Under Armour International Marketing Director Interview

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Under Armour is a Global sportswear company that has built a leading brand name in the hi-tech athletic gear. Under Armour traditional focus has been on compression (tight fitting) performance attire, but with a strategic marketing approach has also begun to offer a wide variety of products in other sports such as Football.

In a highly competitive sport, Under Armour launched in 2006 its first American football boots and gained 20% of the market that year. The company is constantly growing. For the fiscal year 2009, net revenue grew 18.1% from 2008 to $856.4 million.

I am interviewing Blair Tripodi. He is the Under Armour International Marketing Director. Blair has an extensive marketing experience and worked for the US Olympic Committee for 6 years as Director NGB Marketing, Director of Consumer Products and Brand Marketing Director. He is at Under Armour since 2006 and I am getting his views on Under Armour expansion in football and ultimately how Under Armour can challenge the largest established football brands.

Karl Lusbec: Blair, Under Armour is growing significantly and is nicknamed “the next Nike”. Is it an accurate nickname?

Blair Tripodi: It is flattering to be referred to as being the next great sports performance company however I like to think we are doing things the Under Armour way and even though we make product in similar categories, our stance and position in the market is also very different than our competition.

KL: Matt Powel (Sportsonesource analyst) said: “Under Armour captured the minds of the high school kids playing American Football. It’s kids selling to other kids it’s a social networking almost…” Is it a similar strategy Under Armour has towards football? Will the new Cristiano Ronaldo wear Under Armour products?

BT: I would love it for the next Ronaldo to pick up a pair of UA boots or clothing and give it a go because we make great products.  Matt’s comments are correct that in any sport Under Armour is popular or present in; we have a very organic presence.  We don’t pay many athletes to wear the brand, most of the times you see the product on someone is because they or their team bought it from us.  That is truly where I think we are a cut above because people choose to wear Under Armour even if they have to buy it.

 

KL: What are the main differences between Under Armour and adidas, Nike, Puma?

BT: There are lots of differences and lots of similarities but the one thing which truly sets us apart is the fact that everything we make is designed too make the athlete better.  Even our hoody’s and sweats are made from performance, moisture wicking fabrics. We’ve also developed products like the coreshort, recharge and Armour Bite – not as huge revenue drivers but as a tool to clearly position ourselves as the athletes one stop brand for all performance needs.

 

KL: What are the main difficulties to penetrate football in Europe?

BT: I think the difficulties are pretty clear.  A lot OF brands want to win at football and quite frankly a lot of good brands with a lot of history behind them.  We fully respect the pecking order as it sits today and are taking our approach one athlete at a time.  We believe there is room and then some for Under Armour and that the consumer wants another – different – brand to compete with the current players.  And it has been seen by the players who have chosen to wear Under Armour already (Marcel SchaefferPaul Robinson, Bobby Zamora and others) that the product is fit enough for some of the worlds best players.

 

KL: Under Armour is the official outfitter of the Welsh Rugby Union. Is Rugby a platform to penetrate football in Europe?

BT: Rugby feels good to our company as a sport to be in our sights to win at.  The sport itself is what inspired American Football in the US and so the fit from a cultural perspective is terrific.  Our program with the WRU also makes a lot of sense because we like to partner with passionate people and organizations and you could argue that no other country in the northern hemisphere is as passionate to Rugby as the Welsh are.

 

KL: Kevin Kevin PlankPlank (Chairman and CEO of Under Armour) started the company with the success we know now. What can you tell us about him?

BT: Kevin is a remarkable individual.  He is driven and motivated like all great CEO’s but I also know he believes we have yet too make our signature product as a company.  He is pushing everyday for our company to innovate in everything we do from how we build product, to how it gets delivered to the story we tell and that is exciting to work for a company that doesn’t sit still and expects change.  Very refreshing and personally gratifying.

 

KL: Who could we expect to see wearing Under Armour football shoes during the 2010 FIFA World Cup?

