“Two majors. Two wins. And he’s just getting started.”
That’s the message that greeted visitors to Under Armour’s website the morning after the company’s top golf endorser, Jordan Spieth, won the U.S. Open to pair with his Masters victory from April.
Between Spieth and Stephen Curry, the basketball star who finished his MVP season by helping his team win the NBA championship, Under Armour collected two wins of its own in the last several days — and the Baltimore-based apparel company is just getting started as it attempts to expand its reach into the casual-wear and international markets.
Last year, Under Armour brought in just more than $3 billion in revenue, surpassing Adidas as the second-largest athletic apparel company in the country. But Under Armour’s market is still dwarfed by Nike’s $28 billion enterprise.
Which must have made the last week even sweeter for Under Armour executives: Curry beat Nike star LeBron James for the NBA title, and an expected duel between Spieth and Nike endorser Rory McIlroy never materialized, with Spieth hoisting the trophy and McIlroy finishing five shots back.
Analyst Sam Poser, who follows Under Armour for Sterne Agee, said that for Under Armour’s bottom line it’s as simple as consumers wanting to buy into brands that are “cool” and represent winners.
And more importantly, the view of the brand expands beyond just Spieth- and Curry-endorsed gear to the company’s apparel as a whole. Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank told investors in April that he wants the company to expand beyond just being on the court or field or course.
Poser said an important measure of Under Armour’s success would be the extent to which it penetrates casual wardrobes as well as game-day locker rooms.
“The majority of their business is just basic active apparel —T-shirts and shorts and stuff like that. And when you need a great T-shirt to throw on to just work out, if Under Armour has the winners, you’ll buy that,” Poser said.
In the first quarter of 2015, just under 70 percent of Under Armour’s net revenue came from apparel sales, which increased 21 percent from $459 million in the first quarter last year to $555 million.
Poser suggested that Under Armour capitalize on its endorsers’ success by making those athletes “aspirational,” citing Nike’s famous “Be Like Mike” campaign as an example of aspiration done well. “They have to figure out how to market it so you feel, maybe if I wear this, maybe my golf shot will be a little better or maybe my jump shot will be a little better,” he said.
Leaving the field of play is important for brand recognition as well. Even if a young athlete wears exclusively Under Armour gear during a game, Poser said, “then he goes into the locker room and changes into his jeans and puts his Jordans on.”
Instead, those Jordans need to be replaced by Stephen Curry’s shoes. The Curry One brand has been a hit, and the “MVP” style released earlier this month sold out within hours and flooded Under Armour’s website with enough traffic to shut it down temporarily.
It didn’t hurt that Curry’s own pair was on full display to viewers of this year’s NBA Finals, which had the highest rating for the series since 1998, when a certain Nike spokesman named Michael Jordan was the main draw for both the NBA and his sponsor.
Spieth, meanwhile, became the first golfer to win the first two majors of the year since Nike superstar Tiger Woods.
Spieth and Curry are particularly suited for Under Armour’s planned international expansion, as their sports are popular in specific markets abroad — Spieth in Europe, where he will attempt to win his third major of the year at next month’s British Open, and Curry in basketball-rabid China, where Plank said his shoes have received great interest.
“You look at sportswear, over the last 30 years where transformational athletes have lived and been successful, it’s golf and basketball,” Plank told investors.
First-quarter returns painted a rosy picture for the company’s international future, with a 74-percent year-over-year growth. The company is adding more than 100 new stores outside the United States this year, with the majority appearing in China, Plank said.
And in that regard, Spieth’s win on Sunday could not have been better for the brand.
“You had a five-hour Under Armour ad on television with a lot of eyes globally on it,” Poser said.
Representatives from Under Armour did not respond to requests for comment for this article.