Failing Under Armour

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

2 November 2017

Under Armour sinks

What happened to Under Armour?

Under ArmourAccording to an article in the Washington Post everything is wrong. The paper likens Under Armour situation to a perfect storm.

Retailer uncertainty just heightened the brand’s peril. One thing for sure, you can’t help but see the downward spiral.

Under Armour reinvented athletic underwear

According to Wikipedia, when Kevin Plank got the idea for Under Armour, he was playing football for the University of Maryland. That was in 1996. He saw a need and rose to meet it. A smart and insightful beginning to everybody’s darling of athletic wear undergarments. The corporate HQ remains in Baltimore.

“Under Armour has lost its shine. The question is who is it for? It is hard to be NIKE redux but it can be done. The answer is claiming the highest emotional intensity.”

But a great idea does not make a brand

Under ArmourBrands reflect the beliefs of the target audience that adopts it. They are less created than nurtured.

Easy stuff when your target market is athletes. The brand usurped NIKE’s Just Do It and positioned the brand against those who do it. For real.

Under Armour stepped into deep waters

Success leaves clues. Failures too. Under Armour is a functional brand. It is for athletes by athletes. But the lure of success grabbed it by the kahunas. Investors and brand managers embraced brand extensions. Under Armour meant more than just underwear.

Suddenly, it become a fashion brand. That’s the sticky wicket. The transition is treacherous. Quicksand engulfed the brand. Fashion is often the opposite of REAL. Managing that tightrope kills many.


Remaining of the moment

Under ArmourThat’s the trick, isn’t it? Remain relevant to the core. Plus, extend brand permission to pretenders. Most fashion brands are pretenders.

They salute a different flag. They march to a different drummer.

NIKE walked the walk and transitioned to both. They are FOR athletes and embraced by couch potatoes like me. It is a delicate dance.

It’s obvious that Under Armour tripped. Those of us on the outside had trouble placing the brand in importance. Fashion brands are not about function. They are all about perception and beliefs. They provide our stamp of approval. Approval to our sense of self.

What should they do?

Under ArmorDon’t panic. Avoid the temptation that this is a cost issue. Too many brands attempt discounting their way into our hearts. Walmart is not its savior.

Under Armour is a premium brand. The context of the buy either reinforces the brand or destroys it. Direct sales make sense. The brand can manage that experience and deliver it.

Rebrand Under Armour

I’m not talking about a name change. I’m speaking about an emotional rebranding and brand relaunch. It needs a refresh. A rethinking of meaning. I don’t know the emotional answer. But I know how to find it.



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