NEW YORK — There’s a new catchphrase at Under Armour these days: “womanifesto.”
The word is indicative of the Baltimore-based activewear brand’s goal for its women’s division: “to equal or surpass our men’s business in the future,” according to Kevin Plank, the company’s founder and chief executive officer.
In a multimedia presentation on Manhattan’s West Side Thursday afternoon, Plank said the $500 million women’s business currently represents nearly 30 percent of the company’s sales — projected to hit $3 billion this year — so “it’s not a launch. But we’re about to take it to another level.”
He said Under Armour realized early on there was potential to reach women with its product. “When size small started selling, we knew we had a women’s business,” Plank said.
But the first attempt was not a great success.
When Under Armour decided to dabble in women’s in 2003, it was “nine guys sitting around a conference room table” and they thought all it would take would be to “shrink it and pink it,” Plank said. But the company quickly “learned how wrong that was.” In fact, he said Under Armour actually decided to “bury” the first women’s collection after it was produced. “It was never shipped.”
Instead, Under Armour spent the next few years building a proper women’s team to identify the opportunities and work on appropriate product. The investment is paying off: Plank said when Under Armour went public in 2005, women’s was only 20 percent of the $260 million apparel business, and has grown exponentially along with the overall company.
Today, according to Leanne Fremar, senior vice president and executive creative director of Under Armour women’s apparel, the brand appeals not only to athletes but to athletic women, a category that represents four-fifths of the market. So while professional female athletes such as Lindsey Vonn remain a focus — “We remain 110 percent committed to women athletes,” she told WWD — the real volume will come from women doing yoga, Pilates, spin classes and fun runs.
That is translating into sales at retail. Early results show that printed studio capris, a new seamless plunge bra, soft outerwear, performance run apparel and legacy tanks and sweatshirts are the early bestsellers for fall, she said.
The focus on women’s wear will be evident in the company’s new television advertising campaign that kicks off on Monday. It centers around the phrase: “I Will What I Want” and is Under Armour’s largest global women’s marketing campaign ever, reportedly at $15 million. It stars champion downhill skier Vonn, U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team player Kelley O’Hara and American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland, all of whom were at the New York City event. Copeland’s ads will be the first to run and center around the challenges she faced as an African-American ballerina who was deemed too old, the wrong body type and the wrong skin color.
Print versions of the ads will also run on magazine Web sites including Glamour, People and Us Weekly, and the campaign also includes the launch of a new mobile site where women can share their fitness and athlete stories.