Under Armour

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Imagine playing in one of the biggest games of your life and being held back because of what your wearing underneath your gear. That's the way Kevin Plank felt in his football career always having to change underwear because it made him feel sluggish on the field.

Well in 1995 on the football field at Byrd Stadium, when Kevin Plank played for The University of Maryland, he became very frustrated with having to change his sweat soaked cotton undershirt four times a game. Such t-shirts, which weigh six-ounces dry, weigh between two and three pounds wet. "The difference between winning and losing is not a big margin," said Plank (http://www.jhunewsletter.com) When his playing days were done, he set out to New York's famous garment stores to sample fabrics and make a prototype of a t-shirt that wouldn't retain moisture. He found exactly what he was looking for and put it together. He gave his shiny tight shirts to former teammates at Maryland and friends in the NFL, and asked what they thought. Taking their advice, he went back to work and came up with a shirt made from a unique blend of micro fibers designed to wick moisture away from the body to the outside of the shirt keeping a player cool, dry and light.



Plank based his company in the basement of his grandmother's house in Washington, D.C. and eventually made his first team sale to Georgia Tech. By 1997, 12 NCAA Division 1-A teams and 10 NFL teams were wearing the gear, and Under Armour made its first appearance in the Super Bowl when the Green Bay Packers defeated the New England Patriots. When this happened Plank moved his company headquarters to South Baltimore, and set up a manufacturing plant six blocks away. That year Under Armour developed five other product lines Cold Gear, Loose Gear, Turf Gear, All season Gear, and Street Gear to cover every climate and condition an athlete may face in a year. Plank had not only created a company, but a new industry of performance apparel.

In 1998, the NFL Europe signed Plank's company to be the official supplier of performance apparel for its teams. Then in 1999, Warner Brothers contracted Under Armour to outfit its actors for two upcoming football movies, Any Given Sunday starring Al Picino and The Replacements staring Keanu Reeves. The object of putting it in these movies was authenticity and Under Armour delivered.

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The new millennium kicked off with both teams in the NCAA Championship Football game (Virginia Tech at Florida State) wearing Under Armour. Later that year, after placing its first national print advertisements, Under Armour helped launch the XFL football league with promotional products to all its players. 12 million who tuned in to the opening game saw Under Armour up close during the game and in the locker room through exclusive half-time coverage. The league was short-lived, but by the end of the year, Under Armour could be found in more than 1,500 retail outlets. Plank was then featured in a Sports Illustrated article, and 2001 saw Under Armour become the official supplier of performance apparel to the National Hockey League. Sales increased to $25 million, and the gear was sold in over 2,000 retail stores throughout the country, and many more worldwide.

Now that everyone has seen the product, knock-offs were coming from every company big or small, but Under Armour continues to beat the major players in athletic apparel with knowledgeable advertising and consistent production of quality gear. The company boasts sales to 30 NFL teams and more than 100 Division-1A football programs. In fact, the past six National Championships and past five Super Bowls have featured Under Armour teams battling for glory. Under Armour's popularity isn't limited to the football field. Virtually all athletes, baseball, lacrosse, hockey, and basketball players, members of law enforcement and the military not to mention runners and weight lifters are buying the gear. GQ and Maxim magazines have selected Under Armour as the best new ski apparel for 2001. In 2002, Under Armour became official suppliers to Major League Soccer and the US Ski Team, and the company was named the best apparel supplier of the year by Sporting Goods Business Magazine and by The Sports Authority, the nation's largest full line sporting goods retailers. In August that year, Under Armour debuted its first television commercial during the ABC's national broadcast of the Kick-off Classic, featuring Maryland vs. Notre Dame in a sold-out contest at the Meadowlands.

Kevin Plank has made a huge step in the sporting apparel world. His product is not only apparel it is a necessity for some. A few players on my hockey team had to switch from not wearing any underwear to using under Armour because they were allergic to the fabric on our hockey gear. I believe Kevin Plank is a great entrepreneur due to the fact that he started with an idea and ran with it, never giving up. I, along with many other athletes thank Kevin for his determination to help us be better at what we love to do.


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