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Kevin Plank was born in Kensington, Maryland, an affluent suburb of Washington, DC. He was the youngest of five boys born to William and Jayne Plank. His father was a land developer in Virginia, and his mother, the once mayor of Kensington, worked for the Department of State during the administration of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
Plank attended Washington’s Georgetown Prep and St. John’s College High School, from where he graduated in 1990. After attending Fork Union Military Academy for a year, he enrolled at the University of Maryland.
After playing football in high school and at Fork Academy, Plank decided to try out for his college team as a walk-on and made the squad.
While practicing in the hot Maryland summers with his team, Plank noticed how many times he and his teammates had to change their sweat-soaked t-shirts. He also noticed that his compression shorts did not get as sweaty, and he thought he could create a shirt that took sweat away from the skin and kept athletes cool and dry.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1996, Plank began work on his idea. He searched for the right fabric and found a synthetic material for his design. The fabric not only wicked away moisture from the skin but also had a tight fit to support muscles and regulate body temperature. He traveled to the garment district in New York City to learn about making clothes. He had a prototype of a shirt made and began to market his product as Under Armour.
Plank set up his business operations in the basement of his grandmother’s house in the Georgetown section of Washington, DC. He used his savings and borrowed on credit cards and funds from his family and friends to get his business off the ground. He traveled up and down the East Coast selling his new product, carrying his inventory in the trunk of his car. He visited equipment managers of college football teams to encourage them to try his product. By the end of 1996, Plank made his first team sale. Georgia Institute of Technology ordered 350 shirts, and Under Armour generated 17,000 in revenue. After that, Plank took his product to the National Football League (NFL) and 24 teams ordered his shirts.
As word spread among athletes about the quality and comfort of Under Armour products, the company grew and expanded upon its original shirt design. In 1997 Under Armour introduced ColdGear, with shirts designed to keep athletes warm and dry in cold weather. Then came AllSeasonGear, featuring shirts made of a fabric that keep athletes comfortable in all weather conditions. With the company generating sales, Plank had enough money to move its operations out of his grandmother’s house to Baltimore, Maryland, in 1998.
The company gained a huge boost in prominence when its products were featured in the 1999 football movie Any Given Sunday, which was directed by Oliver Stone and starred Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx. Riding on that exposure, Plank expanded his marketing campaign to include an ad in ESPN magazine and generated a 750,000 increase in sales. In 2003 Plank launched the company’s first television commercial, which featured University of Maryland football great Eric Big E Ogbogu. Featuring the motto Protect This House, the ad campaign generated widespread brand recognition.
By 2004, the brand expanded to include women’s and children’s clothing. Under Armour Golf was introduced in 2005. That same year, Plank took the company’s stock public. The company ended 2005 with 281 million in sales.
In 2006 the company expanded into the footwear line and launched its first line of football cleats. Two years later, the company released its line of performance trainer footwear. The brand was able to recruit many high-profile athletes to endorse its products. Athletes such as Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, gold medal Olympic swimmer and Baltimore native Michael Phelps, and NFL quarterback Tom Brady endorsed Under Armour products. In 2007 Under Armour opened its first retail store in Annapolis, Maryland. The retail division helped the company surpass 1 billion in sales in 2010 for the first time in its short history.
Under Armour expanded into the international market in 2011, when it opened a retail store in China. It also established a presence in Europe when it partnered with the Tottenham Hotspur football (soccer) team. Three years later, Plank made a 90 million deal with the University of Notre Dame football program to supply the team’s shoes and apparel. The deal was believed to be the most valuable shoe and apparel contract in college sports history to that point. By the end of 2014, Under Armour was the second-largest sportswear brand in the United States, behind only Nike.
Under Armour acquired the fitness applications (aps) Endomondo and MyFitnessPal in 2015. The company then launched UA Record, a fitness platform and an online social networking site for fitness enthusiasts. By 2018, MyFitnessPal had more than 200 million users. The company marked its 20th anniversary in 2016 by moving its headquarters to a four million square foot facility the company built in Baltimore’s Port Covington area.
As one of the most successful business executives in the United States, Plank was chosen to serve on President Donald Trump’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative Council in 2017. After Trump’s limited response to racist events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, Plank left the president’s panel. By 2018, Plank was a billionaire, with a net worth of 1.9 billion. His company employed more than 15,000 people and its net sales were nearly 5 billion.
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