The athletic sportswear world has another female leader at the helm of a major brand.
Under Armour on Wednesday announced that Stephanie Linnartz will become president, CEO and member of its board of directors, effective Feb. 27, 2023. She replaces Patrik Frisk, who stepped down from the role in June.
With this appointment, Linnartz joins the ranks of other female CEOs and executives at the top of major sportswear and outdoor brands, signaling a shift across a historically male-dominated industry.
Amid a general shakeup across the athletic retail landscape, CEO shifts have opened the door for new leaders to come into the top position. This past summer, Foot Locker tapped Mary Dillon as its new CEO, replacing Dick Johnson. Lead independent director Dona Young also replaced Johnson as the company’s non-executive chair, putting Foot Locker in the rare position among public companies of having two women at the helm of its board and C-Suite.
At Dick’s Sporting Goods, CEO Lauren Hobart has helped the retailer build stronger connections to female consumers and enter into a multiyear agreement with the WNBA to become the league’s official sporting goods partner since joining the helm of the company in February 2021.
“To be CEO of a sporting goods company, it just makes me smile because it’s perhaps a little more unexpected to see a woman at the top in this industry,” Hobart told FN in September 2021. At the time of her appointment, she was one of the first female CEOs at an athletic retailer.
Backcountry CEO Melanie Cox, who joined the outdoor retailer in June 2020, told FN in November 2021 that she hoped her role as a female CEO “signals to other women that they absolutely are welcome in the outdoors and everyone from all walks of life, race, creed, color, sexuality — doesn’t matter — they’re all welcome here at Backcountry.”
Outside of the CEO spot, women are earning top roles at other major sportswear brands. Nicole Otto was appointed to the global brand president role at The North Face in June. And at Nike, women now lead three of the company’s geographic regions — Sarah Mensah, VP/GM of North America; Amy Montagne, VP/GM of Asia Pacific and Latin America; and Angelo Dong, VP/GM of Greater China. Plus, Heidi O’Neill was named as its first female president of Nike Consumer and Marketplace in April 2020.
Linnartz’s appointment continues the trend, though at least one analyst is skeptical of her ability to effect necessary change at the retailer. Baird analyst Jonathan Komp pointed out in a Thursday note that founder Kevin Plank will remain on board as brand chief and executive chairman, which could impact Linnartz’s ability to make significant changes at the brand.
Plus, Under Armour will also likely face questions regarding the new chief executive’s lack of experience in footwear or apparel. Linnartz most recently served as president of Marriott International Inc.
Despite her lack of footwear experience, Komp noted that Linnartz has a “strong track record” in strategy, digital and omnichannel in the hospitality space.