When it comes to footwear, if you ask Kevin Plank, it’s a brand new day at Under Armour.
This new day begins with a new muse.
“We’re coming out of a phase where we were hyper focused [around] what’s on field, what’s on court, what’s in the gym — the two hours that athletes are training. We’ve now redefined our consumer,” Plank, founder and executive chairman at Under Armour, told FN. “We call it the 16- to 20-year-old varsity athlete. You can expect Under Armour to show up with what that 16- to 20-year-old wants to wear. We’re going to make product to open up the aperture and include the other 22 hours of their day, not just the two hours for training and working out.”
He continued, “Frankly, in order to outfit that kid on field, unless you understand the other 22 hours of their life, they’re not interested in you.”
This new muse, according to Plank, came from a void in consumer demographics the company noticed was missing.
“Our consumer said, ‘I loved you from 6 to 12 or 13, I left you from 14 to 17, I then started to come back in individual pockets.’ We’re saying we shouldn’t lose that kid at all,” Plank said. “They should grow up Under Armour, and we have the ability to keep them in the brand. What makes it Under Armour is everything must do something look great, but there’s a great quote that says, ‘Without beauty, there is no performance.’ Unless we can make it look cool, they’re not going to want to wear it. We need to start there.”
With this refreshed focus, Plank explained, comes massive opportunity. The exec said this focus will take Under Armour’s total addressable market from roughly $100 billion with the narrow focus it had to more than $300 billion.
To speak to this consumer, Under Armour introduced the UA SlipSpeed in October 2022, a performance training shoe with a convertible heel design created for young athletes who crush the heels of their sneakers and slide them on after a hard workout.
Not only did Under Armour observe this behavior from young athletes, Plank admitted his own daughter wears her sneakers like this at home.
“It was as simple as just watching a bunch of 14-year-old lacrosse players two and a half years ago, watching them walking and crush the back of their heels and just thinking, ‘Why does every kid do that and nobody has addressed it?’ The only option if they want to live like that is a Vans [or] a Crocs. How can we make that a little more perfect?” Plank said. “That’s why we’re introducing SlipSpeed. This gives you that heel-up, heel-down component. It allows you to call yourself an athlete. When you put that shoe on, you’re saying, ‘I put on a piece of performance footwear that that is awesome in the gym, it’s awesome to and from, and as a travel shoe there’s nothing like this product either.'”
In addition to the heel, the UA SlipSpeed — which is machine washable — features UA Flow cushioning designed with ground contact and traction in mind, Boa lacing system with a 12-point lockdown system and UA Iso-Chill padded interior that is cool to the touch.
This week, Under Armour debuted a pop-up shop in New York City highlighting the UA SlipSpeed. The store, which is located at 139 Fifth Ave., will be open — for a limited time — seven days a week.
Although Under Armour has delivered what it believes is a hit with the UA SlipSpeed, and has found success with footwear in the past with NBA star Stephen Curry, musclebound actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and others, Plank believes the company has still not made its defining product.
“Those got us in the game. We’ve been good enough to get into the game, now it’s time for us to win the big game,” Plank said. “Every brand should be looking for their next defining product. There’s lots of companies that are here today and gone tomorrow within our space. You get about a four to six year life off of one concept and then it goes away, it gets sold to private equity and you never hear from them again. We’ve got to be famous for something and if you’re going to be a global iconic athletic brand like Under Armour, it’s time for us to demonstrate that. We haven’t played a complete game yet and we’re ready to do that.”