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Kellogg School of Management

Under Armour: Creating and Growing a New Consumer Brand

By: Brian Sternthal, Prashant Malaviya

The case traces the development of the Under Armour (UA) brand, product, and market growth under CEO and founder Kevin Plank from its inception in 1996 through 2016. UA provides a cohesive case study…

  • Length: 11 page(s)
  • Publication Date: Mar 28, 2018
  • Discipline: Marketing
  • Product #: KE1051-PDF-ENG

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The case traces the development of the Under Armour (UA) brand, product, and market growth under CEO and founder Kevin Plank from its inception in 1996 through 2016. UA provides a cohesive case study of how to launch and sustain a consumer brand even in the face of its third-party manufacturing approach, which gives its apparel no patentable design or fabric technologies. The case uses UA's brand and advertising development as a backdrop for the current pivotal issue of how to target women to sustain growth. UA's stated goal is to build a $1.9 billion women's business by 2019. In laying out UA's growth and competitive moves, the case lets students analyze broadcast, social media, and other digital advertising campaigns in view of the company's brand development and strategic targeting. The case also highlights the importance of leveraging brand heritage and historical differentiation while respecting key nuances when extending into new markets (i.e., moving from a predominantly male-driven audience to female). It also allows an exploration of how to use consumer insight and broader cultural attitudes and trends to support extending a position into new markets.

Learning Objectives

After reading and analyzing the case, students will be able to: understand the strategic and tactical discipline required to create and sustain a consumer brand; examine advertising campaigns and assess alignment with their intended target and positioning; derive various advertising models based on an analysis of campaigns and their respective targeting goals; and make recommendations among models to plot the best growth path for a particular brand.

Mar 28, 2018 (Revised: Oct 4, 2021)



United States


Apparel industry

Kellogg School of Management


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PESTLE Analysis

The Latest and Best Analysis Online

Under Armour SWOT Analysis 2020: Case Study in 4 Steps

Last Updated: Aug 16, 2022 by Abdul Momin Filed Under: SWOT Analysis , SWOT Examples

Hailing from Baltimore, USA, Under Armour (started in 1996) is a company which manufactures footwear, sportswear as well as casual apparel. They also have created various fitness apps to help people stay healthy.

 It became a multibillion-dollar brand under the leadership of Kevin Plank, who is the founder and was the CEO from its inception till 2020, when the COO Patrik Frisk replaced him. Recently, Under Armour has had to shut down stores because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been a massive blow for them as it has been for many businesses, making the Under Armour case study very interesting.

We’ll work out an Under Armour SWOT analysis to see where it is standing in 2020 but first, let’s understand what a SWOT analysis actually is . 

SWOT Analysis of Under Armour

Lookout; the FBI is after you! Just kidding, no need to get your knickers in a twist; you’re safe. You see, SWOT essentially stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats . A SWOT analysis is what you conduct when you’re interested in learning about the standing a particular company has in the marketplace; it is a great way to assess and understand the competition a company has.

Let’s take the example of Uber to understand SWOT a bit more closely. You can book a ride from anywhere to anywhere anytime. This is definitely the strength of the company.

Since smartphones have become a staple product in every household, Uber took the opportunity to introduce an app that can easily be accessed and used by any smartphone out there.

However, cabs are still a worthy threat for Uber because many people belonging to the older generations, albeit use smartphones, are not very tech-savvy, and many of them prefer the traditional cab services because of the familiarity. So Uber might be a dominant player in the market for young people, but they still have a way to go to replace cabs completely.

A considerable weakness they have is the occurrence of harassment cases faced by many customers worldwide, which puts a bad rep on them. People are often skeptical about booking an Uber in fear of getting stuck with the wrong kind of driver.

Let’s take a look at a SWOT Analysis template to get a better hang of what we’re working with here:

This is a very basic SWOT analysis of Uber aimed at making clear how to actually do one. Here’s a more in-depth analysis of Uber .

Let’s now see where Under Armour falls based on this analysis.

What are Under Armour’s Major Strengths?

The coolest thing about the brand is that it has managed to have a global presence with its key locations in North America, Asia Pacific, EMEA, and Latin America. The Under Armour business model has managed to survive and prosper amongst competition because of the brand’s diverse distribution channels, portfolio, and exceptional quality clothing.

We have a strong appreciation for Under Armour marketing strategies, always apart from the clutter. The core strength of this brand is the revolutionary T-shirts they manufacture, which are comfortable, light, and very resistant to sweat, perfect for athletic people who like to stay fit.

This has eventually paved the way for Under Armour to be a step ahead of the competition in the sports apparel industry. Now that the company has gone digital by creating their fitness apps, they can claim to be the biggest fitness company globally.

What are Under Armour’s Major Weaknesses?

They already had fewer physical stores worldwide, to begin with, compared to the Under Armour competitors such as Nike , but this recent pandemic has made things much worse for the company.

Sales declined a whopping 41% post-COVID-19, and many financial experts presume they might sink an additional 25%.

Whereas the Under Armour target market consists of both men and women, they don’t seem to be the number one choice for women athletes. They also sell their stuff at hefty rates, which put off many potential buyers. There aren’t many options to customize Under Armour apparel and accessories, either.

What are some opportunities for Under Armour?

