Under Armour's CEO Has a Message for Nike and Kevin Durant
words // Brandon Richard
After flirting with the idea of signing with Under Armour, Kevin Durant announced that he's staying with Nike over the weekend. Just days after coming up short on what turned out to be a surprisingly strong effort to land basketball’s biggest sneaker free agent, Under Armour CEO/Founder Kevin Plank spoke about the offer with Bloomberg’s Stephanie Ruhle.
In the interview, Plank said the offer was made “to send a message really out to every athletic director, every president of every team club, every league commissioner and say if you have a deal, there's no deal too big that we can't sit at the table and play with, that you should call us if we haven't already called you by any chance. But that's where we wanted to send that message loud and clear."
Read on for a few additional highlights from Plank's interview and watch the full video above.
On whether Under Armour needs a Marquee Basketball player to make an impression in a sport where Nike has 96 percent of the business:
"I don't think that – we've got a nice basketball business today that we've been building from the grassroots for a very long time. Any company is never about betting yourself on one activity, one league, one athlete. The – the statement we had, and we haven’t said it publicly yet so this is the first time that we'll be talking about it, but look, there are three things that we want to accomplish. It's first and foremost Kevin Durant is an incredible basketball player. He's an even better human being. And the fact is that the guy from my home state is now going to take – it was originally a $200 million offer and walk away with $350 million over the next."
On why they made an offer to Kevin Durant:
"So we believe that there was a great opportunity for us, but we also believe that there was a place where it would work. So we wish Kevin the very best. The second thing we wanted to do with this deal was we wanted to send a message really out to every athletic director, every president of every team club, every league commissioner and say if you have a deal, there's no deal too big that we can't sit at the table and play with, that you should call us if we haven't already called you by any chance. But that's where we wanted to send that message loud and clear. And if there's a third message that came across from Kevin Durant it's that we're going to grow 20 percent plus next year with or without the deal. So we're very pleased I think on where the business is too, and we're going to be opportunistic. When we see chances, we're going to go for it."
On winning, even without landing Durant:
"No. I think you go for things – this wasn't a win or lose. The great thing about our business as well is that it's not a zero sum game where one's going to win and the other one's going to lose. I think what you're seeing is there's a bit of a two-horse race that's been created and we're happy to be part of that race, but frankly we expect to win it too. And this isn't a quarterly conversation. It's not even an annual conversation. But in time, we're a young, hungry, aggressive brand that has a lot of runway in front of us. And frankly we're just getting started. So this is a good idea about what's more to come."
On whether it makes sense to back a single athlete when it could cost $300 million:
"Yeah. I think there's a lot of – lift is important thing. Brand is an important thing where first and foremost we look for what's the lowest hanging fruit. I run my company like a team. I got these white boards in my office. Sales and marketing are like offense. Manufacturing and distribution like defense. But they – they're thematic in the way that I think about the way we run our business. And frankly one of the things it says is that from over promise and deliver, dictate the tempo, walk with a purpose. It says great ideas get funded. Big bets with big partners. Like what I mean by that is that when we see the chance for us to really make a difference and with (ph) that's an athlete or that's a league or a team, we're – we were at the table for Manchester United. There was a line that we got to and said this is how we value the deal and they could be a terrific partner. But there's places where we look and say that's not a great allocation of our dollars at that amount. So we have to be thoughtful. Look, our job as management is that we need to decide how we're going to deploy the resources, time, people and money. There's only so much of any one of them."
On whether Under Armour has the right technology to keep athlete in top shape and sale safe while playing:
"Yeah, but these are – these are human beings and human things are going to happen to them. So I'd be careful about ever betting your company on any one deal. So thankfully at this point what we've demonstrated is that this is not a $30 billion company versus a $3 billion company. We've leveled the playing field with the fact that we can sit at any table, any time, any league, anybody. And frankly Under Armour is open for business and we're looking forward to doing big deals with important partners in the future for a long time."