SBD/March 1, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Under Armour Hopes Refresh Of Footwear Line Will Boost Sales

Cam Newton, an Under Armour endorser, wore new E39 shirt at NFL Combine
Under Armour is "hoping to make a footwear comeback" after it "replaced the footwear team, redesigned shoes and switched marketing strategies," according to Andrea Walker of the Baltimore SUN. Under Armour Chair, President & CEO Kevin Plank "hit a speed bump" when the company launched footwear in '08, and Under Armour execs "hope this year will mark a turning point in the slow rebuilding of the footwear division." Plank: "It's a long-term play. Look at what we've done in the past, and give us the ability to be patient with that and ensure that success." Under Armour expects footwear "to return to growth this year" after sales declined 7% to $221M in '10. The company plans to launch its "second-generation basketball shoe in the second half of the year, when it expects most of the footwear division's growth to happen." It also is "banking on the success of new models of football and baseball cleats, one category that has proved to be a big seller." At the same time, Under Armour "appears to have pulled back on plans to launch new versions of the running and cross-training shoes, which the company had indicated might debut this year," and instead is "looking at 2012 for the launch of those new models." Walker notes last year's introduction of the basketball shoe "might be a glimpse into their new strategy -- and whether it might succeed." Despite the "lack of hype, some analysts said it held its own in a year when competitors released an unusually large number of shoes." But Nike officials "don't seem to be fazed by Under Armour's presence in the market." Nike Dir of Media Relations Derek Kent said, "We thrive on competition because it always makes us better" (Baltimore SUN, 3/1).

TAKING IT TO ANOTHER LEVEL
: Under Armour this past weekend introduced its E39 shirt at the NFL Scouting Combine, which it sponsors, and company Senior VP Kevin Haley said that the new product is a "biometric shirt that measures heart and breathing rate, skin-surface temperature, as well as force and direction." Haley said that the technology is "a 'game-changer,' because it allows teams to pinpoint a player’s burst in different game situations." He noted that the E39's monitor was "designed by Zephyr Technology and previously used by U.S. Army Special Forces." Haley said that "post-combine, the next step would be providing the shirts to professional athletes, teams and, ultimately, the general public" (NFL.com, 2/27).
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