The “fit” lifestyle is becoming more and more popular with each day, so it is an industry full of potential for Under Armour. With fitness enthusiasts and influencers increasing daily all over social media, the fitness world continues to grow without any plans of stopping.

The Under Armour target market can easily be expanded to include a kid’s range too. They also can diversify their product line and venture out into different types of sports to grow even further.

They can also work on marketing strategies to attract female consumers to whom they cater to but somehow don’t appeal to, not as much as they could at least. 

What are Under Armour’s Major Threats?

Their core competency of sweat-proof T-shirts is no longer specific only to this brand; the competition has caught up, and this type of design in apparel is available in other brands, often at better prices too.

If the brand doesn’t think of a way to rise above the competition, they could be in serious trouble. Moreover, the biggest threat they face, like any other business, is Covid-19, which has severely affected their work.

Under Armour SWOT Analysis: Conclusion

Under Armour has been a player in the sports industry for decades now, and they have seen a very long period of constant highs.

Despite the potential threats faced by them, especially in light of the pandemic, we believe Under Armour still has the potential of becoming a key competitor for other similar brands, provided they play on their strengths and divulge into the opportunities effectively.

  • Harvard Business School →
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  • January 2018
  • HBS Case Collection

Under Armour

  • Format: Print
  • | Language: English
  • | Pages: 27

About The Author

under armour case study

Rory M. McDonald

Related work.

  • December 2019 (Revised April 2021)
  • Faculty Research
  • Under Armour  By: Rory McDonald and Matt Higgins

Under Armour Company’s Strategic Challenges Case Study


Under Armour is one of the many companies that have seen its inception and growth through athletic events. Under Armour found its inception with the sole aim to improve the athletes’ performance by promoting the participation conditions of the athletes in all weather conditions. The aim was achieved through innovative measures of tailor-made athletic products of various athletic events inform of apparel, footwear, and accessories to promote the body conditions and enhance performance. These tailored products are an alternative to the old athletic gears. They include various products for male and female, old and youth athletes, and all end users involved in sporting and recreational activities. The overall activities involve designing branded products with the company’s logo, marketing, distribution, and athletic wear to various sports individuals and organizations.

Marketing activities include sponsorship agreements with colleges and professional sports institutions to support a sporting event and sell the athletic garments to individual athletes and team managers. This marketing approach promotes product and brand awareness on field sports audiences and new global markets through television coverage, enhancing market penetration and expansion. Individual athletes’ sponsorship poses a great challenge to the company’s financial planning and budgeting as performance-based agreements. However, several other foreseen challenges hinder the company’s expansion that includes the famous Brexit affecting the European countries as new policies will be put in place to regulate business activities plus entrance, expansion, and tax levy. The competitive edge posed by other companies providing competing products with bigger market share and financial strength that include Nike and Addidas adds to expansion challenges affecting Under Armour. Despite these challenges, the foreign market remains one of the unexploited markets that gives great hope for exploiting and expanding market share.

Strategic Issue

Under Armour enjoys the identical brand recognition of its athletic garments locally in North America and gaining gradual penetration to Japan, China, and European countries. The objective to earn over $4 billion from the sale of the company’s product is the chief strength for the company’s growth with the current localized market share of over 90% of sales in North America alone. The company’s revenue position of over $1,834,921 provides financial strength to support marketing, brand, and product promotion in existing and new markets. Moreover, distribution channels in the form of factory outlets, company websites, and specialty stores for the diverse sports and recreational activities garments in different market segments bolster its revenue and market share. Additionally, licensing agreements with other firms and advertisements through television programs, catalogs, online and social media promote consumer demand, expand target market segments, and increase revenue income.

Various challenges hinder the growth and expansion of the Under Armour. Competition from established market-leading companies such as Nike and Adidas is a threat to the company’s expansion and market penetration. The extra financial cost that cuts into the net revenue is required to market and advertise the products and company brand, including sponsorship programs to different individual athletes, sports organizations, and sporting events. Sponsoring individual athletes’ cost has an added constraint in financial planning as agreements are performance-based and cannot provide a robust position to make a future forecast of the company’s marketing and expenditure cost. Moreover, the cost of funding the designing of retail outlets in different market segments to promote the company’s retail consumer store product adds to the financial burden. Therefore, the strategic issue is, ‘What tactical business steps should the company take to break these growth challenges and increase its market share?’

External Environment

In an organization, the external environment comprises the immediate competitive environment and the extensive environmental factors. The immediate competitive environment refers to factors such as economic, market, and competitor forces that dictate the industries’ opportunities, profits, and expansion. The Macro-environment factors include political, economic, social, cultural, technology, environmental factors, and legal policies that direct its objectives, strategy, and direction of operation. In the sports, attire manufacturing industries, sporting, and recreational activities are factors of the external environment that support the industry’s existence and growth.

The relevance of the political factors involves the decision by states, countries, or governing bodies to hold a sport or recreational event in a certain geographical location. A change in the political environment such as Europe Brexit leads to new terms in the business environment that may include a change of trading conditions, inflation, and currency that negatively affect the industry’s income revenue. The negative impact on the economic conditions affects the buyers’ buying potential and subsequently reduces the profit margin hindering growth and expansion. Additionally, political influences by governing bodies on sponsorship of sports or recreational events limit companies’ competition and subsequently affect growth and expansion of an industry.

