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November 2009


Josh Levine

Great point. UA is one of many brands who start out with a great idea and end up diluting it in the name of growth.

The commenters who say, "yeah, but I like the shoes" are clearly missing the point. It doesn't matter whether they make good shoes. What counts today is what position you can own, not all the other positions you can play.

When we counsel clients on marketing strategy, it's always about what they can do well that competitors either won't or can't pull off. It's never about growth for its own sake.



Of course by pushing into the athletic footwear industry Under Armour is bound to create brand confusion. Are they an athletic apparel brand or are they an athletic shoe brand? Can the same brand dominate both catergories? No. Whatever Under Armour does in terms of marketing and PR they will never be anything more than a niche shoe brand. If Under Armour continues to pursue this course of action they will inevitably erode their standing in a category they basically created because people will be confused as to the meaning of the brand. This will leave them wide open to a companies taking market share from them, if it hasn't happened already. Is pursuing, at best, a niche market in athletic shoes worth throwing away your athletics performance brand? I say no. BTW, fantastic column Laura!


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Well, you obviously love Nike over Under Armour, that's apparent. Why do you care if Under Armour competes with Nike in the footwear market? Why should Nike and Addidas get all the love? Of course UA isn't going to come out of the gate and swipe Nike off its feet. Nike is #1 in footwear, we all know that. But, UA is certainly gaining some ground. Their running shoes are fantastic, super light weight, and comfortable. Why the hate? I would imagine that any new company that starts small starts with only one product or a few products and then grows there with success. Why would Under Armour stop at just a tight moisture wicking t-shirt for football players? If I'm Kevin Plank, I'm striving to build the worlds best sports performance brand too and that means the best tight shirts, the best footwear, the best cleats, and anything else I could think of. Heck, I'll build womens underwear if I could create a new market out of it! Did Thomas Edison get the light bulb right the first time? No. Did Henry Ford stop at the Model T? No, but give Kevin Plank some time to continue innovating! There's not many out there with his kind of drive and passion for his brand. My advice..... try the shoes instead of just hating on the success when you probably don't own any Under Armour apparel anyway!


It seems that you have done plenty of research to support your OPPINION. Unfortunately, you failed to be fair in your assesment. Try the shoes. Understand that athletes are not just football players and if you are out to serve all athletes, than you cannot stop with a tight t-shirt. What is wrong with competition? It will make both UA and Nike better at what they do. Under Armour could go the easy route- but what's the business in that? It will not be easy for Under Armour, but give them credit for their guts (not cocky). By the way, Nike makes pretty great apparel. Imagine if they had stopped at a racing shoe for runners!


I'm curious if you've actually tried the shoes? Personally, I love them! They are the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn. As a woman with a larger foot, Nike shoes never fit right and were extremely uncomfortable. I've tried other brands as well with similar problems. I now have 3 pairs of the UA Prototype shoes and hope they don't stop making them. My husband was a Nike fan for years and recently tried the UA...he has also converted! My step mother also has a difficult time finding shoes to fit, and usually orders them custom-made. I encouraged her to try the UA. She was amazed at how comfortable they are. The shoes are designed to be flexible and hug your feet. They also keep your feet dry and are stylish at the same time. More and more people are wearing the UA performance wear for every day casual clothing...do they want to have Nike shoes to wear with them? Not likely. While I don't think UA will ever take Nike's majority maket-share, I do think they will manage to carve out a niche market.

hubertus von lobenstein

Dear Laura, as much as I enjoy to read your blog, this time I have to disagree. Success for me is not a question of "distance" to the original brand idea, but a question of product superiority. If the athlete performance brand Under Armour would have been able to produce the best performance athlete sportsshoe, they would have had a chance to win against Nike. But if the most awesome thing about your product is an awesome Super Bowl ad, then you are bound to fail. Apple is the best example. The music industry and the mobile telephone industry are reasonably distant from the computer business.Nonetheless in both cases Apple disrupted the industry not by ads but with great products and awesome product design....


Hello and peace, all the way from Pakistan. :)

Interesting insights. Your blog has the right stuff for independent thought on branding, and this will probably keep me coming back regularly. I can and will use your advice within my company, and possibly cover it on my blog (on entrepreneurship).
God bless and good luck,


Don't forget the Under Armour performance mouthwear......



I love your blog. Your stories/examples have become precious advice for my company. Thanks so much for the great insights.

Eric Werner

Great examples. They also have recently signed Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre to an endorsement deal which brings up an interesting question:

Clearly they can't hope to own another distant category such as footwear. However to a great extent for martial artists Under Armour is the training apparel of choice. I just wanted to know whether there are concerns associated with a brand moving across segments of a category that it already owns.

It would seem that if it owns the performance undergarment category in one sport, moving to an additional sport for which they are underexposed might add market share. The follow up question then would be whether or not it might be safe to extend to a more distant category such as footwear in that case.

For example, if Under Armour did in fact completely own the position of Mixed Martial Arts apparel would it in that case be possible to provide Mixed Martial Arts footwear without damaging the brand?


Just one of the best blogs on the web.


Under Armour has no business selling shoes. It is similar to recent news of LendingTree getting into insurance and degree lead generation...


If there are true gaps in the market and Under Armour is determined to grow they should create new categories with new brands.

Good insight Laura.

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