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Carroll School of Management

Inspiring Brand

Kevin Plank

Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Under Armour

Excerpt from remarks to Boston College’s Chief Executives Club  

June 10, 2015

TAKEAWAY: Inspiring Brand

So all these things, though—they lead back to our mission statement as a company, which we say is to simply make all athletes better. But we do it through passion, design, and the relentless pursuit of innovation. And I can tell you—it’s no accident why the word passion comes first when we give our mission statement. It’s because you better have that. You better love sport. You better care about what you do. And it better be something that is felt.

It’s interesting—I was doing an interview "not too long ago." I was interviewing someone for a job. They were coming from another company whose CEO, I believe, spoke here, and they’re located on the West Coast—not too long ago. They were talking to me, and I was going on. It was for a women’s position. This is "several, several years ago."

I remember I’m coming over the table, and I’m going like, you’ve got to come here, you’ve got to help me. We’re going to change the way young girls think about themselves and their inspiration—what we’re going to do. I remember her looking at me and going, Why are you so passionate about this? We’re not exactly curing cancer here. I remember her saying it, and I remember just thinking, oh my gosh—what a punch to the gut. What is that? How could you think about your career and your life as not truly changing people’s lives?

So a couple weeks went by, and I was actually on a store tour. That was something that kept me up at night I was thinking about. I was actually out at a store in the Pacific Northwest, of all places. I’m watching retail. And it’s getting like 4:00 in the afternoon. That’s what I do for a living. We’ll do it after here—I’m going to go walk retail. I’m talking about a store here on Newbury, as well.

All of a sudden, this mom comes in. She’s got these two little boys—one maybe eight, the other one maybe 10 years old. They walk in. And sure enough, the little eight-year-old stands there, and he goes Mom, Mom, look, look—Under Armour, Under Armour, Under Armour. And she’s like go—can I go? She didn’t have a ring on her finger, and she kind of had this look like, oh, don’t go over there. That stuff’s expensive. I don’t want you doing that.

I’m watching this happen in the back. And I’m like go, break away, go. So little kid— mom gets distracted, kid breaks away. He runs over to the section. It’s like 4:00 in the afternoon. He grabs this Under Armour compression shirt. So he’s just out of school, still has his collared shirt on. He grabs this compression shirt. He sticks his little head through it, shoves his arm through it, pulls it down over his body, walks out in the middle of the aisle. His mom’s over there working with the older, little 10-year-old boy. And he just goes hey, Mom. He goes, look at me. I’m wearing Under Armour. I can do anything—like this. And he holds his hands up, and he’s making this muscle sign.

And I’m thinking to myself, here’s this person telling me that what do we do for a living? We’re not curing cancer. I’m thinking I don’t know what that little boy did or didn’t want to do. But I know, before, he might have thought he was not good enough to go out for the team, maybe couldn’t make varsity, maybe couldn’t try out with his friends. Maybe just wasn’t cool enough to sit at the cool kid table and stood there shaking with his lunch tray when he’s sitting at lunchtime. And you think, but today he’s got something different, because today he’s got an edge and an advantage. Today he’s wearing Under Armour.

I’m thinking every product that we build—every shirt, every shoe—it better live up to that. It better give that little boy that confidence. More importantly, it better work, because that’s what a brand is. That’s what a brand does. It inspires people to believe that they can do more. I can march 30 scientists in here and tell you why we make the best apparel and footwear in the world. But at the end of the day, it’s about never compromising that and making sure that everything speaks to that DNA.