BT: Well for sure you will see Marcel Schaefer on the German team.  We have some exciting special boots in the works for him which would turn some heads for sure.  Additionally of course we are holding out hope that Paul Robinson or Bobby Zamora will have some luck and be selected for the England squad.   We also have hope that Bochum’s Joel Epalle from Cameroon will receive selection.  These players are all contracted UA athletes however I am sure you will see several other players wearing boots quite frankly because they are very comfortable and perform well.

 

KL: In South Africa this summer, 12 Federations are sponsored by adidas, 9 will wear Nike products, and 7 National Teams will endorse Puma outfits. How long do you think it will take to Under Armour to have national teams at a major football event?

BT: A national team program is something we have thought long and hard about.  As I previously mentioned though, it isn’t just about getting on field with a team, it is getting on field with a team that fits the brand.  So I think as a result our company will show a good deal of patience in picking the program that fits well with us.

 

KL: More and more football brands and clubs are using social medias to reach out to their fanbase. What is Under Armour approach?

BT: Social media is playing a much larger role in some of our key markets.  From a UK perspective we have started using tools like Facebook and blogger networks such as soccerbible and footy boots as tools to tell our messages to the consumer.  We also launched our football boots on-line through our website – www.underarmour.com/UA11.  This was a groundbreaking program that I think acknowledged the movement of the consumer to the internet as a one stop shop for all their brand information.

 

Thank you very much Blair for your contribution

Karl Lusbec

 

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20 thoughts on “Under Armour International Marketing Director Interview

    catalin dobre said:
    March 25, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Impressive… what can I say more. I see people in the US really wearing U.A… they are getting bigger and bigger…

    Like

    Karl Lusbec responded:
    March 25, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Hello Catalin, thanks for your comment. Indeed, UA is growing and is very prominent in North America. I am looking forward to seeing how they grow in Europe vs their competitors.

    Like

    Stan Phelps said:
    March 25, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Sound strategy by Blair and the UA team. Stay true to your core and be laser focused on performance. Be authentic. It’s not about slapping your logo on a team jersey.

    Like

    Karl Lusbec responded:
    March 25, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Hi Stan,
    This is exactly true. UA is sticking to what made their brand so succesful: Performance products. It is their core value and it’s great to see that they are not making any compromise on this end!

    Like

    AleGarro said:
    March 25, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Does anybody know how much they invest in “dressing” pros?
    how much do these English national team players get for using the brand?
    thx

    Like

    Karl Lusbec responded:
    March 25, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Hello AleGarro, thanks for your comment. I believe these are quite confidential numbers Under Armour will not disclose. Each brand has a different talent budget approach, but the final numbers remain in 99% of the cases, confidential.

    Like

    Will Simpson said:
    March 30, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Hi Karl,

    I had the pleasure of meeting Blair on quite a number of occasions during my time with the WRU. I was part of the commercial team when the sponsorship was activated and I admit that a few eyebrows were raised when we were notified that UA would be following Reebok as the official kit supplier to the WRU. However, after just a few weeks (and several kit trials) I was completely sold on the products and could not praise them enough.

    Similarly, there was a huge surprise at the time of the PUBLIC announcement that UA were official kit suppliers. The fans weren’t happy with a lack of cotton and most had assumed that as they had not heard of UnderArmour they must be inferior, especially having just won the 2008 Grand Slam in Reebok. How wrong they were. Two years later and everybody is sold on the quality of the products, despite two relatively unsuccessful on pitch campaigns.

    I can certainly see the same happening in football, where there is a huge demand for base-layer garments. UA is at the forefront of this market and is developing a stranglehold on several others (i.e. footwear/accessories) and I certainly feel that the quality of their products will aid a seamless move to the top of the football market, certainly in terms of clothing products.