The shifting socio-cultural needs of sports, recreational activities, and healthcare awareness by the rising population adjust the manufacturers’ flexibility to meet the changing consumer markets. Incorporating technology to support sales, research, and product development to meet the dynamic customer behaviors promotes industry growth. Combining the two factors heightens the competition between local and established industry firms that manufacture various quality performance products to meet the market demand. The heightened competition forces companies to take strategically costly steps to cut on market share or face market fall-out.

Environmental and legal factors influence the sporting events within a given geographical location. Various climate conditions widen the sports and recreational activities of a population and diversify customer needs. Developed countries have strict legal policies aimed at protecting its citizens and the county’s economic position by regulating local and foreign companies’ business operations. Companies must comply with the regulations that involve local and global rivalry to gain market penetration before engaging in any business activity to promote their brand name and boost its business activities.

Porter’s Five Forces Analysis

The five forces analysis provides important economic market characteristics of various products that shape the strategic direction of Under Armour and subsequently influence the growth of the industry. The analysis offers knowledge on market size given the geographical locations, the existing demand and supply forces, competitive forces, and the technological shift that offer business growth and expansion opportunities. Buyer bargaining power influences the degree of sales, profit potential, and the overall growth of a company in a given target market. Companies promote brand awareness and customer loyalty through several advertisements and promotional efforts to claim a significant market niche with a considerable impact on the companies’ profit margin. Sponsorship programs in the sports industry promote sales through buyer brand identification and restrict competition from new entrants and small companies such as global market penetration by Under Armour already dominated by Nike and Adidas.

The diversity of sports activities influences product quality in any given industry. The presence of substitute products with superior quality promotes competition between manufacturing industries to control buyers’ tastes and needs. In the sports industry, athletic and leisure shoe, apparel and sports equipment companies provide substitute products, influence product price, and increase advertisement and promotions cost that subsequently decrease income revenue and threaten growth. Sponsorship and athlete endorsement lowers the seller bargaining power as there is high customer switching cost to sponsoring companies. The industry competition from the new entrants is thus limited due to the sponsorship and promotion barriers by large-scale operators such as Nike, causing high investment requirements from new companies. The rivalry is due to the need to improve market standing and business performance by the existing companies, fear of being faced-out, or overtaken in the otherwise slow-growing industry.

Key Success Factors

Sponsorship and endorsement programs, coupled with the provision of highly designed performance products, promote customer satisfaction and loyalty despite being costly. The growth of technological know-how such as online and social media amongst the world population, specifically in the developed countries and the youth with various ways to access the global market, proves to be a good solution for market penetration. Companies must gain their competitive advantage by incorporating these factors with a quick delivery process to meet these customers’ needs to promote their market relevance.

Industry Profile and Attractiveness

Despite the great political influence, dynamic legal regulations, and the economic instability in several markets due to inflation, the sports industry remains the most attractive to the incumbent investors with high projected growth and expansion due to the population’s shifting ecological needs. The healthcare awareness, changing recreational activities and the rapid technological growth provide a need for product diversity, increased revenue and growth in the industry

Company Situation

In the earlier years of its life, Under Armour experienced a milestone in marketing, brand promotion, and sales growth that positively influenced its revenue income and local market penetration. Licensing agreements, college, high school, and professional athletes’ sponsorship and endorsements proved to accelerate market penetration and the company’s growth rate improving the sales revenues every year. The company aims to provide highly designed quality performance apparel, footwear, and accessories that provided a competitive advantage over rival and substitute products. Under Armour established its competitive edge by expanding its selling units to retail customers, online markets, the opening of factory outlets, and specialty stores. The expansion provided promotional marketing and customer service touch that improved brand recognition and customer satisfaction.

Under Armour realized the highest increase in percentage growth of net sales in the year 2011 with a characteristic fall in sales growth rate in 2012(Table1). Nike enjoyed total sales of $20.9 billion in fiscal 2011, with a huge sales increase of $3.2 billion to hit a total of $24.1 billion in 2012. The great margin of total sales between the two competing companies informs that there is a great space for growth and expansion of the industry. Nike’s huge sales growth of $3.2 billion in 2012 provides a clear indication that much of the industry’s market is untapped and needs exploitation as the sports and recreational industry is still in the growth phase of its life cycle.

Financial Analysis

The analysis of the financial data indicates that Under Armour has had a good financial position with an ability to meet its liability obligations that had continually grown each year. As shown in Table 1 (Appendix), the profitability ratio of gross profit margin stagnated at about 48%, which means that there was no significant growth in revenues. However, profitability ratios indicate that the benefits have increased from 2008 through 2012. Specifically, profit margin, return on assets, and return on equity have increased from 5.27% to 7.02%, 7.84% to 11.13%, and 11.55% to 15.76%. Liquidity ratios indicate that the liquidity of Under Armour fluctuated across the five-year duration (Table 2).

In 2008 through 2012, the quick acid ratios were 2.24, 9.26, 12.79, 2.26, and 5.52 respectively. Working capital ratios for 2008 through 2012 were 10.69, 26.98, 42.36, 11.83, and 18.70 correspondingly. Leverage ratios of Under Armour are less than one. Evidently, debt ratios of Under Armour are 0.094, 0.037, 0.024, 0.085, and 0.053 for 2008 through to 2012. Debt to equity ratios of the same period are 0.14, 0.005, 0.03, 0.12, and 0.08 while equity ratios are 0.68, 0.73, 0.74, 0.69, and 0.71 (Table 3). In the aspect of activity ratios, inventory turnover has 2.04, 3.01, 2.48, 2.34, and 2.99 for 2008 through 2012 respectively.

