Global Marketing

Under Armour – East versus West


Under Armour (UA) has been facing several challenges over the past year in growth of their business in North American market. The main problem with the North American market is that the sporting good market is over saturated with multiple sport brands with better brand recognition. UA saw impressive gains over the past decade as a new and exciting brand that was cutting edge. However, after a decade of constant marketing and battling for market share, UA has lost some of it cutting edge appeal and has become hard to differentiate from the rest of the sports apparel market. UA move to acquire Stephen Curry as one of its star spokesmen has not delivered success that other basketball stars have done for its competitors. The launch of the Curry 4 hasn’t seen large success, and the branding of shoe has had limited impact on the market. Curry is arguable one of the best basketball players NBA, but his brand is friendly and soft spoken. The limited success of Curry in the North American market could be attributed to his limited appeal compared to other players that are more dominate or outspoken that you might associate with other big name sneaker stars such as Michael Jordan, Lebron James, or Kobe Bryant.


Differently, UA has been doing excellent in its new market, China. As one of the most important new markets, UA had increased it's annual revenue more than 100% almost every year after entering China in 2011. Except for benefits like gaining new market share, competing directly with major players like Adidas, Nike; UA successfully created its new brand position and image in China. UA’s development in China can be broadly summarized as three phases. The first phase, a new image of sports outfit. The word was used to describe UA’s workout clothing was  “Hormonal.” The material closely fit people's body curve, customers with a little bally can no longer cover their  “secret” by wearing a loose cotton shirt from Nike or Adidas. However, those who have built their good shape, have a better way to show-off their achievements. Chinese culture has long been marked as conservative and traditional. Surprisingly, more and more people started to accept UA’s westernized design, after seeing models  and public figures post their hot pictures with UA’s clothes on from social media.

Beyond that, for having the same outfit and admired by surrounding friends, people also start to go the gym and buying UA as their outfit and equipment. The second phase, a good brand representative. According to information from WSJ, UA has already opened more than 120 stores in China by the end of 2016. During the summer season, UA’s new brand Spokesman, NBA star, Steve Curry went to China and visited all cities that has UA’s flagship stores. As data shows, basketball shoes contributed 1/3 of UA’s revenue in China, and nearly 80% of shoes sold were Curry’s signature series. Comparing to other sports brands’ representatives, Steve Curry has a more approachable, team player image, which are personalities that admired by eastern culture. The third phase, more innovations for going further. As the biggest consuming market in the world, innovative products usually make their milestones with contribution from the Chinese market. UA spend 150 million acquired work out tracking app MapMyFitness, started its digitized workout era. After that, UA spend more than 500 million to purchase calorie calculating app MyFitnessPal and European fitness app Endomondo. These digital platform enabled UA to have the biggest fitness database. At the same time, China has the most mobile device users in the market. Will UA be able to transfer workout from offline to online, can really make differences on the brand’s development.