Conquering Asia

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star

A very young brand like Under Armour is making gigantic strides across the continent. Despite its positioning as a premium sports brand, it has been able to grow rapidly in its first few years in Asia. The brand anticipates getting stronger as it spreads out from highly urbanized centers, leans on new technology, and explores new market sectors to satisfy new consumers.

“We have innovation centers in China, Taiwan and other places in Asia,” explains Yvonne Tei, Under Armour’s marketing director for Southeast Asia. “It’s not all in one place.”

Their latest breakthrough is Threadborne technology, a departure from the initial and very popular material that relied on Spandex. The new material, devised from yarns within paracords, does not use Spandex, is lighter, thinner and does not cling to the body when one perspires. It is also extremely breathable and durable. Samples were handed out to media at a lunch Thursday, after which Under Armour introduced their newest Philippine brand ambassador, Olympic silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz. Because of the diversity of the Asian market, the brand has been searching for endorsers whose recognizability would translate across all territories. They’re hoping Diaz will be one of those select few who can do that.

The Threadborne technology will not only be in their apparel, but incorporated as the uppers of their athletic shoes, as well, a testament to the material’s strength. A gradual rollout of products with the new technology will be expected in their stores in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao. Under Armour is also studying placement of new stores in other areas in the Philippines. 

Tei and her team were in the Philippines to promote the second staging of their continental event “Test of Will,” a series of four intense, one-minute exercises that challenge the endurance of an athlete’s major muscle groups. Qualifiers for last year’s maiden event were held in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. This year, Indonesia and Brunei will also be contending. The competition consists of Burpees, One-Arm Thrusters, TRX Rows and Sandbag Throws. The male and female competitors with the highest scores qualify for the national heats of their respective countries. The finals will be held in Kuala Lumpur on May 6.

Partnering with the Philippine Sports Institute (a pet project of PSC chair Butch Ramirez), Under Armour will be involving national athletes in their events, beginning with “Test of Will”. Philippine athletes from different sports will be present at the events to provide demos and measure themselves against the four challenges. This will also give the public a chance to see elite athletes using the products up close. 

For Southeast Asia, Under Armour is expanding further into training, running, golf and, of course, basketball. They have been coordinating with the management of the Golden State Warriors’ NBA All-Star guard Steph Curry to bring him back to the Philippines. Two years ago, the Philippines was one of the stops on his Asian tour. In 2016, Curry visited China. As of now, what is certain is that he will be making a return to Asia. Which countries he will visit are still unknown.

“We are a very young brand,” Tei confirms. “Compared to the others, we’re still a baby. But we see so much potential, particularly for Asia.”

The brand has been making headway into new countries such as India, Korea and Russia and adding more stores in existing markets. They will also be using an online store to supplement the brick and mortar ones already running. The online shop will feature more sizes and colorways than can be accommodated in physical shops. In this manner, they hope to be able to address the growing needs of more and more parts of the continent.

Given the innovation and aggressiveness, Under Armour has already established a solid market share and presence in more and more countries in Southeast Asia. The next few months will determine the product mixes, volumes and new product introductions they will make in the largest market in the world.

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