The financial analysis indicates that Under Armour has robust financial status, which would enable it to grow and develop in competitive markets. Under Armour has a profit margin of about 6%, Nike has about 24%, and Adidas has about 4.8%. Profit margin shows that Under Armour ranks second in profitability performance. Liquidity ratios such as quick ratio and working capital ratio reveal that Under Armour can pay its liabilities at any instance. Under Armour has leverage ratios of less than one, it shows that its debts are significantly low and within acceptable financial levels. The activity ratio of inventory turnover shows that Under Armour is active for its inventory has a turnover of two or three times. Therefore, the overall financial status of Under Armour indicates that it can grow its sales and augment profits.

SWOT Analysis

Under Armour’s objective and passion for the production of highly designed performance attire despite high cost incurred promotes brand name and customer loyalty over competitor products. The company’s expansion of selling units to retail customers, online, and websites supported by the technological shift by consumers provides a great means for product promotion and marketing to lead to profitability, as seen in the current financial position of the company. The growing diversified consumers’ need in the global market is a good opportunity for investment to drive the company objectives to venture into the foreign market. Contractual agreements with manufacturing firms’ pull together the companies’ interest and provide a combined strength to absorb the shocks of rivalry and competition from local and global established firms providing substitute products. The financial strength together with the opportunities promotes profitability, growth, and expansion of the company in the industry

Despite the prospective growth potential of the company, great challenges limit its expansion. Lack of long-term contractual agreements with the manufacturing firms having no obligation to make and use the company’s products leads to reduced market penetration and expansion due to poor brand recognition and customer loyalty. Under Armour, diverse products directed to meet various customer needs faces several setbacks due to the impact of external forces. Petroleum-based products that largely rely on the cost of oil prices, which undergo frequent fluctuation together with charged-cotton products relying on the cotton harvest, have led to unstable product prices and product availability due to the cost of production subsequently damaging the customer trust on the company and brand loyalty. Rival companies and competing substitute products take advantage of these production challenges to gain an extended market segment and threaten the company’s market share while risking market fall-out as a result of poor returns on investment.


To achieve its objectives of increased sales, market penetration, and expansion, Under Armour, must take several tactical steps directed towards reduced production cost, market penetration, stable product price, adequate production of diverse products, and long-term contractual agreements. These steps will provide a robust operation platform for the company to compete in the local and global markets by adequately meeting different customer needs while reducing operational costs and improving product quality and availability to boost net revenue returns.

Strategic Recommendations

Contractual agreements with manufacturing firms provide a great step for market penetration and global expansion. Under Armour Company should take a bold step to make long-term contractual agreements with other firms in foreign markets to boost production and use of its products. In addition, the company should establish constant cotton supply in different cotton production countries for Charged-cotton products that high rely on cotton harvest leading to the shortage in the market. The production of these seasonal cotton products should be bulk during the cotton harvest season and stocked to avoid shortage in the market.

Moreover, the company should target to promote more sponsorship programs in colleges and professional sports organizations in the foreign market as the chief marketing and brand promotion tool. Expansion of selling units with product diversification to meet the increasing number of customers with diverse needs is another strategic marketing tool that is still underutilized. In this view, Under Armour should strive to open and maintain extra stocked selling units in foreign markets while keeping local stores fully facilitated to limit the chances of product shortage or unavailability in the market.

Sales from the foreign market should continually be monitored every quarter, and adjustments made to meet the needs of the diverse customers and competition of the global companies. The company’s profit target should be set and revised for both local and foreign markets every quarter for the whole year. Analyze sponsorship agreements to check the extent of coverage, cost, and effect of individual agreements on the market within a given location—controlled production cost to control the pricing of all company’s products, including Charged-cotton products to build customer loyalty.

Strategic Justification

Production of Charged-cotton products in bulk during the cotton harvest season will help the company meet customer demand of these products throughout the seasons. The production move will help control and stabilize market prices for these cotton products. Establishing additional selling units such as factory outlets, online websites, and retail customers to cut across local and foreign markets will provide customers with easy placement of orders and faster delivery of goods and build customer loyalty while at the same time acting as the marketing and promotional sites. The technology incorporation and additional outlets will provide an additional point of research to understanding customer needs that will promote the company’s objective of meeting the ever-changing diverse customer needs. Additionally, sponsorship programs will provide on-field authenticity of the company’s products to the audience while building a brand relationship with the sports organizations and professional athletes that helps boost trust from other consumers with active lifestyles in the global market. These steps promote market penetration, growth, and expansion of Under Armour in the sports industry across both local.

Appendix: Financial Ratios

Table 1: Profitability Ratios.

Table 2: Liquidity Ratios.

Table 3: Leverages Ratios.

Table 4: Activity Ratios.

  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2020, November 3). Under Armour Company's Strategic Challenges.

"Under Armour Company's Strategic Challenges." IvyPanda , 3 Nov. 2020,

IvyPanda . (2020) 'Under Armour Company's Strategic Challenges'. 3 November.

