5 Big Lessons Under Armour’s Kevin Plank Has Learned From Ceding Power & Rebuilding His Brand

As part of our latest cover story, Under Armour’s CEO Kevin Plank gets candid on new strategies to reboot the business and how his leadership style has evolved over the years.

On rebuilding Under Armour:
“I don’t want to build things that are relying on a few individuals or one force of personality. Under Armour was a company that would drive 100 miles per hour and change tires. Today, I’m OK with us driving at 25 to 30 miles per hour and changing tires because I realize that we can make sure [our business’ growth] is sustainable for our customers, shareholders and especially for our team.”

On keeping passion and the brand’s entrepreneurial spirit:
“I don’t want to lose that because I think that’s part of what allowed us to get here. I’m just much more aware that you can’t [always do things so quickly]. People need focus groups, and they need to do testing and see insights and go through that process, and [those things are] healthy.”

On ceding power:
“I’ve done a tremendous amount of introspection. When the market sends you a signal — to me, product is the main thing. Whoever builds the best product will win, and I believe that has to come from us. What I recognize is, I have to trust in Kevin Eskridge, our chief product officer. I have to trust in Alessandro de Pestel, our new head of marketing. I have to trust that Patrik [Frisk] is organizing that for us and it comes together in our go-to-market [process].”

On past criticisms about his leadership style:
“I’m a hard man. I’m very deliberate, and I have a point of view, and I can’t apologize for that. I can make sure that I’m always respectful, though, at the same time. I’m never rude. I’m never curt. I never cut people off. I let people voice their opinions and their inputs. Whether we do or don’t listen to an idea isn’t descriptive of what [our company’s] culture is.”

On evolving UA’s culture:
“What I want to be able to do is control the controllables: our performance, paying full bonuses to our team, delivering on the promises we set out for [Wall] Street and having that always exceed expectations. I live my life from the white board, and one of [the mantras we had] was, ‘Overpromise and deliver,’ and that defined Under Armour’s culture, which was like, ‘Go, go, go.’ Then you realize some people were like, ‘Man, I’m tired,’ and, ‘I cant go at this rate anymore.’ … I certainly learned a lot of lessons. Do I have regrets? I think many of us do. But I’m also proud of where we are and where our team is.”

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