The other day I was pretty surprised to bump into a new brand of sports clothing in El Corte Ingles, Spain’s dominating chain of department stores. Next to Adidas and Nike was Under Armour, a brand I had barely heard about.
Who would have imagined that in an industry dominated by giants like Nike, Adidas-Reebok there would be room for another player… Well, the beautiful laws of branding make it possible for newcomers to keep appearing. Under Armour has become a big success story through a very simple idea: clothes that don’t get wet with sweat, also known as ‘performance apparel’.
The founder is an American Football player who got really tired to be all soaked when he exercised and found a special fabric made of lycra/polyester that didn’t get all wet. He started making underwear that didn’t get wet and well… the rest is history. In just 12 years they have sales of 725 million USD per year, and it looks like they are currently expanding internationally…
It’s amazing what a great, simple idea can do. With sharp focus one can build a brand that means something simple and and specific in people’s minds. We think ‘clothes that don’t get wet’ and immediately Under Armour should come to mind.
However, when success strikes that hard the temptation to expand into new territories is huge… and sometimes deadly. Under Armour has a very strong brand in the performance apparel category but in order to grow they now sell all kinds of stuff, even regular footwear. Has that been a good decision? Will that dilute the brand? Will that get the attention of the sleeping giants? Should they do like focused brands like Oakley, Salomon, Columbia, Quicksilver etc… and stick to what made them successful?
Let’s see if Under Armour is still at El Corte Ingles 10 years from now, apparently they are a pretty resilient and competitive company, lead by a real athlete. Let’s see if testosterone beats focus.