IvyPanda . 2020. "Under Armour Company's Strategic Challenges." November 3, 2020.

1. IvyPanda . "Under Armour Company's Strategic Challenges." November 3, 2020.


IvyPanda . "Under Armour Company's Strategic Challenges." November 3, 2020.

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How Under Armour Uses Data Insights to Drive Innovation

Data insights, one click away, refocused priorities, data-driven storytelling.

With more than 200 million registered users around the world, Under Armour Connected Fitness provides technology to help athletes train, perform, and improve. The business unit includes MapMyFitness, Endomondo and MyFitnessPal.

Increase in day-7 retention

Increase in engagement, increase in time spent on app.

After acquiring popular apps like MapMyRun and MyFitnessPal in 2015, Under Armour Connected Fitness became the leading digital fitness company, with a digital product suite designed for the everyday athlete.

Eager to see how these new mobile offerings were helping users meet their fitness goals, Under Armour turned to Amplitude’s self service product intelligence platform. The results: lifts in retention, boosts to the bottom line and refocused priorities.

Amplitude has given us the tools to make the right decisions and make them quickly with confidence—and that saves us time, saves us money and makes us money. Amplitude gives us the chance to swing for the fences.

author photo

Before implementing Amplitude, Under Armour relied on its team of product analysts to build their own SQL queries in third party business intelligence platforms. The process was time-consuming and often required multiple iterations.

With Amplitude’s Product Intelligence platform, suddenly Under Armour had “analysis at our fingertips,” Carpenter said. “We were able to validate our assumptions and we could easily access the data to make quick analysis and react to the results.”

Stuart Kim-Brown, director of Product Analytics, agreed, observing that Amplitude’s easy to use interface, and out of the box product and growth analyses “empowered our product managers to be self-sufficient, to get at the answers they needed without having to wait for help from my team.”

In turn, Kim-Brown said, his team was freed to focus on more sophisticated models.

Greater access to data insights has made it easier and faster for Under Armour to experiment with new features and products. Leveraging Amplitude’s  Segmentation ,  Funnels , and  AB Test View  they  cut the experiment time from three months to one .

Hoping to further its goal of making athletes better, Under Armour decided to test out a big product bet designed to inspire its MapMyRun users to log more runs each week: Form Coaching Tips. A connected software product, Form Coaching Tips takes aim at poor form, which can cause injury and pain, keeping runners off the road. Using Amplitude’s Cohort,  Segmentation , and  Retention  analyses, Under Armour saw the feature was a success,  boosting day seven retention by 30% .

“This was something that really lifted retention for us and that equates to dollars for us because the more users we have using our app, the more money we’re making,” Carpenter said.

Building on the success of its Form Coaching Tips, which runners use post-workout, Under Armour decided to test a feature that would help users perfect their form before they lace up. The KPI: how much time users spent on the app with the addition of the new Target Zone Calculator, which estimates the best cadence or stride length zone for a user’s desired pace. Using Amplitude’s  Funnels , they saw a  gain of 10 seconds .

Amplitude has also helped Under Armour focus on its priorities by revealing important insights into its users. Using Amplitude’s  Segmentation  chart, Under Armour discovered that its race training plans had low user-engagement. Operating on the theory that the plans weren’t clicking with most of its users, Under Armour redesigned the plans to address a greater variety of goals, whether it was learning running basics or improving cardiovascular health. With Amplitude  Cohorts , Under Armour saw a big payback:  a 3x increase in its MVP (paying) users who leverage the plans  and an increase in their free users tapping on the plan.

Amplitude does a really good job of highlighting what your data’s insights are. You can run all the charts you want but knowing what’s valuable is really the hard part. Amplitude is the best tool for that.

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under armour case study

Digital asset management with game.

How Under Armour centralized their content with Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe Experience Manager.

Under Armour


Baltimore, Maryland

Saved per user through easier license management covering more than 1,000 users

Adobe Creative Cloud for enterprise ›

Adobe Customer Solutions ›

Adobe Experience Cloud ›

Adobe Experience Manager ›

Adobe Sensei ›

Adobe Workfront ›

Customer Experience (CX) Strategy Services ›

under armour case study

Share assets more effectively across the organization and with partners.

Consolidate multiple tools into a central repository within the security framework.

Gain visibility into how assets are being used with central logging.

Dial in asset management and communication using reusable development processes.

under armour case study

Makes creative assets easier for internal users and wholesale partners to find.

Reduces cumbersome manual processes with automated asset tagging.

4 hours saved per user through easier license management covering more than 1,000 users.

Lowers storage costs by reducing duplication of files, workflows, and tools.

Increases daily active users and monthly asset downloads from Asset Sharing Portal by over 2x .

under armour case study

Changing the game

For a high-performance sportswear company, image is important. From shoes to T-shirts, sales are driven not only by how well they perform, but how good the products look, and who wears them. Under Armour understands this principle well. Located in Baltimore, Maryland, the brand pioneered the original performance T-shirt, designed to wick sweat and dry quickly to make athletes look and feel cool. To promote their products, Under Armour produces hundreds of thousands of creative assets, including product shots, marketing copy, store displays, videos, and images of the gear in action, worn by the stars of baseball, basketball, and golf.

