Here’s how this athletic-apparel grew into a $15 billion empire


by Drake Baer |

When Under Armour was founded in 1996 it made $17,000 in annual revenue. In 2014 it made over $3 billion with a market cap that’s swelled to $15 billion.

Founder and CEO Kevin Plank has used breakthrough technology, celebrity endorsements, and clever product placement to make Under Armour a force in the athletic-apparel industry.

When Kevin Plank was a captain on the University of Maryland football team, he grew frustrated with the cotton T-shirts that bunched up under his gear. So he sought to find a fabric that wouldn’t get gross, and to build a company around it.


Kevin Plank
Kevin Plank

In 1996, Plank founded Under Armour. The first product was a synthetic base layer made to wick away sweat.

He sent prototypes to contacts in the NFL, like former Tennessee Titans tight end Frank Wycheck.

Word got around the NFL: Deion Sanders bought four shirts, with a personal check, The New Yorker reported.

The first team deals: Georgia Tech and North Carolina State. “Word began to spread, fashioned by positive reviews passing over the lips of players,” Sports Illustrated said.

From college football, Under Armour would make a leap to the NFL. Here are the cleats of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Under Armour TV commercials further associated the brand with hard work, discipline, and football valor — like the ‘We Must Protect This House’ ad campaign that premiered in 2003.

Sales grew: In 2004 they were over $200 million.

On November 18, 2005, Plank took the company public, raising $157 million.

Under Armour has been careful to make itself cool. In 1999, Jamie Foxx wore Under Armour in ‘Any Given Sunday.’ In 2006, the company scored the right to have its logo on the jerseys of the Dillon Panthers, the high-school team at the center of ‘Friday Night Lights.’

The company slowly landed big-time endorsements. In 2010, it signed Tom Brady — by giving him equity in the company.

In 2014, Under Armour signed Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, to expand its brand to women.

In 2014, Under Armour signed on ballerina Misty Copeland, and produced an ad that promptly went viral.

Under Armour has started making software acquisitions, buying up MapMyFitness in 2013, and then Endomondo and MyFitnessPal in 2015. “We are developing a digital ecosystem that provides us with unparalleled data,” Plank told The Wall Street Journal.

t has faced setbacks. At the 2014 Winter Olympics, Under Armour designed the suits for the US speed-skating team. It made its worse showing in 30 years, causing lots of speculation the suits were partially to blame.

It continues to land more high-profile deals: Its new line of Curry One shoes, named for the breakout NBA star Stephen Curry, arrived in stores on February 13, 2015.

It announced a deal with Muhammad Ali on Wednesday.

n 2014, Under Armour passed Adidas to become the second-best-selling sports apparel brand in the US. Next up: market leader Nike.

Under Armour was built around football. Now find out how one coach learned to dominate the game.

via Business Insider