How Under Armour’s Digital Transformation Set the Brand Up for Success in the Pandemic

When it comes to embracing digital and virtual capabilities, Under Armour executives have gone all in.

The Baltimore-based sportswear maker had been investing in digital since before the pandemic. But 2020 sped up the process, making an emphasis on virtual not just helpful, but essential.

According to Under Armour executives who spoke at a keynote presentation at the PI Apparel conference in New York today, a series of early investments and mindset shifts helped the company carry out an end-to-end digital transformation in the product-to-market process.

In its Q3 results announced last week, Under Armour posted a revenue growth of 8% to $1.5 billion year over year. DTC revenue grew 12% to $604 million.

“Today, virtual is reality, and reality is virtual,” said Jami Dunbar, Under Armour’s SVP of global product supply. She, along with two other executives, explained how the sportswear maker’s investments in digital capabilities set the company up for higher profit margins and a more seamless product-to-market pathway.

Under Armour’s digital shift began with early investments in areas such as 3D capabilities, virtual selling platforms, digital showrooms, digital asset management solutions, and more.

“We had to make a lot of investments to truly embrace the revolution that’s happening all around us,” said Robert Hantske, Under Armour’s director of digital go-to-market transformation and product operations. “Early investments were all about building foundations to scale from, certainly including technology, and also initial change management so that when the opportunity arose, we were able to accelerate the change.”

Once the pandemic hit, showrooms were closed, samples couldn’t be produced fast enough, and in-person sales meetings were halted. To adapt to the change, Under Armour created a new digital learning and training platform that was distributed to every team member up to CEO Patrik Frisk, which outlined how to proceed with sales to all accounts in this new environment.

During this time, digital product samples became even more important. Fewer physical prototypes also translated to less wasted material and fewer costs for transporting samples, which is was helpful from a sustainability standpoint.

As executives noted, carrying out these digital and 3D changes can be a massive undertaking. However, the goal should be for digital capabilities to enhance existing systems as oppose to replace them, said Alexej Rodriguez, Under Armour’s VP for go-to-market and commercial optimization.

For any company undergoing a digital transformation like Under Armour, Hantske recommended that leaders regularly refocus back to why these changes are important long term investments, whether to save money or improve the selling experience overall. That’s because these changes, while important, are not simple.

For example, shifting from 2D to 3D samples could impact the daily job of a designer.

“You have to think about what you’re asking people to do,” Hantske said. “You’re literally asking an artist to change their mentality, so you’re going to have to have a really strong case. You’re going to have to continually communicate that case.”

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