These assets are used in a variety of sales and marketing promotions—both internally and by partners who sell Under Armour products. But accessing the files hasn’t always been easy. Creative and marketing teams stored content in a number of repositories, including SharePoint, Dropbox, file servers, and even USB drives, creating duplication of content and inefficient use of resources and workflows.

Ben Snyder, IT Product Owner at Under Armour, says they needed a serious solution. “With creative assets stored across multiple tools and departments, it could take hours or even days to gather the content required for a campaign or event. We needed a central repository to make it easy to use our creative assets.”

It all started with a pressing requirement to share content more effectively with wholesale partners, who need to be able to download product photos for use in catalogs, websites, and in-store materials. But Snyder soon realized that a central repository would simplify work for a lot of people internally as well, from creative and marketing to customer service and retail.

“We wanted to create a single source of truth. Our goal was to create a one-stop shop where you can find any asset you need,” says Snyder. “ Adobe Experience Manager Assets offered a great enterprise option to make a wide variety of assets available both internally and externally.”

With Adobe Experience Manager Assets, part of Adobe Marketing Cloud , Under Armour is dramatically reshaping the way it manages creative content. To increase efficiency, save time, and maximize use of their assets, they needed to ensure uploads wouldn’t slow them down. Under Armour worked with Adobe Customer Solutions to pick the right solution and cut upload times in half. The company began by moving 5TB of data into the digital asset management (DAM) system. From there, Under Armour has seen exponential growth as marketing photography, video, copy, development files, and Adobe Illustrator and InDesign files are posted. This includes cleaner video versions that make it easier to do translations or optimize for mobile versus desktop.

“We’re trying to work in an agile methodology, where we were able to break up requirements into items to deliver on a regular basis. We worked with Adobe Customer Solutions to dial in our process and communication updates, and do any training that was necessary."

IT Product Owner, Under Armour

Tools for better teamwork

Under Armour uses Adobe Creative Cloud for enterprise to produce most of its creative assets. More than 600 people in product development and marketing have access to Adobe Photoshop , Illustrator , and InDesign . Meanwhile, video editors rely on Adobe Premiere Pro to produce video assets, using the workflow in Team Projects to support collaboration between teams in Maryland and New York.

Using Adobe Creative Cloud Libraries, teams can share design elements such as icons, color swatches, and fonts—avoiding duplicating their efforts and working faster. With the deployment of Adobe Experience Manager Assets, the company expects Adobe Creative Cloud Libraries to play an increasingly important role in asset development and sharing.

Aside from Adobe Creative Cloud users, as many as 500 Under Armour people use Adobe Acrobat DC for administrative purposes. With so many licenses across the suite of Adobe products, Under Armour opted for a Named User Licensing solution, which gives the company more flexibility to package and distribute software based on its users’ needs. Users have federated IDs linked to Active Directory groups, enabling single sign-on and making it easy to add, renew, and remove licenses. This approach saves the company up to four hours per user.

Creative teams get the assist with automated metadata tagging

To make assets easier to find, Under Armour decided to do more than just consolidate repositories into a DAM. The team reimagined the governance of its digital assets, creating a consistent approach to tagging and workflows, one that would improve access and management of all assets and improve the workflow for creative teams.

“Tagging is important but can be a complex and manual time-consuming process,” explains Snyder. “Some tags could be applied in bulk uploads, but most tags had to be added manually. Because this step was often neglected, files would practically disappear.”

Using Adobe Experience Manager Assets, Snyder and his team devised a sophisticated workflow that automatically adds relevant tags to each file. They do this by integrating product lifecycle information via an API connection to their master data management (MDM) solution. The asset owner, usually a creative team member, simply tags the material code into the XMP metadata. A workflow then runs to associate 20 attributes based on the data pulled from the MDM platform—details such as product name, style number, colorway, target audience gender, sport category, and market region.

under armour case study

Under Armour has integrated its Workfront project management system in a similar way, tagging assets automatically as they are added to projects in the DAM with information from creative briefs, such as campaign names and brand channels.

“Automatic tagging through Adobe Experience Manager Assets saves a lot of time for creative teams as they upload files,” Snyder says. “And it surfaces many assets that might have gotten lost previously.”

As Under Armour absorbs content into the DAM, there is a growing case for also using Smart Tags and Smart Crop, powered by Adobe Sensei , the artificial intelligence and machine learning technology. Smart Tags can help identify relevant metadata that goes beyond product attributes, such as big-name athlete sponsorships, while Smart Cropping can deliver social assets to the platform more efficiently.

Meanwhile, Under Armour’s transition to AEM as a Cloud Service creates even more opportunities for feature updates and dynamic media opportunities.

“Because we no longer have to worry about updating AEM,” explains Snyder, “we can start looking at how we can get features to let our asset share platform continue to expand its usage by integrating with some of these newer services.”

A one-stop shop for assets

When it comes to accessing Under Armour’s creative assets, most users enter the company’s secure portal, built using Asset Share Commons, for marketing teams, customer service representatives, retail stores, and wholesale partners. Providing a simple interface with a search box and filters, the portal dramatically changes the way people look for product photos and other content.

“In the past, it could take a week for marketing to gather all the imagery needed for a particular event, such as a pop-up store with a featured athlete,” explains Snyder. “Now, with Adobe Experience Manager Assets, they can find all the latest materials in a matter of minutes with a quick search in one spot.”

