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Under Armour Story Timeline

Even as a kid, Kevin Plank had a passion for sports and the spirit of an entrepreneur. So it makes sense that he was just a college student-athlete when he was struck with the idea that would eventually launch Under Armour and change the way athletes around the world dress forever.

Kevin Plank, Under Armour Founder

1996 - 1998: It All Started with an Idea

In 1996, Kevin Plank, a 23-year-old former University of Maryland special team captain, turned an idea born on the football field into a new industry that changed the way athletes dress forever. Back in his playing days, Plank hated having to change his sweat-soaked cotton T-shirts over and over again during two-a-days. Knowing that there simply had to be something better, he set out to create a solution.

Plank named his new company Under Armour, and after extensive research on the athletic benefits of synthetic fabrics, he designed the first Under Armour® HeatGear® T-shirt, which he named the #0037. Engineered with moisture-wicking performance fibers, the shirt helps keep athletes cool, dry, and light in the most brutally hot conditions.

Working from his grandmother’s basement in Washington DC’s Georgetown neighborhood, he traveled up and down the East Coast selling his revolutionary new product out of the trunk of his car. By the end of 1996, Plank made his first team sale, and Under Armour generated $17,000 in sales.

In 1997, Under Armour introduced the now-famous ColdGear® fabric, which keeps athletes warm, dry, and light in cold conditions, and then the AllSeasonGear® line, which keeps athletes comfortable between the extremes.

By the end of 1998, Under Armour outgrew grandma’s basement and moved to an all-new headquarters and warehouse in Baltimore.

1999 – 2001: Defining Authenticity

In 1999, Under Armour played a supporting role in one of the year’s most-talked- about movies. Plank and his team signed on to supply product for the Oliver Stone film Any Given Sunday starring Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx. In the film, the football team wears Under Armour apparel and accessories in key scenes.

Realizing the incredible opportunity to leverage the exposure from Any Given Sunday, Plank bet big and bought his first print ad in ESPN the Magazine. A risk at the time, the move paid off, generating awareness and a $750,000 increase in sales. For the first time since starting Under Armour, Plank officially put himself on the payroll.

Over the next two years, the Brand formed relationships with key retail partners and professional sports leagues [including Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and the Baltimore Marathon.]

2002 – 2005: Will You Protect this House?

In 2002, to support its continued growth, the Brand moved its global headquarters to an old soap factory in the Tide Point section of south Baltimore located on the historic Inner Harbor.

With word-of-mouth growing every day, the Brand bet big again and launched its first-ever TV campaign. In 2003, the legendary Protect This House® TV commercial featured former University of Maryland football standout Eric “Big E” Ogbogu and a group of young athletes bringing the Brand’s voice and overwhelming passion to life in a way no one had ever seen before. Protect This House® became a rallying cry for athletes everywhere, it established the Brand as the authentic voice for the next generation, and it officially made Under Armour a household name.

Under Armour officially launched its women’s line, UA Women, in 2003. In 2004, the brand introduced lines specifically for boys’ and girls’ and Outdoor athletes. Under Armour Golf was introduced in 2005, and, in the same year, Under Armour signed its first all-school deal with Plank’s alma mater, the University of Maryland.

On November 18, 2005 Under Armour went public and became the first US-based initial public offering in five years to double on its first day of trading.

Less than 10 years after its launch, Under Armour ended the year with $281 million in revenue.

2006 - 2010: I Think You Hear Us Coming

In 2006, Under Armour set its sights on dressing the athlete from head to toe.

A new campaign, Click-Clack® launched the brand into the footwear business through the introduction of its first line of football cleats and the Brand captured a 23% share of the market in just the first year. On the heels of this enormous success, the Brand expanded its cleat business to include baseball, softball, and lacrosse cleats.

In 2008, after nearly 12 years of providing technically advanced performance accessories and apparel, and less than two years removed from its foray into cleated footwear, Under Armour revealed its highly anticipated line of performance trainers marking its official entry into the athletic footwear market.

This period also marks the beginning of key additions to Under Armour’s elite roster of world-class athletes, including future NFL Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis, gold medal skier Lindsey Vonn, MMA World Champion Georges St-Pierre, and Brandon Jennings, the first US basketball player to go straight from high school to a European professional league. But that was just the beginning. By the end of 2010, the Brand added the most accomplished Olympian of all-time and Baltimore native Michael Phelps, two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, and a young tennis phenom named Sloane Stephens.

In the midst of launching new product lines and new athlete partnerships, Under Armour also opened its new European headquarters in the old Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam and built its first branded-retail store in Annapolis, MD.

