In 1996, Kevin Plank, a 23-year-old former University of Maryland special teams captain, turned an idea born on the football field into a new industry that changed the way athletes dress forever. Back in his playing days, Plank hated having to change his sweat-soaked cotton T-shirts over and over again during two-a-days. Knowing that there simply had to be something better, he set out to create a solution.
Plank named his new company Under Armour, and after extensive research on the athletic benefits of synthetic fabrics, he designed the first Under Armour HeatGear® T-shirt, which he named the #0037. Engineered with moisture-wicking performance fibers, the shirt helps keep athletes cool, dry, and light in the most brutally hot conditions.
Working from his grandmother's basement in Washington DC's Georgetown neighborhood, he traveled up and down the East Coast selling his revolutionary new product out of the trunk of his car. By the end of 1996, Plank made his first team sale, and Under Armour generated $17,000 in sales.
In 1997, Under Armour introduced the now-famous ColdGear® fabric, which keeps athletes warm, dry, and light in cold conditions, and then the AllSeasonGear® line, which keeps athletes comfortable between the extremes.
By the end of 1998, Under Armour outgrew grandma's basement and moved to an all-new headquarters and warehouse in Baltimore.
In 1999, Under Armour played a supporting role in one of the year's most-talked about movies. Plank and his team signed on to supply product for the Oliver Stone film Any Given Sunday starring Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx. In the film, the football team wears Under Armour apparel and accessories in key scenes.
Realizing the incredible opportunity to leverage the exposure from Any Given Sunday, Plank bet big and bought his first print ad in ESPN the Magazine. A risk at the time, the move paid off, generating awareness and a $750,000 increase in sales. For the first time since starting Under Armour, Plank officially put himself on the payroll.
Over the next two years, the Brand formed relationships with key retail partners and professional sports leagues [including Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and the Baltimore Marathon].
In 2002, to support its continued growth, the Brand moved its global headquarters to an old soap factory in the Tide Point section of south Baltimore located on the historic Inner Harbor.
With word of mouth growing every day, the Brand bet big again and launched its first-ever TV campaign. In 2003, the legendary Protect this House® TV commercial featured former University of Maryland football standout Eric "Big E" Ogbogu and a group of young athletes bringing the Brand's voice and overwhelming passion to life in a way no one had ever seen before. Protect This House became a rallying cry for athletes everywhere, it established the Brand as the authentic voice for the next generation, and it officially made Under Armour a household name.
Under Armour officially launched its women's line, UA Women, in 2003. In 2004, the brand introduced lines specifically for boys' and girls' and Outdoor athletes. Under Armour Golf was introduced in 2005, and, in the same year, Under Armour signed its first all-school deal with Plank's alma mater, the University of Maryland.
On November 18, 2005 Under Armour went public and became the first U.S.-based initial public offering in five years to double on its first day of trading.
Less than 10 years after its launch, Under Armour ended the year with $281 million in revenue.
In 2006, Under Armour set its sights on dressing the athlete from head to toe.
A new campaign, Click-Clack® launched the brand into the footwear business through the introduction of its first line of football cleats and the Brand captured a 23% share of the market in just the first year. On the heels of this enormous success, the Brand expanded its cleat business to include baseball, softball and lacrosse cleats.
In 2008, after nearly 12 years of providing technically advanced performance accessories and apparel, and less than two years removed from its foray into cleated footwear, Under Armour revealed its highly anticipated line of performance trainers marking its official entry into the athletic footwear market.
This period also marks the beginning of key additions to Under Armour's elite roster of world-class athletes, including future NFL Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis, gold medal skier Lindsey Vonn, MMA World Champion Georges St-Pierre, and Brandon Jennings, the first US basketball player to go straight from high school to a European professional league. But that was just the beginning. By the end of 2010, the Brand added the most accomplished Olympian of all-time and Baltimore native Michael Phelps, two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, and a young tennis phenom named Sloane Stephens.
In the midst of launching new product lines and new athlete partnerships, Under Armour also opened its new European headquarters in the old Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam and built its first branded-retail store in Annapolis, MD.
In 2010, on the biggest stage in college football field, the Under Armour sponsored Auburn Tigers won the 2010 BCS Championship game, led by future Under Armour athlete and NFL Rookie of the year Cam Newton.
2010 ended with a truly incredible financial milestone as Under Armour surpassed $1 billion in annual revenue almost quadrupling revenues in a five-year period.
Over the years, Under Armour has made significant strides in establishing a strong presence outside of the US. Through on-field partnerships with elite professional teams and players, the Brand gained enormous traction with athletes in Japan, Europe, Canada, and Latin America. The international footprint skyrocketed in 2011 when Under Armour opened its first-ever brand store in China and became the official technical partner to Tottenham Hotspur of the Barclays Premier League. The Tottenham Hotspur partnership is Under Armour's largest individual team deal to date.