    Like

    Karl Lusbec responded:
    March 30, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Hello Will,
    Thanks a bunch for sharing your inputs with us! I believe that football players and federations have quite a conservative approach and do not like to change the product feel they had. I experienced similar scenarios (actually scenari) in my previous job. However, and as you mentioned, trying out the performance products is key to success.

    Under Armour is quite a young brand compared to Reebok and its awareness in Europe was lacking the past few years. However, they managed to fill this gap and this is why I believe they are to be considered seriously in football.

    Check out this video:

    Like

      Rayde Baez said:
      March 30, 2010 at 3:36 pm

      Hi Karl,

      I see UA as teh future…I’m currently based in Spain, and work within the professional sports field and I’m convinced that if the newcomers and young players test the UA products, in a rather soon future it will have a pretty nice market share.

      I’m so convinced of it, that I’m in the works of changing my football scouting event (www.barnaball.com) apparel provider from Nike to UA. Just hope the local agent (a Spanish company) has the same aim as those of the HQ.

      Good blog! I’ll sure keep readint it.

      Best regards,

      Rayde Luis Baez

      Like

    Karl Lusbec responded:
    March 30, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Buenos Dias Rayde, muchas gracias for your comment.

    One of Under Armour’s core value is to capture the grassroots/youth attention by being present in college or high school kids playing American Football for example. This an interesting statement Matt Powel made about UA.
    A similar approach in Europe could be beneficial and make sure kids grow with the brand.

    Keep us posted on how your scouting event is progressing. I would love to hear more about it.

    Saludos
    Karl

    Like

    Rayde Baez said:
    March 30, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Hola Karl,

    Surely we hope to at least get the players to live the same success as one of our past attendants: Davide Grassi. He came to Barnaball 2009 without having played a single minute in the 2008-2009 season in Spain’s Third Division, and got his big chance at our event when some agents took him to England and Scotland for trials…he later signed for Aberdeen FC of the SPL!

    This year looks like we will have a great amount of African players as well, so we are hyped about the possibilities…I’ll keep you posted.

    Un saludo,

    Rayde

    Like

      Karl Lusbec responded:
      March 30, 2010 at 8:38 pm

      Great to hear Rayde.

      Keep in touch.
      Saludo
      Karl

      Like

    jordan shoes said:
    April 17, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    i have enjoyed reading thank for sharing your story Greeting. Your site is very useful for me .I bookmarked your site!

    Like

    Elias Ulm said:
    April 26, 2010 at 4:10 am

    Hey, I found your blog while searching on Google your post looks very interesting for me. I will bookmark your site. Keep up the good work!

    Like

    Lisa said:
    May 25, 2010 at 3:27 am

    I love Under Armour performance apparel for women & often run or work out in it. Excellent fit & quality. I am responsible for getting my Dad to become a fan of your apparel products as well. He’s a multi-sport, Senior amateur athlete & looks quite hip while he’s @ it!

    Question…I have a photo @ the Super Bowl with an Under Armour rep or spokesmodel. Looks like a football player. Is there a way to identify him? Thanks!

    Like

    Karl Lusbec responded:
    May 25, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Hello Lisa,

    Thanks for your comment and Welcome here! To identify the Under Armour rep, I think your best bet would be to send the picture to UA PR or Twitter and try your luck there?
    Good luck!
    Karl

    Like

      Lisa said:
      May 25, 2010 at 4:00 pm

      Thank you, Karl, for the lightning-quick response, something that is sadly a very rare occurence. You exceeded my expectations!

      Like

    Karl Lusbec responded:
    May 25, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Hello Lisa, glad to see my answers are helpful 🙂
    I follow UA on Twitter along with other brands and they are quite proactive with their answers.
    All the best!
    Karl

    Like

    […] We believe there is room and then some for Under Armour and that the consumer wants another – different – brand to compete with the current players.  And it has been seen by the players who have chosen to wear Under Armour already (Marcel SchaefferPaul Robinson, Bobby Zamora and others) that the product is fit enough for some of the worlds best players. Find the full interview here […]

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