Cupid’s Cup 2016 | @UofMaryland @UnderArmour #KevinPlank

In completing my research on high growth ventures created by students the case of Kevin Plank (Under Armour) and the University of Maryland was part of my data collection and highlights many of the ideas uncovered. Cupid’s Cup, the annual business competition sponsored by Plank and Under Armour, completed its final round Thursday April 7 on the campus of the University of Maryland. (At the time of this post you could watch the event here)

As usual, the finals featured a passionate speech by Plank and an awesome, psyche up video by Under Armour. Plank’s message about Under Armour and his vision for Baltimore are big (backed by investment on the Baltimore waterfront — see the plans for Port Covington). I would not doubt this guy and his team. Btw, I must confess I bought Under Armour stock ($UA) a number of years ago and have been pleased with their performance.

The judges for the final round included Plank, Arianna Huffington, Dan Gilbert and Wes Moore — truly an accomplished group across a variety of fields/industries.

The 6 presenting finalists were – Javazen, Plova Chewing Gum, Wolf & Shepherd, MyBestBox, SixFoods and Headbands of Hope. The winner was Javazen – the hybrid green tea and coffee drink developed by students at the University of Maryland.

Headbands of Hope creates headbands for kids undergoing cancer treatment; mybestbox is a monthly subscription box promoting healthier lifestyles, Plova gum cleans your teeth between brushings, Six Foods makes bug chips that kids seem to like, and Wolf & Shepherd make dress shoes that perform like athletic shoes.

Nice diversity of ventures, all generating revenue and entering vibrant markets and making impact. Look for more from these teams. Coverage of the Kevin Plank’s Cupid Cup in the Balitmore Business Journal. For the official Cupid’s Cup website.

Great Entrepreneurship Interview with Kevin Plank on ESPN with Scott Van Pelt | $UA

Really solid radio interview with University of Maryland student entrepreneur Kevin Plank (CEO and founder of Under Armour). Some funny stuff because its ESPN, including “We really hate the guys out West.” But, Plank  talks a lot competition and has some important messages about focus in the early days of a company’s existence. He stresses the focus in the original niche and not expanding too quickly.  This is a very crucial point we make in working with young entrepreneurs who often think about mass markets before really achieving strong product market fit. I refer to this as the Amazon principle — early amazon made their name and earned customers through book sales and proved their platform for e-commerce. This early work and focus laid a strong base and value proposition that the complex corporation we see today exploits.  Plank speaks about spending 5 years working on a shirt (the first five years of Under Armour’s existence) as crucial to the companies long term strength (well before women’s, shoes, uniforms, hunting, etc). Again, great interview for consumers and entrepreneurs alike.

Kevin Plank, Under Armour – ESPN.

Research on Under Armour and Kevin Plank

My regular readers know that I have been research student entrepreneurs and various other elements of entrepreneurship on campus for a number of years. Often times looking at cases of students and their firms.

I am pleased to let you all know that I have a new blog focused on one particular case of a student launching a high impact, high growth venture from the campus. The case is Kevin Plank, his company is

A snapshot of the Under Armour logo outside of the Under Armour store at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, MD.

Under Armour, and he conceived of, launched, and initially funded the firm while he was a student-athlete at the University of Maryland. I sometimes like to refer to Under Armour as Plank’s House.

The new blog is called Under Armour Files and it is dedicated to exploring and understanding the story of Kevin Plank, the University of Maryland and Under Armour Inc.  Hope you all  check it out and let me know what you think. All feedback will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Great Video Speech of Kevin Plank of Under Armour

This video of a speech that Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour, gave at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business in October of 2008. (hat tip MBAs Portal out of India — looks like an agreggator of some sort).

This is a long video, but worth watching. Great hearing him discuss how he came up with the idea as a Sr. at the University of Maryland. Fun stories and insights in this video.

