Under Armour is considering pulling out of product categories that have remained relatively marginal for the brand such as tennis, outdoor and fishing, according to The Wall Street Journal. The planned pullout from the tennis sector would be in contrast with the brand's sponsorship of Andy Murray, the third-ranked male player in the category, and Sloane Stephens, who won the latest U.S. Open in the women's final.
The brand has also worked in Europe in recent years with a couple of former managers of The North Face, Jason Robinson and Topher Gaylord, for the development of its presence in the outdoor market. Two years ago Under Armour brought out a line of trail running shoes in collaboration with Michelin. With the help of Gaylord, who was named by UA general manager for outdoor, based in Portland, Oregon, early this year, it recently announced the launch of a line of clothing, footwear and equipment for mountain running.
However, the company's involvement in hunting has been criticized by activists in the U.S. in recent years. Furthermore, one of Under Armour's longest-term endorsers is Cameron Hanes, a professional bowhunter and ultramarathon runner. He also happens to be a long-time friend of Kip Fulkes, a 45-year-old former college roommate of Under Armour's chief executive, Kevin Plank. He participated with Plank in the establishment of the company 21 years ago. He has held many roles in marketing and product development, serving most recently as strategic adviser.
According to the Journal, Fulkes has stepped aside, taking a sabbatical for an indefinite period. His apparent withdrawal is being linked to a recent realignment of senior management functions, with Patrik Frisk, formerly with The North Face and Timberland, named as president and chief operating officer and David Bergman as chief financial officer.
In commenting on the disappointing financial results for the third quarter (see the separate story in this issue), the management declined to discuss the elimination of these or any other categories, including possibly golf. Frisk said that UA will narrow its focus, and Plank added that it will focus more on men's and women's training rather than golf.
Noting that it is looking closely at its cost structure and conducting a study of 20,000 people around the world to help define its consumer target, the management indicated that it may be prepared to talk about future product strategies when it discloses 2017 results next February.
Repeating a previous statement, Plank said that UA “can do anything but can't do everything,” and said it will concentrate investments on the women's segment, footwear and international development as part of its current “reset.”