Kevin Plank, Under Armour’s Founder and CEO, started the apparel brand at just 24 years old back in 1996. In those days, the market was pretty much dominated by three big brands, Nike, Reebok and adidas, yet Plank had enough confidence in himself and his idea to try and disrupt the entire industry. And instead of just hustling his way towards getting Under Armour to where it is today — which is, arguably, the second-most popular sports apparel brand in the world — he had a message for Nike CEO Phil Knight: Kevin Plank and Under Armour were coming.
In a one-on-one interview with NBC’s Willie Geist in 2017, Kevin Plank described a unique confidence in himself that he used early on when Under Armour was still in its early stages. Rather than sit back and hope UA became the household name that it is today, Plank admitted to Geist that he would send Knight an annual holiday card with the phrase “You will know our name” written in it. Talk about being bold, huh? Take a look at the video below, via TODAY.com.
While some might think that Kevin Plank’s maneuver was disrespectful to Knight and Nike as a whole, while discussing the strategy with Geist, the Under Armour Founder disclosed that the message “wasn’t spiteful,” and that, when he first started recruiting people to join his new brand, the mentality was always “us versus them.” It was that chip on his shoulder that seemed to drive Plank to take his brand to the highest level, constantly using Nike as a motivator to continue to be innovative in its design and execution.
Added Plank, per Business Insider:
“To me, we were always on the radar. To me, were always in that game. To me, we’re always in that fight,” says Plank. The yearly holiday card was just Plank’s way of making it clear that he and his company were coming for Nike.
These days, Under Armour has added elite athletes such as the NFL’s Tom Brady, NBA’s Stephen Curry and MLB’s Bryce Harper, among others, proving that Kevin Plank’s vision of where the brand could go became a reality. It was that confidence, drive and passion that led to such achievements, and is something that Plank should be applauded for, because many young entrepreneurs might not have been so bold.
After getting its first big break in 1999 when Under Armour was contacted to outfit two feature films from Warner Bros. about football, Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday and The Replacements, Kevin Plank parlayed the opportunities into an ad in ESPN The Magazine the same year, which helped generate a reported $750,000. With the increased exposure came bigger deals and partnerships — private equity firm Rosewood Capital invested $12 million in the brand in 2003 — and, eventually, the brand became worldwide and what it is today.