Campus Sports Markets: BC-BU Hockey; BC + Under Armour

A college sports edition of campus entrepreneurship for y’all. Yesterday, the WSJ feature an article by Neal E. Boudette exploring the life-long rivalry between the current Boston College and Boston University men’s hockey coaches. Here is how the story opens:

On New Year’s Eve in 1962, Jack Parker and Jerry York lined up against each other in a high-school ice-hockey game — and started a rivalry that has become one of the most extraordinary in college sports.

After high school, Mr. Parker played at Boston University and Mr. York at Boston College. Mr. Parker later became the coach at BU, and Mr. York at BC.

Now, after nearly half a century of going toe-to-toe, each man’s success is unexcelled — and they are still fierce competitors. Mr. York has accumulated more wins — 827 — than any other active college coach. Mr. Parker is only seven wins behind him.

The piece goes on to detail the intensity of the rivalry and some of the amazing feats of each man and his respective University. It also reminds us of the important role that athletics play in the modern campus marketplace.

One of the reasons that the campus is the frontier of entrepreneurship in the US is that it is a huge market in its own right and can either support full ventures or serve as a proving ground for various products (Gatorade) and services (FedEx & Kinkos individually, though now joined together as FedEx Kinkos).

The sports submarket of the campus market is huge in its own right, complex, and based on passion that sports can and does inspire in fans and from time to time the masses of casual observers.

In related campus sports market news, Boston College and Under Armour (founded by one of the most succesfull campus entrepreneurs of the last 15 years, Kevin Plan) have inked a deal whereby UA will become the schools exclusive and offical athletic apparel provider.

This is the latest aggressive move by Under Armour in declaring its goal to be a global sports brand. Reebok, which is based in Boston, is currently the exclusive provider for BC and can be none too pleased by Under Armour’s move into its backyard — not to mention taking a high profile partner.

From an article in the Boston Herald by Christine McConville,

Under Armour has scored a touchdown in the collegiate apparel game – and beaten out a local company on its home turf.

The Baltimore-based athletic gear company topped Canton-based sportsgear maker Reebok and won a lucrative, six-year deal to outfit Boston College’s athletes.

In July 2010, Under Armour – that tight-fitting, moisture-wicking clothing preferred by very fit athletes – will become the exclusive official outfitter for BC’s football and basketball squads, and 29 other varsity teams.

The Power of Phil Knight (Pioneer Campus Entrepreneur)

Before there was Kevin Plank and Under Armour — Phil Knight was using his learnings, contacts, and education from Oregon and Stanford to launch Nike (originally known as Blue Ribbon Sports). Knight and Nike’s staying power can be witnessed by the recent controversy surrounding Marcus Jordan (son of Michael and Juanita), the University of Central Florida, and Adidas.

Basically, Marcus is an 18 year old basketball player at UCF and refuses to wear any shoe other than Air Jordans (produced by Phil Knight’s Nike). UCF has an apparel and shoe contract with Adidas and as long as Jordan wears the his dad’s shoes, the school is in breach of the contract.

The most recent update is that Jordan won’t budge and he wore the Nike shoes during UCF’s first game. Adidas is therefore not going to pay UCF. The school stands to lose $3 million.

BTW, Marcus Jordan scored 1 point in the opening game, he was 0-3 from the field and 1-2 at the free throw line. He played 23 minutes.

Athletic SAT from Under Armour and IMG

Under Armour and leading talent agency IMG have joined forces and among other things, will begin creating a standard of measurement for high school athletes looking to play in college.

As we all know, college athletics is a huge business and many global brands have come out of that part of the campus eco-system. Nike and Gatorade are two examples (as is Under Armour).

Both sides of the recruiting equation (athletes and schools) spend countless time, effort and money trying to find the right fit of student-athlete to school/program. Below are some interesting snippets from the article by Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal (article via Baltimore Business Journal).

The Baltimore sportswear company and IMG are planning more than 100 global one- to three-day combines for high school athletes next year at which participants will be scored on a range of metrics, including physical attributes, mental stamina and sport-specific skills.

IMG is already a leader in training young athletes at its IMG Academies, and Under Armour will now be heavily involved with that Bradenton, Fla., facility, including supplying apparel, footwear and accessories.

