Recent news reports describe how Under Armour has decided to enter the running shoe market, taking on the likes of Nike, Asics, and Brooks. Under Armour, of course, has been enormously successful breaking into the sports apparel market. However, running shoes will be an enormous challenge. First, they will be competing head-on with some powerful brand names in the running shoe market. Second, those firms such as Nike and Brooks have strong technical reputations and the allegiance of top-flight runners who have high influence over more casual runners as they make their buying decisions. Finally, the competitors have deep pockets. Nike is a $19 billion per year firm, while Under Armour has yet to reach $1 billion in revenue.
It's an interesting brand extension case study that will probably be taught in b-schools for years to come. What's particularly interesting is that many of Under Armour's competitors started as running shoe firms and then extended their brands into apparel. Under Armour is moving in reverse. It would seem that it's easier to branch into apparel after having established a foothold in the shoe market, where technology is so important. Having said that, Under Armour does have a very loyal following, particularly among young men. They have a very strong brand. It will be interesting to see how Under Armour's entry strategy unfolds. Who will be their target market, and how will they win over key influencers in the running shoe market? How will they differentiate themselves from the Nikes of the world?