Kevin Plank, the mastermind who built Under Armour into the $4 billion powerhouse it is today, recently invested nearly $1 billion into fitness trackers and apps. While that seems pretty much impossible, you really don’t know what Kevin can accomplish with his whiteboards.
If you spend any time at the Under Armour headquarters, then you know how Kevin Plank loves his whiteboards. Inside his office and out, walls are covered floor-to-ceiling with whiteboards filled with key principles Kevin believes in. He claims that his idea behind the whiteboards and their messages allows his team to operate as entrepreneurs; using the messages to channel his way of thinking.
According to many, Kevin has the intensity of a head coach; from his direct eye contact to his military analogies, his team always works their hardest. According to Plank, “Winning is a part of our culture.” Additionally, Under Armour’s official mission states that the company is seeking to “make all athletes better.”
In the past two years, Under Armour has been busy investing and buying nearly $1 billion in three top makers of mobile apps that are focused on dieting and fitness. By taking this leap, the company has created the world’s largest digital health and fitness community, which includes 150 million users. According to Plank, he believes those users, including their metrics, will be the driving force that steers everything from product development to merchandising.
However, not everyone is on board with his vision. Given how the company spent $710 million on the acquisitions, many observers question whether Under Armour could quickly produce any return on investment. Although there were doubts, Plank claims that the company has seen much success because they never focus on the reasons why things couldn’t happen.
Being a former Division 1 college athlete, Plank became famous because he made one monumental insight: The cotton shirts football players wore under their gear became drenched in sweat, which slowed them down. After designing a prototype that included moisture-wicking, form-fitting qualities, the idea took off. Georgia Tech would be Plank’s first big-time client, and Kevin then went on to create a whole new market for performance apparel. Today, Under Armour sponsors some of the most popular athletes in the world; Jordan Spieth, Stephan Curry, and Lindsey Vonn are just a few of them.
Although Under Armour is one of the leading performance apparel companies in the world, Plank is still very much an entrepreneur. That being said, he has his eyes set on becoming one of the world’s largest sportswear provider.
As Plank has his eyes set on the immediate future, the real work is only getting started. One project in the works will place Under Armour fitness devices in direct competition with Fitbit and Apple in the wearables market. As some experts claim that the move is “bold” and “risky,” Kevin is staying very determined and optimistic.
One key moment in Kevin’s career came in 2013 when he closed an acquisition deal with the popular fitness app company MapMyFitness. After the deal closed, Plank and MapMyFitness owner Robin Thurston spent a great deal of time trying to set priorities for Under Armour’s digital transformation.
After realizing the vision, Plank saw a serious opportunity: They didn’t want to only be a collector of human activity, but rather the central processor that turns data into valuable insights. After that idea came into fruition in late 2014, the two went to work. By the following March, they spent over $500 million acquiring two additional companies: MyFitnessPal, a nutrition-focused tracking system that logs user’s meals, and Copenhagen-based Endomondo, a personal training program where almost all users live out of the United States.
Under Armour has grown quite a bit over the past few years, but huge moves are on the horizon for Kevin and his team. But since the $4 billion company is competing with tech giants such as Apple, Google, and Fitbit, the road won’t be easy — and Plank fully understands this. However, given how Kevin now has more user fitness data than the leading tech companies in the industry, he likes his chances of coming out on top.
Under Armour’s mobile fitness platform, Connected Fitness, could potentially become the largest fitness platform in the world, and although there are many risks, Plank is staying hopeful.
As Kevin puts it, “The one thing we know is we can always make more money.”