Mar 7, 2011
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Under Armour declares European ambitions

Mar 7, 2011

Under Armour wants to expand quickly in Europe, which currently barely makes up 4% of its total sales. To begin with, the second most popular sports brand in America (after Nike) has its eyes on France, after recently going into a partnership with the French rugby club from Clermont Ferrand. Last year, the Auvergne players became France’s rugby champions for the first time in the club’s history.

SLS Agency, a French distribution agency, regained the distribution rights to Under Armour’s products in 2010. The agency hopes that by the end of this year Under Armour will have from 600 to 700 multi-brand points of sale in France, against its current 450 or even the 180 that it had back at the beginning of 2010. According to a representative of the agency, Mustapha Sadik, the agency works with brands from various sports sectors, as well as less specialised ones, such as Intersport and Sport 2000. Not long ago, the North Communcation agency was also approached in order to help boost Under Armour’s popularity. By April, the brand’s upgraded website will also be available in 3 more languages, French, German and Italian, in addition to its existent English version. In Europe, its main markets are the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Italy and France. “Based in Amsterdam, the brand’s headquarters for Europe, Middle East and Africa has been around only since 2006”, reminds Janneke Misdorp, marketing director for the EMEA region and former employee at Tommy Hilfiger and O’Neill. She speaks about her plans to build at least one boutique in London, having as deadline the 2012 Olympic Games.

Under Armour
Under Armour signed a 2-year contract in 2010 with Clermont Ferrand's rugby team (Photo DR)

As for the United States, the brand already has 8 monobrand stores and outlets. That it because Under Armour, which is currently worth more than 1 billion dollars (against 50 million in 2002), has its roots in America. Founded in 1996 by Kevin Plank, who was only 23 and still a student at the time, the brand sought to be innovative by offering sportsmen t-shirts that did not retain sweat. This was a problem mostly encountered in sports with physical contact, such as American football. “In the United States, people play a lot of sports in college and collectively”, the manager commented. Taking a normal t-shirt as basis, Under Armour has developed a series of basic layers and today the company claims to hold 87% of the compression apparel market in the United States. It offers ‘HeatGear’ t-shirts for when it is hot or for indoor activities, but also ‘ColdGear’ long-sleeved ones for when it is cold. Fitness, running and training have also expanded the brand’s target market. Today, sales in the women’s sector only account for 20% of the total.

Under Armour wishes to continue being innovative, and so far it has clearly done so with the creation of eco-friendly products, such as recycled bottles, “Baselayer” apparel for golf (launched last Summer and still only available in America), the E39 model, which consists of “a compression HeatGear t-shirt where one can find electronic sensors that register the athlete’s biometric signals, etc. The brand did not make any mention of the amount it has invested on research and development.

It is clear that the company wants to detach itself from the image of t-shirts made only for sports with physical contact that it once had, even if ‘baselayer’ products still account for 55% of global sales and 65% in Europe. “We are a transversal brand and cover almost all sports apart from swimming and cycling. The t-shirts are certainly our trademark, but today we can dress athletes from head to toe”, highlights Gregory Pays, who is in charge of marketing in France. Our product range also recently expanded into the shoe market, which currently represents 8% of total sales. Under Armour’s basketball trainers are expected to launch in Europe this Autumn.

In 2010, the group saw its sales turnover shoot up by 24% and cross the billion-dollar mark, which comes to around 717 million euros. Sales in textile rose by 31% and reached 600 million euros. For 2011, the team counts on an increase in sales between 25 and 27%.

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