The solution is great for wholesale partners, who typically want to download large batches of product images. Instead of searching for each photo individually, these partners can perform a bulk search using material codes and download hundreds of photos at once. They can even adjust the image resolution and change the file type on the fly.

“By accessing Adobe Experience Manager Assets through the portal, our wholesale partners can find assets themselves—without having to ask an Under Armour employee to gather the files and deliver them through Dropbox,” says Snyder.

The future is Adobe Asset Link

As a user of Adobe Creative Cloud for enterprise , Under Armour has partnered with Adobe to help build the next-generation workflow across creative and marketing processes. Adobe Asset Link allows creative and marketing teams to share files and manage the full asset lifecycle without leaving the tools they use every day. For Under Armour’s photography teams, that means being able to upload and retouch images in Photoshop , while users on other teams can potentially start to tap into them from InDesign and Illustrator .

“Adobe Asset Link can help us manage images while they are still a work in progress, from uploading to reviewing and retouching,” Snyder says. “Our experience with the tool has been very good, and we look forward to exploring new use cases as we go along.”

He adds, “The checkout feature within Adobe Asset Link is a new concept for our design teams, and it could help us manage the whole lifecycle of an asset within the DAM. It will likely become a crucial capability as we continue our digital transformation in marketing.”

Conditioning a culture of collaboration

To make the most of their asset management, Under Armour needed to organize a winning strategy and synergized team. They looked to Adobe to provide insight and guidance through CX Organizational Growth.

“We’re trying to work in an agile methodology, where we were able to break up requirements into items to deliver on a regular basis,” says Snyder, “We worked with Adobe Customer Solutions to dial in our process and communication updates, and do any training that was necessary.”

Adobe insight on how to automate workflows ensure future implementations happen with less effort. It also means Under Armour avoids unnecessary customizations. Now they can reuse their development efforts from the last project to develop new assets and groups in the platform. What used to take Under Armour months to develop now gets done in just three weeks.

“We're introducing virtual development assets into the DAM and reusing a lot of the work that we had done last year in launching photography,” says Snyder, “Thinking about platform development in that way has been a huge benefit to us.”

Adobe expertise applies to more than just optimizing platform development. Adobe also helps Under Armour rethink the way the organization communicates. Previously siloed teams can now connect over multiple touchpoints through one centralized platform. A monthly call with regional partners keeps everyone informed on new enhancements coming to the DAM. This means mapping Workfront and creative metadata to assets so that the team can easily share using URLs. From there, personalizing asset search display makes finding and downloading assets even faster.

“It's been amazing to see the amount of work and reaching out that the regional team had to do before we implemented all this,” Snyder says, “Now it's a singular kind of discussion where we can point everybody to one solution, drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to search for an asset, and get it downloaded.”

A culture of collaboration keeps Under Armour growing. Active users now manage and download assets on every continent except Antarctica. Since centralizing their communication, Under Armour has seen monthly asset downloads from their Asset Sharing Portal more than double. The same is true for the number of daily active users.

“Because we're working with a consultant team inside of Adobe, they have access to the internal resources that no one else would really have access,” Snyder says, “So we've been able to move faster and dive into feature requests quickly because of that.”

Technology innovation for the win

Consolidating multiple repositories onto Adobe Experience Manager Assets has opened new possibilities for asset sharing at Under Armour. For one thing, creative assets now sit safely within the corporate security framework, integrated with the single sign-on and two-factor authentication systems. This allows for better control over valuable, copyrighted materials.

The consolidation also allows for greater visibility into usage activity. Instead of merely tracking the number of downloads per user, the IT team aims to see which departments are using the tool, which assets are downloaded most frequently, and how each asset is used.

“We’d like deeper insights into usage on the secure portal built with Asset Share Commons, so we can encourage adoption across the organization,” explains Snyder. “The insights would also give our photography teams much-needed feedback on their photo shoots. If they can see that certain types of assets aren’t being used, they can focus elsewhere and save some time and money.”

The IT team also aims to simplify folder hierarchies within the DAM, making it quicker for creatives to organize files and easier for users to find what they need. When creative teams upload new assets, they can apply a predefined folder structure that automatically imparts certain metadata to each file, such as its intended use.

“Adobe Experience Manager Assets gives us a great launching point for innovation as we improve the way we manage some of our most valuable resources,” says Snyder. “We’re already saving time and money by making our creative assets more accessible, and we’re eager to keep exploring the benefits.”

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Under Armour Case Study


About Under Armour

Under Armour produces performance footwear, apparel, and equipment. With a mission to make all athletes better through passion, design, and the relentless pursuit of innovation, Under Armour products are sold worldwide to athletes at all levels. The company’s Connected Fitness platform powers the world’s largest digital health and fitness community—more than 180 million users—through a suite of applications: UA Record, MapMyFitness, Endomondo, and MyFitnessPal.

The Challenge

The Under Armour Connected Fitness platform is in high-growth mode, with more people using its suite of fitness apps every day. However, the company struggled to manage that growth while relying on an IT hosting provider. “We wanted to be more dynamic and focus more on our growth instead of optimizing our data center footprint,” says Jesse Demmel, vice president of platform engineering for Under Armour Connected Fitness.

