Kevin Plank’s passion for sports and giving back to the local community have helped Under Armour become a much-loved brand.
It is no mean feat to take a simple idea and make it into a billion-dollar business. Kevin Plank has not only achieved this, but his company is now threatening the throne of Nike, the world’s biggest sports brand.
The founder and CEO of Under Armour chose to open his annual shareholders meeting by addressing the unrest that gripped Baltimore, the city where his company is headquartered, in April this year.
“Like many, [we are] deeply saddened by the events in our hometown, and our thoughts and prayers go out to Freddie Gray’s family”, Plank said. “But we are one Baltimore and we will work towards positive change with local leaders and groups, on and off the sports field, in the neighbourhoods that drive change throughout the city in any way that we can. The people of Baltimore are resilient and we’re going to be better because of all of this.”
The sentiments he shared about the protests gave an insight into the man behind the Under Armour brand. First and foremost, he has a deep sense of pride in being a lifelong resident of Maryland. After all, he and his five older brothers grew up in the small town of Kensington, just an hour’s drive away from the city that has been the focus of news headlines all around the world, which explains the affinity he has for those affected by the recent turbulence.
Plank’s decision to put the unrest at the top of his agenda that day also stands as testament to the position he holds in the local community, not just as a business leader, but as a man committed to giving back to the place he and his company call home.
This commitment is not just expressed in times of crisis, however, but year-on-year through Under Armour’s Give Back initiative and his personal work with local organisations. Plank is also a firm advocate of entrepreneurism, and believes it is one of the things that helped make America great. Not one to shy away from putting his money where his mouth is, he is an active supporter of the University of Maryland’s Robert H Smith School of Business and Dingham Center for Entrepreneurship, and he sponsors other enterprises aimed at helping young people turn their dreams into business opportunities.
These philanthropic ventures are just some of the ways that Under Armour’s boss chooses to share the fruits of his labour with the state he holds so dear. Driven by his passion for sports and an ambition to keep the tradition and legacy of thoroughbred horseracing in Maryland alive, Plank purchased the historic Sagamore Farm (a horse breeding farm) in 2007.
BORN 1972, US
EDUCATION MBA, University of Maryland
1996: While still studying at the University of Maryland, Plank came up with the idea for a moisture-wicking shirt, which offered muscular support to improve performance.
1997: Having cleverly leveraged his contacts within the NFL, the Under Armour brand began to be noticed and, one year after launching, Plank had $100,000 of orders to fill.
1999: The brand received a boost when Warner Bros asked Under Armour to provide outfits for two upcoming films. Plank capitalised on this with a sharp ad campaign.
2000: In recognition of Plank’s rapid growth of the brand, Under Armour was chosen as the official outfitter for the short-lived, but much-advertised XFL football competition.
Under Armour in numbers:
€3.1bn Revenue 2014
€162m Profit 2013