My visit to the Chicago Under Armour Brand House / by Kevin Davis

Lately I've been intrigued by the Under Armour brand, and have been paying attention to how the company moves, and how they plan to compete in the crowded athletic apparel space. I was surprised to learn that the company was founded here in America back in 1996. My interest this year has undoubtedly been due to the heightened popularity and visibility of NBA superstar Stephen Curry, of the 2014 championship Golden State Warriors.  Curry is one of the most notable athletes Under Armour has signed to date, and their apparel is on display a LOT this season.

 The Steph Curry shoe display wall, showcasing his "Curry Two" basketball shoes in various colorways.

The Steph Curry shoe display wall, showcasing his "Curry Two" basketball shoes in various colorways.

My Pettiness

I won't lie, I used to view the company as some kinda off-brand entity that made performance underwear. As years roll by, and the more both the brand and myself have matured, I see things totally different. I've been a Nike brand loyalist for years, but didn't want to admit that I kinda had feelings for this other brand. It's a bit like a cute girl who's a grade or two behind you, but you wouldn't be caught dead not walking with the upperclassmen girls. Under Armour has grown up, developed, and become this brick house brand that can stand out in the crowd, yet attracts suitors for her own reasons.

The marketing and branding side of me loves Under Armour for different reasons, I love how the brand connects with its consumers. It doesn't pretend to be something it's not. It's an American Brand that has grown from performance t-shirts, to one that should make Nike, Adidas, and Reebok a tad bit worried, if they aren't already.

I also must admit, I used to hate the logo, but I've grown to like it in application- usually when it's not super huge on apparel. 

The Business of Under Armour

The company scored $3 billion in revenue last year for the first time in its history. Under Armour’s stock price and market value have risen about 40% in the past year. Its earnings beat expectations...again.
— http://money.cnn.com/2015/02/04/investing/under-armour-earnings/

Here is a comparison between Under Armour, Nike, and adidas over the past 5 years.


This week, I was able to visit the Under Armour Brand House here in Chicago. I've been in Chicago six years, and didn't know it opened earlier this year. I've seen the logo and thought, that's cool, they have a store on Michigan Avenue, and assumed it had been there for years. I had no idea, that whole building, was theirs. I thought at best, they had a few showrooms. I was wrong, big time.

Worth noting, the Chicago Brand House is a 3 minute walk from Niketown and 7 minutes from the Adidas store- that's close.

Inside the Store

The wall behind one of the cash registers, looks just like the ivy covered outfield wall at Wrigley Field- the home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Chicago fare a is a major part of the of the design elements and decor.

The store made sure to cater to the local collegiate fanbase demographic showing off a a few uniforms for schools they sponsor. Chicago is short trip away from Northwestern University, and Notre Dame has a huge alumni base within the city. Both schools have campuses less than 5 minutes from this store.

If you are looking to try on football cleats, they have an artificial turf area to test out your traction and fit, without leaving the store.

If you are an outdoors person, there is section for you as well on the 2nd floor. There are plenty of displays to give you a realistic representation of the gear and wears.

The kiddies have a nice section in the store as well. Get em young, they'll be brand ambassadors for life.

 

...and then there is this huge 5-sided display, which is also viewable from the escalator on your way up to the 2nd floor.

 

...another opportunity to try out the gear. They have a TRX suspension training center set up for you to test out your equipment.

My sons were excited to visit the store, but not to take this photo.

After our trip to the Brand House, we happened to stumble into an Under Armour outlet location. I was sold. My wife and I ended up buying a few things. 

If you look at the print design on the bag, you will notice something familiar if you are a sports fan. The founder, Kevin Plank founded the company while a football player at the University of Maryland. The print on the shopping bag is made up up elements in the state of Maryland's flag, which is also featured on the University of Maryland's athletic logo.

As you see above, and probably suspected, the University of Maryland is an Under Armour school.

Conclusion

In very few words. I am a fan. I am drinking the Kool-Aid. I will also be keeping an eye on their stock as well.

 

Additional Reading

Nike, Adidas or Under Armour: Who wears what in FBS?

Wisconsin is leaving Adidas in 2016 for 10-year deal with Under Armour

Under Armour is on fire. It's ready to play basketball with Nike

Under Armour: A Great Buy In The Making

How Under Armour Is Building a Winning Brand