2011 is the same year the Brand ended a long-running feud with one of its biggest enemies: cotton. After years of declaring, "Cotton is the Enemy," Under Armour further cemented its reputation for relentless innovation by developing Charged Cotton®, a line of cotton apparel that dries fast and performs. From Charged Cotton came Charged Cotton Storm, which gives athletes the same quick-drying cotton with revolutionary water-resistant technology.
In 2012 and 2013 two key Under Armour athletes celebrated monumental accomplishments. In the summer of 2012, on sports biggest international stage, Michael Phelps cemented his legacy as the most decorated Olympian off all time by winning seven medals and increasing his medal total to 22 including 18 gold medal performances. In January of 2013, Ray Lewis capped off his career as one of the game's best ever-defensive players by bringing home the second Super Bowl ring for the Baltimore Ravens.
17 years after that first moisture-wicking T-shirt, Under Armour innovation took center stage once again with the launch of all-new Armour39™, the first-ever performance monitoring system that measures what matters most to an athlete: your WILLpower™.
The Brand's mission is to make you better. Its commitment to that mission has led to countless game-changing products that give athletes an advantage.
In college, Kevin Plank had an idea to help football players get better. Today, with revenue approaching $2 Billion, the Brand is widely recognized as a global leader in performance footwear, apparel, and accessories, and its commitment to making all athletes better drives its never-ending dedication to building tomorrow's next great innovation.
The Year of the Women was 2014, and UA’s most expansive global women’s campaign in company history took the country by storm. Featuring acclaimed ballerina Misty Copeland and supermodel Gisele Bundchen, “I Will What I Want” was a celebration of the strong, unstoppable women who defied expectations to achieve their dreams. This marked a crucial turning point for UA, as powerful female athletes felt more connected to the Brand than ever before.
This was also the year that UA inked a $90 million deal with the Notre Dame fighting Irish, one of the nation’s most popular college football programs. The deal made headlines as the most valuable shoe and apparel contract in college sports history, and Kevin Plank referred to it as a “pinch-me moment” for the Brand.
By the end of 2014, Under Armour was the second-largest sportswear brand in the U.S. But UA was determined to be more than just a global powerhouse—we wanted to give back. As part of the “Power in Pink Campaign,” UA pledged $10 million to the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital to create the Under Armour LiveWell Center, a state-of-the-art, breast-health clinic.
The Brand started strong in 2015 with the purchase of fitness app companies Endomondo and MyFitnessPal. With the technology in place, Under Armour launched UA Record, the world’s largest fitness platform and an online social hub for the everyday athlete. Today, with MyFitnessPal boasting over 200 million users, UA has been established as a company that doesn’t just change how athletes dress—we change how they live.
UA’s roster of elite athletes also saw unprecedented victory in 2015. Golfer Jordan Speith made history as the U.S. Open Champion and was named PGA’s Player of the Year. Misty Copeland became the first African-American ballerina to be promoted to Principal Dancer at the American Ballet Theater. All-Star Steph Curry took home the Most Valuable Player Award and the NBA Championship title. To celebrate UA’s family of triumphant underdogs, UA launched ‘Rule Yourself,’ a star-studded advertising campaign that immediately went viral.
UA celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2016 by pushing tech innovation more than ever before. The Brand released its first smart shoe, the Speedform Gemini 2 Record Equipped. This wearable tech has transformed the way athletes exercise, and UA added three more shoes to the lineup before the year was out: Velociti, Gemini 3, and Europa. The Brand also upgraded UA Record with the launch of UA Health Box, a trio of products that work together to measure, monitor, and manage the factors that determine how you feel.
Michael Phelps ended his record-breaking career at the Winter Games in Rio with five more gold medals and one silver. Phelps served as the centerpiece of Under Armour’s ‘Rule Yourself 2.0’ campaign, which earned national praise as Ad Week’s ‘Ad of the Year.’
The Brand’s 20th year concluded with one final triumph: a 10-year uniform deal with Major League Baseball. By 2020, the stars of America’s favorite pastime will be decked out in Under Armour from head-to-toe.
Perhaps most importantly, 2016 also marked the announcement of the expansion of Under Armour’s Global Headquarters in Baltimore City. This new, performance-driven campus aims to give UA the space it needs for relentless growth and innovation, while also transforming south Baltimore’s beautiful Port Covington’s shoreline and giving Baltimoreans a place to gather and connect. The development will not only create thousands of jobs, but also make good on the Brand’s promise to bring production closer to home. In addition, UA Lighthouse, the Brand’s new manufacturing and design innovation center in Port Covington, had its grand opening in June.