15 surprising facts about Under Armour
The sports-apparel brand Under Armour is booming, with the company on track to generate around $4 billion in revenue this year.
Its market share has skyrocketed in the US, partly thanks to memorable marketing campaigns and the company's knack of picking spokesmodels just as they are about to reach the top of their game: Misty Copeland, Stephen Curry, and Tom Brady to name a few.
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But Under Armour had humble beginnings, and it has met some surprising hurdles and peaks along the way to its multibillion-dollar success. Check out some of the more surprising facts about Under Armour.
- Under Armour's billionaire founder, Kevin Plank, didn't get off to the best of starts. He was thrown out of private high school after failing two classes and for his part in what Forbes described as a "drunken brawl" with some Georgetown University football players.
- But things picked up for him. Plank went on to get a scholarship at the University of Maryland, where he was a walk-on for the football team. (He's not pictured here.) He eventually became the team captain.
- Founding Under Armour wasn't Plank's first job. He had a flower business, parked cars, and "grew a shaggy beard, and sold T-shirts and bracelets at Grateful Dead concerts."
- Under Armour was founded in 1996. As a football player, Plank grew sick of the way the weight of his sweat-soaked cotton shirts dragged him down. He wanted to create a T-shirt that took perspiration away from your skin, rather than absorbing it.
- Under Armour began life in Plank's grandmother's house on the corner of 35th and O Street in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. He lived upstairs, had the sales office on the ground floor, and kept all the inventory in the basement.
- There's a funny reason Plank chose the name Under Armour. He originally wanted to call the company "Heart" (as in wearing your heart on your sleeve), but his trademark application was denied. He had no luck trademarking "Body Armor" either. His brother asked him: "How's that company you're working on, uhh ... Under Armor?" Plank said he didn't know whether his brother was messing with him, but the name clicked.
- The reason he chose the British spelling with the "u"? Plank said: "I was skeptical at the time whether this whole internet thing would stick. So I thought the phone number 888-4RMOUR was much more compelling than 888-44ARMOR."
- Under Armour has played several supporting roles in movies, including Oliver Stone's "Any Given Sunday," starring Al Pacino. The football team wore Under Armour apparel in all the key scenes of the 1999 flick.
- Under Armour's first TV ad starred former University of Maryland footballer Eric "Big E" Ogbogu.
- Under Armour's biggest market is in the US, but its biggest team deal is in the UK, with the London soccer team Tottenham Hotspur.
- Under Armour's stock once dropped 2.3% when the US speed-skating team wore its new Mach 39 speed suits in the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 and performed terribly. They dropped the suits but lost anyway.
- Under Armour is also a tech company. It has spent $710 million on acquiring apps, including MapMyFitness, Endomondo, and MyFitnessPal. It also launched its own fitness app called Record and has more than 130 million users across its app network.
- Under Armour has an internal phrase called "No loser talk." It came about after J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler was sitting on a panel next to Plank and started mumbling under his breath about another panelist: "What a loser. Can you believe this loser? Listen to this loser talk." The lesson Plank learned was that Drexler was calling the guy a loser because there was no point complaining about something "galactically obvious" like a weak economy when you could instead be finding ways around the problem.
- In 2014, Under Armour surpassed Adidas to become the second-largest sports-apparel brand in the US, behind Nike. By 2030, analysts believe, it will be the third-largest sportswear brand in the world.
- Plank has extended his empire even further by purchasing a 530-acre thoroughbred-horse-racing farm called Sagamore in Maryland in 2007. His aim is "to one day breed and train a Triple Crown winner" — a horse that wins the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.
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