At first blush – exploring a new design challenge with Under Armour

Fitness apparel company, Under Armour, has been making headway into diversifying its portfolio to include software connected apparel, like the bluetooth connected HOVR Phantom and Sonic series. The running shoes connect to MapMyRun helping users track and analyze their metrics while making it easier to run out the door sans phone, watch or wallet. UA began a shift towards technology supported fitness with the 2013 purchase of fitness applications MapMyRun, Endomondo, and MyFitnessPal – a suite of offerings that round out Under Armour’s Connected Fitness platform.

The push into connected fitness has come at a cost though, with competitor brands enjoying stronger earnings through their expanded athleisure offerings. Connected fitness accounts for 2% of the company’s 2018 net revenue. The UA 2018 Annual Report also revealed increased earnings from the global market as the company expanded its presence in Asia and Latin America, however, US sales continue to decline. Current shares are valued at $20.37, down from a 2015 high of $104.10 per share.

What does this mean for my design challenge?

The Challenge: Develop a set of viable concepts for visualizing a user’s progress towards their goals. 

In addition to this brief foray into secondary research, we started the Communications in Design course with a reading on the growth mindset, based on the work of Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck. The article notes that “a growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.”

With this in mind, one of the criteria that stands out to me is that the design ‘answers challenges inherent to the category.’ The design brief offered a related question on why people abandon their training. My initial curiosity is around how design solutions could include a fail forward mentality or how it might create features that support failure as a necessary condition for growth. As opposed to, say, building in the opportunity for cheat days.

Another factor that stands out are the brands core consumers – competitive athletes and fitness enthusiasts. How can Under Armour reach a broader market of moderate fitness enthusiasts without diluting its position as an elite performance brand? With their connected fitness platforms, the company seems well-positioned to develop a more meaningful relationship with those consumers as well. Under Armour has a leg up on its larger competitors – Nike, Adidas – to carve out a niche segment in tech-connected fitness. In addition, the company has been making a push into US manufacturing with the 2017 opening of a facility in its hometown, Baltimore.

All this to say – there’s something to be said about taking two steps back to take one step forward. Perhaps that’s the case for Under Armour right now; and perhaps design solutions, coupled with the company’s more deliberate growth strategy of the last couple years, can help bend the road toward improved profitability and meaningful innovation.