Under Armour’s Challenge: Reaching Women

By Jeff Barker
The Baltimore Sun

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Under Armour has long sought inroads in the women’s space. The company aired its first women’s commercial, featuring Heather Mitts of the U.S. national soccer team, in 2005, and signed champion skier Lindsey Vonn to an endorsement deal the following year.

BALTIMORE

After a second consecutive quarter of losses, Under Armour is talking again about remaking itself from a predominantly men’s brand into a business with broad appeal across all categories of consumers. And CEO Kevin Plank has identified its women’s lines as particularly promising opportunities for growth.

But for a company that was born on the football field, introduced itself with commercials depicting a muscular sort of grit, and is still run as a kind of supersized team, the pivot Plank describes will be a challenge.

As the Baltimore-based brand seeks to gain on rivals Nike and Adidas in the global market, analysts say, Under Armour must move beyond its masculine image and, like other performance apparel companies run largely by male executives, ensure it isn’t perpetuating the kind of jock culture that excludes the half of the population that purchases most apparel.

“The sports industry is and always has been a male-dominated industry,’ said Matt Powell, an industry analyst for The NPD Group. “Consequently, the sports industry has struggled in growing the women’s business“, and is leaving “a significant amount of business on the table.”

Under Armour says 48 percent of its global workforce of more than 14,000 are women, and females account for about 25 percent of its vice presidents.

The numbers of women thin out markedly near the top. Kerry Chandler, the chief human resources officer, is the lone female listed among the 11 executive officers on the company’s investor relations web page. Two of the company’s 10 directors are women.

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