Launched from a Washington, D.C., basement two decades ago, Under Armour has grown explosively – over 20 percent a year for over 20 quarters – to approaching $4 billion a year in sales and a stock market value of over $17 billion.
Wednesday the company’s CEO, Kevin Plank, was in Boston to speak to the Boston College Chief Executives Club. And with embattled New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady one of the highest-profile celebrity endorsers of Under Armour, Plank couldn’t escape questions along the lines of: Are you standing by Brady?
"We’re hyper aware, I think, of the influence that athletes have, and with that comes the good and comes the bad sometimes," Plank said. "I do think it's a brand's job to support their athletes because, look, people are going to have highs and they're going to have lows and none of us are perfect."
While Brady and the NFL Players Association battle the four-time Super Bowl champion’s four-game "deflategate" suspension over allegedly being "generally aware" team staff were doctoring footballs to his liking after their official inspection, Plank indicated Under Armour is 100 percent behind Brady. At least for now.
“Tom Brady's one of the best people I've ever met and has the highest integrity of anyone I've ever met, too,’’ Plank said in response to an necn question during a short group interview with reporters after his speech. "So I think there are several more chapters to play out, and we'll go from there. Tom has our … support behind him in all of his endeavors."
Plank spent much of his speech recounting the firm’s launch and sustained, explosive growth, and focused on its expansion into the field of health-monitoring apps – it’s bought three companies in that field and believes anything that encourages people to work out more spurs sales of Under Armour workout wear and footwear – and also retail stores. Under Armour has opened 125 company-branded stores in the U.S. and has plans to open 100 more in the next year.
On both fronts, Plank said, he can envision Boston figuring large – potentially hiring more techies and engineers in Kendall Square or the Innovation District to develop its health and workout apps, and building a “flagship store” like one it’s opened on Michigan Avenue in Chicago somewhere in the Hub, perhaps on Newbury or Boylston Streets in Boston or at Patriot Place in Foxborough.
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"Boston is going to be a key strategic place for us, particularly with our long-term relationship with BC" – Boston College, a key official user of Under Armour gear – "and so you'll see us doubling down here, whether it's flagship retail" alongside its use of national brand chains to sell gear. "We do see an opportunity for us to tell maybe a more compelling, committed Under Armour story, too [through a Boston-area store] and with what would come the school and doubling down on boston as a market for us."
With videographer Brian Butler. Necn videographer Abbas T. Sadek contributed to this report.