Under Armour was born from sweat – quite literally. In 1995, Kevin Plank, special teams captain of the University of Maryland football team, was frustrated by the number of times he had to change his sweat-soaked cotton T-shirt. His determination to develop apparel that would enhance an athlete’s performance sparked a revolution in athletic wear. In 2004, Under Armour brought its performance-enhancing technologies to outdoor athletes with its line of hunting apparel.
From its unique, proprietary scent-control technology to its brand-new Ridge Reaper camouflage pattern, Under Armour’s hunting apparel is designed to help hunters perform better in the field. We spoke with Eddie Stevenson, part of Under Armour’s marketing team, to learn more about what’s going on at Under Armour.
Why did Under Armour launch its own camo pattern?
Under Armour decided they wanted to do something a little different there. They’re always pushing the limits, trying to test themselves. Some of the team members have their TV show, “Under Armour Ridge Reaper.” The guys at “Ridge Reaper” hunt extreme conditions – mostly Western hunting, although there’s some Eastern also. They’re always going where you shouldn’t go. They’re pushing the limits.
Under Armour decided to do the same thing, and that’s why they developed Under Armour Ridge Reaper. They wanted something that was very high-end that they could incorporate all their technologies at one time. It’s a little higher-price-point product for the person that demands that type of performance. And Under Armour decided to go with their own camo. It’s exclusive just to online sales at the moment.
We very much appreciate our partnerships with the other camo companies out there, and we’ll continue to work with them in the future. But this is something that they wanted to do on their own, and so far it’s been extremely popular.
What went into the development of the camo pattern?
It’s a proprietary technology called disruption technology. Under Armour wanted something that would hide the hunter in open terrain and also in a forest-type terrain. It’s a confusion-type technology to the eye of an animal. It doesn’t black out, it doesn’t cause shading. It ultimately makes you disappear in just about any environment.
How has the pattern been received?
Really well. Matter of fact, it’s been pretty phenomenal. It’s only been out just a few weeks now, and the feedback we’ve received from the sales force, hunters and people in general has been amazing. People are asking for more products in the camo, and it’s going to evolve into more categories.
Why did Under Armour branch into the hunting market? What does it have to offer that wasn’t there before?
That’s an easy one: the wicking power. Under Armour was designed for athletes. And they truly believe that hunters are athletes. The original Under Armour was designed to help athletes perform better, to stay cooler and to not overheat but also keep them warm. It was designed around compression-fitted products. So it’s lightweight, it keeps the sweat off your body and, because of the compression, it keeps your blood circulating. All of those attributes work perfectly for the outdoor environment and hunters. So far it’s been a wonderful combination in the hunting market.
What technologies make Under Armour garments stand out from the competition?
The wicking capabilities and some of the partnerships that we have with some of the insulation providers like Primaloft. We have some things coming out in 2015 that I can’t quite talk about yet that are going to elevate those technologies once more. And obviously the new Under Armour scent-control technology, which is proprietary to Under Armour, is like no other scent control that’s out there. It’s totally unique to Under Armour, and it’s a real plus for hunters.
Can you tell us a little more about Under Armour’s scent-control technology?
There are a lot of players in that world in the scent-control environment in our industry. Under Armour designed their own technology that’s totally different from everyone else’s. They use a synthetic zeolite. Zeolite is a naturally occurring compound that forms when molten lava hits seawater. It forms this molecular structure, and that structure can be used to block certain odor molecules.
Under Armour looked at that technology and decided to build their own synthetic zeolite in which the pores inside the zeolite are sized appropriately to trap human odor molecules. They actually blend those zeolites with silver, so the zeolites capture the human scent molecules and the silver helps to kill it. It doesn’t completely kill it, but it keeps it from growing and attacks the bacteria that cause human odor. No one else offers that combination, and that’s proprietary to Under Armour.
Then they put that into a technology that’s easily applied to the garment, keeping it quiet and lightweight. Something that’s really important to know is that it recharges in the wash. It doesn’t have to be dried or brought to a certain temperature to recharge. Just normal washing totally recharges the garment.
How big is the women’s hunting segment for Under Armour, and do you see growth in that category?
That is something that we’re absolutely seeing a tremendous amount of growth in, and we’re going to go after that market in a big way in the near future. Helping to grow the female market is something that Under Armour feels pretty passionate about. They understand that women hunters are sophisticated and they deserve clothing and gear that works for them instead of having to use men’s gear that they make work. Under Armour thinks women deserve things that are designed to fit a woman’s body – in all different sizes. One size does not fit all, and Under Armour knows that. They also know that they need to cater to warm weather, cold weather and other applications, whether it’s more stationary-type hunting; more athletic, on-the-move spot and stalk; upland or whatever. The women’s market needs particular gear suited for those situations, and you’re going to see a lot of advancements in that from Under Armour.
What role do hunting garments play in the success of the average bowhunter?
The role that it plays as far as camouflage is pretty obvious. You need good camo that matches your surroundings for the environment you’re hunting. Obviously, it needs to be quiet because you need that stealth advantage, especially for bowhunters and turkey hunters. And the scent-control aspect of it helps tremendously. When you combine all of those, it’s a winning combination. You can also talk about the actual fit.
In addition, a bowhunter needs a certain type of gear compared to a rifle hunter. You need clothing that’s not going to be restrictive or too big in certain areas for drawing your bow and you need to have easy access to binos, rangefinders or calls. Under Armour has strategically designed all of their clothing to suit those certain needs.
What has made Under Armour such a success story?
Honestly, the brand technology and the fact that they put a tremendous amount of resources into designing these products for the real world. The people at Under Armour are hunters. They’re out there in the woods. They’re not just executives. They put in the time. They don’t put their name on anything that’s not quality. They use the finest materials. Everything is proven. From their sports side of the house to the hunting side of the house, everything they do is proven. They have their own technology labs at Under Armour headquarters, and there’s a lot of science and innovation that’s involved in this.
The other thing is that everything they do is unique to them. Take footwear, for example. They have a complete innovation team for footwear. They look at the competition, they look at the application and they develop something different. They don’t want just a “me-too” product. They like to be on the front edge instead of being followers, something you’re really going to see in footwear.
What can we expect in 2015 from Under Armour?
If you think Under Armour has come a long way in a short amount of time, stay tuned. You can expect to see tremendous advancements in the footwear category and also in the outerwear and base layer categories from Under Armour. They’re going to continue to innovate, and I can tell you to be prepared. This is going to be one of the biggest years we’ve ever had in terms of new products.
For more information, visit www.underarmour.com.