Under Armour's launch of Hovr two weeks ago was the brand's first-ever 360-degree campaign launched simultaneously around the world. It made a big splash, which the brand needs, coming off a lackluster year that nevertheless was not as grim as expected. In today's Q4/YE earnings call, CEO Kevin Plank said the company will infuse the entire organization with that same type of holistic discipline, simplifying to scale bigger and better in 2018.
While 2017 was a "tough year," the company worked to address operational inefficiencies resulting from many years of prior rapid growth. It moved to a new category management model to put the athlete at the center of product planning, and is changing up its go-to-market strategy by focusing on a new design approach.
That showed initially in the launches of its ColdGear Reactor and Unstoppable apparel collections, Plank said, and made its full on launch with the release of UA Hovr Connected Phantom and Sonic Running Shoes two weeks ago. Hovr features a compression mesh Energy Web that contains and molds UA HOVR foam to return whatever energy you put in, all with a 'zero gravity feel' for lower impact ― you know, like you're hovering. Or hovring. But what might be even cooler than zero gravity is that Hovr Connected models will seamlessly hook you up to UA's MapMyRun app to provide detailed running metrics, including pace, cadence, stride length and distance ― no phone needed.
The company says it's also looking to better engage consumers via more holistic launches, faster and more frequent innovation, faster speed to market and better understanding of consumer needs. It should be helped on that last score by data from its recently concluded global segmentation study, targeting more than 20,000 people, to understand how and why they use Under Armour.
That knowledge also will be helpful as it moves to implement seasonless product, which will be crucial in shortening its time to market and optimizing its SKU count: UA anticipates that 2019 will see 30 percent to 40 percent fewer SKUS than its 2017 assortment, with products that meet consumers performance, fit and style demands while connecting to them emotionally through sharp storytelling.
"In 2017, we were a loud company and quiet brand," Plank said. "In 2018, our plan is to be quiet company and a loud brand."
For 2018, the company expects revenue in the low dingle digit percentage rate, with a slight decline in North America, while internationally, UA is expecting growth north of 25 percent. DTC revenue is expected to hit mid to-high-single digits in contrast to wholesale, expected to be down slightly to flat.
Jordan K. Speer is editor in chief of Apparel. She can be reached at [email protected].