Under Armour’s ambitious efforts in providing meaningful data-backed health and fitness tracking insights has the Baltimore-bred company on the cusp of reaching Fortune 500 glory.


Their cosmic expansion within key connected fitness sectors in the last three years, further evidenced by big bets on acquiring fitness tracking technology companies like MapMyFitness, Endomondo and MyFitnessPal for a total of $715 million, has them on the fast track to building the biggest connected fitness platform in the world.

In January, the sports apparel maker launched a suite of connected fitness products in the HealthBox Fitness Platform, a kit equipped with an activity-tracking wristband, a chest-based heart rate strap and a scale. Designed to “change the way athletes live,” all of the health data saves in the UA app.

CEO Kevin Plank, who previously has stated that “data is the new oil” and has plans of growing the company from roughly $4 billion today to $7 billion by 2018, made the clothes-to-technology philosophy change official in January with the launch of the connected fitness platform. It’s a far cry for the once-fledgling T-shirt startup, who’s now the second-largest sportswear brand only behind Nike.

How is Under Armour growing its connected fitness platform, which according to the company’s annual report in 2015 represented just 1.3 percent of its total revenue? Chris Glodé, vice president of Under Armour Digital, joined [a]listdaily to discuss how UA will be at the forefront of the data deluge.

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Chris Glodé, VP of Under Armour Digital

Why is the company structured to ambitiously pursue new verticals in data and fitness tracking? What is it designed to accomplish?

Under Armour has a unique opportunity to advance our mission of “Making All Athletes Better,” through Connected Fitness. Helping athletes of all levels, all around the world, measure, train and improve is a foundational component of not only our footwear and apparel businesses, but also guides our work in Connected Fitness. While the tools and gear might be a bit different between the core business and the digital business, the end goal is the same: to help people improve. The true opportunity for innovation at UA emerges when we collaborate closely between the various areas of our business. The Speedform Gemini II is a great example. We mined our database to understand runner habits all around the world and designed a shoe specifically around those consumer needs. The shoe offered the perfect platform for us to integrate sensor technology, and the resulting product is the world’s smartest running shoe that delivers both an amazing ride, plus all the data a runner needs to get better. Those are the kinds of projects that give a glimpse into the potential of UA Connected Fitness—but we’re just getting started.

What are you currently doing to move the digital strategy forward for better consumer engagement?

We are employing a number of strategies on this front: One is to reduce friction. We need to make it easier and more convenient to engage in our digital experience at every turn. This means everything from a world-class user experience design, to building rock-solid wearables and apps that can be relied on by athletes of all levels. The second is to provide guidance. The obligation is on us, as the stewards of highly valuable and personal health data from our consumers, to reciprocate that trust by providing insights, guidance and motivation that they simply cannot get anywhere else. This is a lofty ambition and we’re actively tapping both our stable of professional athletes and trainers to build this, as well as leading experts in fields like exercise physiology, behavioral science and sports medicine. The third is to inspire the athlete. Our aspiration is that when someone engages with UA via digital, the experience is beyond what the consumer could possibly have expected. It’s easy to overlook the idea that a user in our app is giving the same level of attention as a one-to-one conversation—we need to approach every interaction with the same level of attention and service as though they were an individual customer asking us a question in a UA store. We impart expertise and motivation—at scale, to an audience of over 175 million users.

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CEO Kevin Plank has hinted that the company can grow to $7 billion by 2018. How are you leveraging your suite of apps and products to attract investments from other brands to further create audience ownership in the space?

We have some of the most unique brand partnership strategies in the health and fitness category. Our fitness challenges are a great example. We partner with world-class brands to activate them on our platform—giving them the ability to reach consumers in the ‘moment of sweat’—when their endorphins are surging and they’re working hard to get better. These are truly win/win/win partnerships: our community wins because UA and partner brands provide motivation, prizes and competition to help them reach their goals. Our partner brands earn the opportunity to encourage and engage our loyal users. And UA wins by being able to play host to the contest and serve the needs of the athlete.

How does UA differentiate digitally from the likes of Nike, Reebok and Adidas and other competitors?

Under Armour is uniquely positioned to continue to lead in the Connected Fitness category for a few reasons. First, the scale of our global community is unparalleled and we continue to grow at over 100,000 new users per day—this is organic, word of mouth, happy customers. Next, Under Armour is first and foremost an innovation company. The coming quarters will show what happens when you combine world-class app developers, exercise scientists, materials specialists and the most innovative footwear and apparel designers. We often say at Under Armour ‘we have not yet built our defining product’ and increasingly, we think that product just might be combining the best of Under Armour footwear and apparel, and reimagining how it should work in a truly connected world.


What’s your primary takeaway from the integrated marketing campaign for the HealthBox Fitness Platform, which featured a film narrated by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson?

The Rock has unparalleled loyalty among his hard-won fan base. At the core of The Rock, you’ll find a lifetime of hard work—he knows of no shortcuts. This is similar to how Under Armour approaches training. UA Connected Fitness doesn’t promise any shortcuts, but we can help you train smarter and get the best results from your hard work. The Rock has a life-long track record of delivering amazing results from his hard work. We’re extraordinarily lucky to have him as a strategic partner.

How have consumers responded?

The response from The Rock’s 90-plus million followers on social media has been outstanding; we’ve been selling his branded lineup of gear which he personally helped design. He and his fans have provided amazing feedback on our Connected Fitness products that will help shape future generations of gear that we’re actively designing.

How is UA marketing its mobile platforms? Which ones are consumers responding to the most?

What we’ve learned more than anything is that building amazing products and offering outstanding customer experiences is the best form of marketing. We’ve spent very little on directly marketing our digital products; by far our best weapon is word-of-mouth, and to earn that, we have to deliver excellent products.


What does UA have to accomplish to be the unequivocal standard for health and fitness technology?

Our opportunity is to build on our core mission of making all athletes better through passion, design and relentless pursuit of innovation. If our products can make you better and healthier, physically, emotionally and mentally—we will have achieved our goal and we know that athletes will choose the Under Armour experience. This lofty ambition is what drives us day and night, and given our unique resources—brand, technology, expertise, championship athletes and global focus—we have a special obligation to bring this vision to life.

How do you see the future of connect technology developing?

At Under Armour, we’re always looking to reinvent ourselves, and our products, and help our athletes do the same. As an innovation company, we also realize that the best ideas won’t necessarily come from inside our walls. We have a long track record of finding great innovations and entrepreneurs, and using our brand and our ecosystem as a platform to deliver these innovations to the consumer. We’re working on a number of innovations, spanning new apparel technologies as well as digital tools to make tracking more effective and frictionless. We envision a world where data collection and the resulting insights and guidance are simply something athletes expect from any piece of connected Under Armour gear. It’s a bold vision, but we have the team to pull it off.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan