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Volume 21 No. 1
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Under Armour keeps its footing with launch

With the help of some its most highly visible endorsers, including Tom Brady, Lindsey Vonn and Kemba Walker, Under Armour rolled out its latest footwear play, the lightweight Spine shoe. The line launches at retail July 9, backed by a new “This Is How We Run” campaign from Crispin Porter & Bogusky, which includes a spot that features Brady, NFL Rookie of the Year Cam Newton and Walker. UA founder and CEO Kevin Plank spoke with staff writer Terry Lefton about his company’s footwear efforts.

Seven years after your first footwear hit retail, how do you grade efforts in that market?

PLANK: Like anything, it just takes time. From the beginning, you have to learn, and we have learned so much about design, factory relationships and who you work with. Seven years in, we are still learning. But I look at our [overall] Japanese business, which went from zero to $35 million in 1998 to 2007. After that, we hit the tipping point, and now Japan is a $200 million business. So we know it is about patience and we have the brand power and the equity with consumers where they will keep trying us. We are now known as innovators in cleated footwear. Running is only in year four and we will be patient and build.

Lindsey Vonn, Kevin Plank, Tom Brady and Kemba Walker introduce the Spine shoe.
How much of total sales are footwear?

PLANK: It is still around 10 percent. I made a big statement once that someday our footwear should be larger than our apparel, and that is honestly the way I still feel. When that happens, I can’t predict. Our competitors are pretty good and they aren’t giving up their space easily.
What’s driving people into footwear retail? For you and the competition, a lot of the buzz has been on lightweight for a while …

PLANK: Lightweight is a big story, but we don’t want to get caught chasing trends. It has to be our innovation. We don’t want consumers saying, “They have a nice logo, so let’s buy that sneaker.” It has to be our take on footwear. We are driving hard to be innovators.

Everyone’s honing their media mix now with the rise of social media. What kind of campaign and mix are you putting behind your new footwear?

PLANK: The campaign will be north of $10 million, and we are working with Crispin on the TV creative and it is awesome. On the digital side, it is funny, because you end up hiring a 22-year-old to tell you about digital and social. We’re still experimenting there, like everyone, but we are starting to learn the science there and the art. The balance between old and new media is what’s critical, and we will be in every channel and try to be thoughtful about the mix and the duration.