executives say they are fuming, outraged by the president. But many are too scared to say anything publicly that could make them or their company a target of Mr Trump's wrath."
Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Aug 2017: Under Armour is still in the doghouse, reporting another disappointing quarter, another loss, albeit narrower than the year-ago period, and a cut in full-year revenue forecasts. Despite low double-digit growth in sports apparel, analysts were worried by a decline in footwear, perceived as key to the company's switch to a broader-based sportswear manufacturer. Under Armour shares slumped to their lowest level in over eight years.
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