Under Armour has trailed behind larger rivals Nike and Adidas in recent years, failing to respond fast enough to the hot athleisure trend in the U.S., but it is hoping the growing sports business in Asia and an expanding middle class will give its growth a jolt.
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Susan Cheng, Commercial Director eCommerce at Under Armour will be at eTail 2019 and Retail in Asia had a chat with her to understand what she will be sharing and what to expect form this event.
RiA : What is UA’s concept and how it is localized in Asia?
Susan : Under Armour is a Human Performance Company, our mission is to serve athlete and make them better.
Focus performer is our core target audience. Individuals who do sports and train themselves with a purpose. They are our ambassador, our halo consumers who can influence people around them.
UA globally has 3 key business regions, North American, EMEA and APAC, China is a fast growing market, the core of APAC. UA started business in China since 2011, DTC and Whole-sale are the 2 key business models. Now, we have 400 retail store across the country, and UA’s online business keeps increasing year after year.
RiA : A series of Under Armour training videos called “UA 360” is featuring on YouTube, can you tell us more about it?
Susan : It is a social activity initiated by the global training team, which involved some training KOLs / coaches, encouraging people to share their training moments and tips with online users on Facebook and YouTube. In China, we mainly focus on Weibo and Wechat, the Top 2 social communities.
RiA : In terms of marketing strategy, how do you make good use of influencers and famous athletes in promoting the brand?
Susan : Under Armour partners with famous athletes such as Curry, Tom Brady, and in China, we have Zhu Ting and Zoe Zhang among others. They represent the brand and the brand spirit, and they inspire the consumers via their outstanding performance. We cooperated with these athletes in multiple programs, for example, products (Project Rock is one of the successful case), marketing activities (in summer seasons, we will do Curry Asia Tour, bring Curry to different cities to meet with young athletes and his fans), movies, entertainments.
RiA : Recently, Under Armour has launched the Chinese New Year Promotion, what is it about?
Susan : It was a brand activation for brand awareness and marketing. And it was also the first time we created a local concept and local products – CNY collection- for the CNY campaign. While before, we only had global assortment for the business.
It took us some time to explain to the global team how important CNY is for Chinese people, and it proved that we have the capability to do good design and qualified products for local consumers. ‘Local for Local’ is definitely something we will continue to do in the future.
RiA : What is the best seller? Is there any difference across regions?
Susan : Training and compression tops are our hero products, they are part of the brand DNA and what we are famous for. Those products have always had quite good sales all over the world. Meanwhile, running, womenwear and shoe business also got rapid growth in the past 2 years in most of the regions. For Asia, sizing is always the key topic we have with global merchant teams.
RiA : How do you complete with other sportswear brands in such a competitive market?
Susan : We do see strong sports style trends in China, but we clear know who we are (human performance company) and who’s our TA (focus performer). Data show that there is an increasing number of people who go to the gym or participate into marathons every year in China, which also shows a huge market and business opportunity for performance sports. We will stick to our brand vision, instead of following up the trends blindly.
RiA : Under Armour used to sponsor some of the sports teams in different school, apart from this, how do you promote the brand to the younger generation or people who love sports?
In China, we have sponsored the Beijing Tsinghua High School Basketball Team and the Shanghai Nanyang Model High School Basketball Team. Sponsoring schools in general is not a deliberate effort, we only choose the best college basketball teams in Beijing and Shanghai to support them. This happens a lot in the United States, and this will be the direction we will work hard in the future.
In addition, we will have different marketing projects. For example, in the basketball field, we organize youth basketball games through cooperation with Junior NBA. At the same time, we hold the Annual Tour and the most famous basketball star of UA, Stephen Curry was invited to China and the basketball-loving teenagers to train and share the sport. In the field of running, we promote a young and active running attitude by sponsoring the Rock & Roll rock marathon to Promote a young and active running attitude.
RiA : Last but not least, do you have anything to announce, or are there anything coming soon?
Susan : UA + VIRGIN GALACTIC TO DESIGN TECHNICAL SPACEWEAR AND ASTRONAUT PERFORMANCE PROGRAM
Under Armour will serve as the Technical Spacewear Partner of Virgin Galactic, part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. One aspect of the partnership is to design customed space suits and footwear for Virgin Galactic passengers and pilots, consisting of a complex blend of safety, utility, comfort and style.
To help astronauts prepare for the physical and profound experience of space travel, Under Armour is leveraging its athletic performance team to design programs for astronaut physical preparation and recovery with a focus on enhancing mobility, strength, fitness, nutrition, and sleep.
Under Armour is also providing uniforms for Virgin Galactic’s world-class team at Spaceport America in New Mexico, including engineers, astronaut trainers, hosts, and mission control operatives, designed to meet the unique needs of each task.
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RiA : You are one of the speakers at the upcoming eTail Asia in Singapore. What to expect then from it?
Susan : Share and learn ‘the real material’ from companies leaders in their sectors. Getting to know people and expand a truly engaged social community.