The venture puts Under Armour’s (NYSE: UA) brand in front of young athletes and fits with the company’s performance-brand mission as it moves into new areas of the apparel business. IMG, meanwhile, as an established player in the training business, has benefits to gain by partnering with a youth-oriented brand.

The article then explains, “the new index will be called Combine360 and the two companies plan to announce the venture today. It is uncertain at the moment what name the combines will be branded under,” and that “there will be three types of combines under the Combine360 concept. One will test core physical attributes; the second will test sport-specific skills; and the third will test a wide range of elements such as mental toughness, nutrition and reactive times. At the end of the testing, the participant gets a score, something that IMG’s Pyne said will be the athletic equivalent of an SAT score.

Like SATs, ACTs, and other standardized tests were controversial enough. It is fascinating watching as Under Armour stays close to its roots on the campus in order to strengthen its relationship with its customers and bring innovative products to them (students-athletes, their families, administrators, & coaches).

Campus Entrepreneur Goes to Snatch Nike’s Soul!

One of our favorite campus entrepreneurs of all time is Kevin Plank, founder of Under Armour (the short story is he came up with the idea for breathable undergarments while a football player at U of Maryland).

His company is making news right now as it launches its first line of running shoes. As an on again off again jogger and one time marathon participant, I know how serious the running shoe market is.

Foot injuries are a huge concern (from blisters to ligaments to plantar fasciitis) for all runners and shoes are seen as the single biggest factor in protecting feet. I have worn the same model (updated versions) of a single shoe for 5 years — the Asics Gel Kayanos. Before that I wore the Brooks Beast for 3 or 4 years.

I say good luck to Plank and the crew at Under Armour. Perhaps I will try a pair out next summer. If they want to send me a pair, I wear a size 15, but would be willing to drive to HQ in Baltimore for a fitting.

From the article by Ryan Sharrow of the Washington Business Journal,

Company officials said the shoes will be lighter and more technologically advanced than those sold by competitors, including Nike, which dominates the industry.

“Today is a very, very big deal for us,” Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank said to an audience of about 75 people at Industria, a converted warehouse in the city’s meat-packing district. “Running footwear is the soul of any athletic brand.”

The shoes will launch Jan. 31 — one day before the Super Bowl. They’ll be priced between $80 and $120.

Executives teased a “rough cut” of the TV campaign — called “Athletes Run” — surrounding the shoe, set to debut Jan. 1 at 12:01 a.m. The commercial features various Under Armour endorsers running in the shoes at points across the world, including Baltimore, D.C., New York, Chicago and Rome.

I haven’t seen their advertising yet, but the focus on cities is smart. The urban landscape is often the most inspiring for runners and joggers — whether they live in big cities or are visiting.

In the end, my assessment is that winning a share of the running market demands great relations and knowledge sharing with the owners of running shops throughout the US. Many runners, fearing injury, will go into a running shops for a fitting until they find shoes that feels good (meaning perform pain free). The owners and workers in these stores have incredible powers in influencing the purchasing decisions of ‘real’ running shoe consumers.

My favorite part from the article, is the quote that running footwear is the soul of any athletic brand. This is definitely true of Nike from what I know and I interpret that to mean Under Armour intends to be a global brand active lifestyle brand on the order of Nike and part of that strategy is taking Nike’s Soul (remember Bowerman & the Oregon Track Team are the foundation of Nike as the Maryland Football Team is the foundation of UA).

I also happen to believe that UA’s customer base is younger than Nike’s and there are many UA customers who will become runners in the future (as they age a bit more and worry about health). Any thoughts?

Fiorina and Plank (Under Armour) Support U of MD

Probably one of my favorite campus entrepreneur’s of all time is Kevin Plank (founder and CEO of Under Armour. He was a football player at the Univ of Maryland and student at the Smith School of Business when he came up with the idea for Under Armour.) He and fellow Smith School alumn, Carly Fiorina, have ponied up some cash for a student entrepreneurship fund at Smith.

Smith always seems to have a lot going on with entrepreneurship and was the launchpad of Dana Lande, a campus entrepreneur I profiled awhile back.