Under Armour Inc (US)

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Under Armour has emerged as one of the main challengers to sportswear's global elite of Nike, Adidas and Puma, and is currently the fast-growing in the sector. Revenues have more than doubled in four years to just under $5bn in 2017, though performance slowed dramatically during the latter year. It overtook Adidas in 2014 to become the #2 sportswear brand in the US behind Nike. That lead was surrendered again in 2016 but competion with Adidas for the #2 spot remains neck-and-neck. The brand has partnership arrangements to supply kit to several major US collegiate conferences and sports associations, most notably Major League Baseball. It still generates more than 80% of revenues at home, though international sales are growing rapidly. Globally, Under Armour is now the #3 in the sector, ahead of Puma. 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. The company has signed up a small but significant team of high-powered endorsement partners including actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, swimming champion Michael Phelps, ballerina Misty Copeland and supermodel Gisele Bundchen. Plank remains CEO and has a majority of voting shares. Subscribers may access account assignments and contact information. The searchable account assignments database is available to full subscribers to Adbrands.net premium services. Click here to access Adbrands account assignments (subscribers only); or see here for information on how to subscribe.

Capsule checked 6th April 2017

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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.

Adbrands Weekly Update 29th Jun 2017: Under Armour CEO and controlling shareholder Kevin Plank took further steps to strengthen his management team with the appointment of Patrik Frisk as president & COO. Frisk was most recently CEO of shoemaker Aldo Group, and before that spent several years at VF Corp, latterly as president of Outdoors Americas, overseeing The North Face, Timberland and other brands. Among a number of other executive changes at UA, merchandising chief Kevin Eskridge was promoted to a newly created role of chief product officer, with responsibility for product, merchandising, design and innovation.

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