Under Armour also sought the elasticity to support cyclical app usage. For example, the MyFitnessPal nutrition tracking app sees a spike in new users on New Year’s Day. Some of the company’s other apps experience usage spikes in the summer season. And all the apps see more traffic on weekends. “We see at least twice as much app traffic on weekends and early in the work week,” says Demmel. “Managing and optimizing that cyclical traffic in a data center was challenging in terms of spinning up compute resources quickly.”

The organization also sought more reliability and high availability for the Connected Fitness platform. “We had two data centers, and if there were any problems in our primary data center, we had outages,” says Demmel. “Given the size of our user base, that was not good for our brand. If systems are down, that impacts people who are trying to improve their health and fitness worldwide."

Why Amazon Web Services

After deciding that a cloud solution would be the best fit for its elasticity and reliability requirements, Under Armour chose to move its MapMyFitness and UA Record apps to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud. “MyFitnessPal and Endomondo were already running on AWS, and we wanted to have the entire Connected Fitness platform on AWS,” says Demmel. “AWS is the biggest player in the market and more experienced than anyone else. It’s also continuously creating new services, and that’s important for us because we are an innovation company.”

The Connected Fitness platform now runs on nearly two thousand Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances. The company also uses Auto Scaling to automatically scale up its Amazon EC2 capacity to maintain performance during spikes in app use and decrease capacity during lower usage periods. More than 180 million global Connected Fitness users authenticate using a cross-region architecture built using Amazon DynamoDB . Additionally, the organization is using Amazon Redshif t as a data warehouse for Connected Fitness user data in combination with other partners. Together, the Connected Fitness apps emit millions of event messages per hour via the Apache Kafka distributed message system and persist hundreds of terabytes of data into Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). From there, some of the data is transformed, aggregated, and made available via Amazon Redshift, where Under Armour employees can analyze the data and use that analysis to drive business decisions. 

The Benefits

Under Armour is now able to elastically scale its Connected Fitness apps up or down based on user demand. “Moving to the AWS Cloud has enabled us to optimize all our apps for our global user base,” says Demmel. “We can scale dynamically and automatically provision new instances to support traffic spikes on weekends for some apps and early in the work week for others. We weren’t able to do that previously.”

The company’s platform also has more reliability and high availability now. “Using AWS we have access to multiple Regions and Availability Zones, which ensures high availability for our millions of global users,” Demmel says. “That means we can enhance our brand by giving our digital community a fantastic experience.”

As a result of using AWS, Under Armour can quickly build out new product offerings. “The sports apparel and connected fitness industries are very competitive, and we need to innovate to stay ahead,” says Demmel. “By relying on AWS, we can innovate faster and deliver the features our users are asking for.” As an example, Under Armour can support its continuous-delivery model of software deployment. “We deploy new code to production multiple times a day, and the AWS Cloud helps us do that more easily,” Demmel says.

In addition, Under Armour is better prepared to expand the Connected Fitness platform. “We now have the ability to spread all across the globe on the back of the AWS Cloud,” says Demmel. “That’s a phenomenal asset for us as we start looking more seriously at international growth strategies. As we grow our Connected Fitness platform running on AWS, we will be able to do it in a way that improves the user experience and provides lower latency for our users in new regions.”

During this expansion, the company also expects to lean more on AWS Enterprise Support. “We weren’t expecting AWS to be so good at enterprise-level account management,” says Demmel. “That will really benefit us in the long term as we continue to ramp up our use of AWS.”

Learn how Under Armour implemented cross-region replication to enable single sign-on for its Connected Fitness platform using Amazon DynamoDB.

Learn more about how AWS can help you manage your website .

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Case Study 2, Under Armour's Strategy

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Please note you do not have access to teaching notes, under armour: creating and growing a new consumer brand.

Publication date: 28 March 2018

Teaching notes

The case traces the development of the Under Armour (UA) brand, product, and market growth under CEO and founder Kevin Plank from its inception in 1996 through 2016. UA provides a cohesive case study of how to launch and sustain a consumer brand even in the face of its third-party manufacturing approach, which gives its apparel no patentable design or fabric technologies. The case uses UA's brand and advertising development as a backdrop for the current pivotal issue of how to target women to sustain growth. UA's stated goal is to build a $1.9 billion women's business by 2019.

In laying out UA's growth and competitive moves, the case lets students analyze broadcast, social media, and other digital advertising campaigns in view of the company's brand development and strategic targeting. The case also highlights the importance of leveraging brand heritage and historical differentiation while respecting key nuances when extending into new markets (i.e., moving from a predominantly male-driven audience to female). It also allows an exploration of how to use consumer insight and broader cultural attitudes and trends to support extending a position into new markets.

  • Advertising
  • Campaign Analysis
  • Consumer Marketing
  • Growth Strategy
  • Marketing Communications
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Positioning
  • Product Development
  • Product Management
  • Social Media

Sternthal, B. and Malaviya, P. (2018), "Under Armour: Creating and Growing a New Consumer Brand", .

Kellogg School of Management

Copyright © 2018, The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University

You do not currently have access to these teaching notes. Teaching notes are available for teaching faculty at subscribing institutions. Teaching notes accompany case studies with suggested learning objectives, classroom methods and potential assignment questions. They support dynamic classroom discussion to help develop student's analytical skills.

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