Connected Fitness And Brand Obsession: Under Armour Record

By Doug Zanger

Connected Fitness. A mashup of the Internet of Things and data, it’s poised to make a huge impact in not just health and wellness, but the economy of devices. Specifically, fitness tracking devices are expected to be a $5B+ industry by 2019, according to Parks Associates, a research firm from Dallas. Further, wearable tech seems to be focused on the smartwatch category and, without question, plenty of eyes are trained on the Apple Watch — especially as it relates to form factor. The “1.0” of fitness tracking has been the domain of a few manufacturers that have managed to punch through, including Jawbone, Fitbit and others, including the since-sunsetted offering from Nike, the FuelBand.

But that’s just hardware. What’s powering the revolution and evolution of connected health, wellness and fitness is the sheer mountains of data created by users.

Under Armour, with Under Armour Record, has made a very big play and foray into the space through recent acquisitions of MyFitnessPal, Endomondo and MapMyFitness. This $710M investment, according to Strategy Analytics, puts them well ahead of the likes of Nike and Adidas in the race for not just technology, but a rabid and rapidly growing user base.

These acquisitions are being built for the long haul, and the evolution should be compelling to watch — and will offer an openness, for all manner of athletes, that has yet to fully exist. At its heart, the “newness” of the acquisitions and how to fully form them into the Under Armour ecosystem are continually being explored. Specifically, the extensive opportunities for data use are still revealing themselves.

“We are still trying to makes heads and tails of it,” said Doug Ziewacz, Head of North America Media & Advertising for Under Armour. “But (2.0 involves) layering, artificial intelligence and more predictive modeling that impact the consumer’s overall wellness.”

The notion of “health” and “wellness” is a key consideration.

“Not everybody is what we would refer to as a high-end fanatic type of athlete,” mentioned Ziewacz, a former professional cyclist. “Their objectives probably veer into four different pillars: nutrition goals, weight goals, activity goals, and workout goals. In that vein, we say that people are athletes in their own life, but ultimately we want as many people as possible to feel they access the information, and use the technology.”

To that end,

“We are trying to be the broadest player possible,” noted Ziewacz. “Our plan is to be an open platform — to be device agnostic — and make available the opportunity to the majority of the marketplace. It’s a very different approach of say a Nike or FitBit, which is becoming more proprietary.”

With a current base of 130M+ and rapidly growing by the day, another aspect to the growth is built around the established fanaticism and love of the platforms.

“It’s built on trust, you don’t build platforms of that scale with people giving you daily sources of data without having a high level of trust,” said Ziewacz, “We’ve done a really good job of not only honoring the brands and values, that people perceived from the brands — but we’re making it additive and adding value to the user experience. The UX experience needs to be simple and it has to have value.”

With all of the nuts and bolts of acquisition, development and execution, there is another important motivation: obsession — both within the walls of Under Armour and among users as Ziewacz explained.

“One of the phrases we use is ‘Humble and Hungry.’ Be humble enough to recognize that innovation connects us anywhere and that it doesn’t necessarily exist all within Baltimore (Under Armour’s Global HQ) or any of our other offices. Be hungry and look out for better ways to build product — and that all started with (Under Armour Founder and CEO) Kevin Plank.”

The end result, though, is simple enough and summed up by Ziewacz, as he put himself in the consumer’s (no pun intended) shoes.

“They (consumers) are in control, and they are going to be. They are going to expect and demand more and more. We’re excited to be on the forefront and part of that with and for them.”

Doug Ziewacz will present at Contagious’ Now / Next / Why in San Francisco, Tuesday, June 9th, in partnership with BSSP. The theme “Obsessing Experience” will be explored by senior pros from IDEO, Rapha, Under Armour, Google, Slack, Black Tomato and more. This event also features a live brief challenge that takes advantage of the collective learnings of the day to figure out how to overcome barriers between a local non-profit San Francisco brand and willing consumers.

We will be covering the event live via live blog and our social channels.

This article was originally posted at The Advertising Week Social Club on June 5, 2015.

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