In 2010, on the biggest stage in college football field, the Under Armour-sponsored Auburn Tigers won the 2010 BCS Championship game, led by future Under Armour athlete and NFL Rookie of the year Cam Newton.

2010 ended with a truly incredible financial milestone as Under Armour surpassed $1 billion in annual revenue almost quadrupling revenues in a five-year period.

2011 - 2013: I WILL

Over the years, Under Armour has made significant strides in establishing a strong presence outside of the US. Through on-field partnerships with elite professional teams and players, the Brand gained enormous traction with athletes in Japan, Europe, Canada, and Latin America. The international footprint skyrocketed in 2011 when Under Armour opened its first-ever brand store in China and became the official technical partner to Tottenham Hotspur of the Barclays Premier League. The Tottenham Hotspur partnership is Under Armour’s largest individual team deal to date.

The official Tottenham Hotspur Under Armour shirt

2011 is the same year the Brand ended a long-running feud with one of its biggest enemies: cotton. After years of declaring, “Cotton is the Enemy,” Under Armour further cemented its reputation for relentless innovation by developing Charged Cotton®, a line of cotton apparel that dries fast and performs. From Charged Cotton came Charged Cotton Storm, which gives athletes the same quick-drying cotton with revolutionary water-resistant technology.

In the summer of 2012, on sports biggest international stage, Michael Phelps cemented his legacy as he became the most decorated Olympian off all time by winning seven medals and increasing his medal total to 22 including 18 gold medal performances. In January of 2013, Ray Lewis capped off his career as one of the game’s best ever-defensive players by leading the Baltimore Ravens to their second Super Bowl ring.

In February 2013, 17 years after that first moisture-wicking T-shirt, Under Armour innovation took center stage once again with the launch of the all-new Armour39™, the first-ever performance monitoring system that measures what matters most to an athlete: your WILLpower™.

In college, Kevin Plank had an idea to help football players get better. Today, with revenue more than $2 Billion, the Brand is widely recognized as a global leader in performance footwear, apparel, and accessories, and its commitment to making all athletes better drives its never-ending dedication to building tomorrow’s next great innovation.

Jose Pedro Fuenzalida, Colo Colo Football Club Midlfielder, raises his arms in celebration during a game. Under Armour designs and develops match kits and training apparel for the Colo Colo team and replica products for supporters in Chile and throughout the world.

Kevin Plank and Under Armour

From fabric stores in Maryland to trips to the garment district in New York City, Plank searched for the best performance fabric.

After finding the right blend of performance fabrics Plank created his prototype T-shirt, and launched Under Armour in his grandmother’s basement in Washington DC’s Georgetown neighborhood. But truth be told, he was hardly ever there. Instead, Plank was on the road, visiting locker rooms across the country to introduce athletes and equipment managers to something they’d never seen before — a tight-fitting, moisture-wicking T-shirt that supports your muscles and regulates your body temperature.

Plank started selling shirts out of the trunk of his car, and eventually the world took notice. Seventeen years later, Under Armour is a multi-billion dollar global brand and the maker of the most innovative performance footwear, apparel, and accessories in the world.

Empowering Entrepreneurs

Just as his passion for sports fuels his drive to make all athletes better, Plank’s passion for entrepreneurship has helped him empower young businessmen and women around the world to follow their dreams and turn their ideas into incredible businesses. Plank is an active supporter of the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business and Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. He’s a member of the University’s Board of Trustees and has played an essential role in the development of an endowment fund that the Dingman Center uses to invest in viable startup businesses.

In 2006, he launched the Cupid’s Cup Business and Innovation Competition and Showcase, which is named after the Valentine’s Day rose business Plank started as an undergrad at Maryland. This fast-growing initiative encourages young entrepreneurs to compete for a chance to build their businesses. Plank is also a prolific speaker at organizations and universities throughout the country.

Giving Back

Plank’s commitment to the Maryland community is reflected in Under Armour’s ambitious Give Back initiatives and his personal work with local organizations. He currently sits on the Board of Trustees of the University of Maryland, Start Up America, National Football Foundation, the Board of John Hopkins Medicine, and the Greater Baltimore Committee among others.

Through the Give Back initiative, Under Armour supports countless community organizations and remains committed to improving the city it calls home. The Brand and its thousands of team mates extend their resources, products, and time to help more than 20 Baltimore community empowerment organizations. Plank and Under Armour launched WIN Baltimore, an all-new initiative designed to spark social change in underserved communities in Baltimore.

Restoring a Legacy

Driven by another of his passions, horse-racing, Plank purchased historic Sagamore Farm in 2007 with a long-term plan to restore the facility and bring the tradition and legacy of winning thoroughbred racing back to Maryland for good.

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