Activity tracking
The global network

Earlier this year, Under Armour – the sportswear giant and owner of MapMyFitness – made a major play to dominate the fitness tracking sector by acquiring the MyFitnessPal and Endomondo apps, for US$475m and US$85m respectively. Doug Ziewacz explains why


Under Armour is a clothing company. Why did you decide to acquire these fitness tracking apps?
Clearly we’ve made some big moves for a brand that’s primarily known for its shirts and shoes!

Our CEO Kevin Plank says: “Moving forward, the world’s first handshake with Under Armour will be digital.” This move towards digital is in keeping with our core mission to empower athletes through passion, design and the relentless pursuit of innovation. In this day and age, data is the big topic. We want to provide athletes with the best sporting apparel, and with access to the data that’s going to help inform their decision-making.

Expanding our digital footprint is about enabling our customers to accomplish their goals, whatever they are. Goals are the reason why people are gravitating towards tracking their fitness. We want to be the world’s largest brand at the forefront of that enablement.

Facebook is the king of social media, but we’ve made a big bet and believe Under Armour can be the brand that owns health and fitness.

Why did you choose to acquire those specific apps?
With 30 million users, MapMyFitness was the largest and most comprehensive fitness tracking app in the US. It was an open platform, which was important for us to achieve the scale we’re looking for. We currently have 130 million users, but want to get beyond 500 million, so we need to be able to connect to all wearables.

Meanwhile MyFitnessPal is the world’s leading nutrition and health tracker, with 80 million users.

And in Europe, we wanted to find the best in class and a company that was aligned with our core philosophy of open integration and broad usage. Endomondo has done an incredible job of getting market share and penetration, with around 20 million users.

When you put the three apps together, you get the world’s largest health and fitness platform and very little overlap among users.

What do you like most about each of these apps?
It doesn’t do MapMyFitness justice to say it’s simple and easy, because behind that is a lot of complex work – but it’s true that our teams really have made it very simple and easy.

Meanwhile our members are fanatical about MyFitnessPal, which they’re using to accomplish their goals – a lot of them weight loss. There aren’t many opportunities in life to be part of something where you’re changing people for the better, so that’s really, really exciting.

And finally, Endomondo has sophisticated training programmes that are self-calibrating, based on the individual’s activity. As the team is based in Copenhagen, they’ve done a lot of globalisation and have a very passionate following.

I don’t think we could have found better partners to bring into the Under Armour family, to help us build this path as a connected business.

How are you integrating the apps into your business?
These three platforms create an ecosystem and sit under the umbrella of Under Armour Record, which is really the dashboard for the connected user. The user today could be using MapMyRun and MyFitnessPal for different reasons, and get an aggregated view through Record.

Will you be upgrading the platforms?
The goal is to make living healthy as cohesive as possible, with single user sign-in. We’re always trying to provide best-in-class experiences, improving functionality and user experience. Users demand high levels of reliability and validity, so sometimes the changes we make are not the sexiest, but we know they’re important in terms of the user experience.

How are you planning to use the data you’ve acquired?
Ultimately it has to serve the end user experience: it’s their data, so the goal is to provide them with as much of it as possible, to inform their actions and get the best out of what they’re doing, whether that’s workouts or nutrition.

I think one of the best opportunities with connected fitness is self-actualisation and being able to measure progress. It’s a continuation of the quantified self and is paramount to the core experience.

How soon do you hope for a return on these apps?
What we’re really moving for is a bigger experience around the consumer. Digital will complement our core revenue streams in every way possible and will drive the brand as a whole.

What are the synergies between all the elements of your business?
Over time you will see changes, especially in the area of wearables. Connectivity will find its way into apparel and footwear and there will be a tighter integration between these two sides of our business.

Are you looking to buy any more apps?
No comment!

How about developing more platforms or apps yourself?
Right now, we’re really focused on taking what we have and creating the concept of the single view of the user.

What are the immediate opportunities, and in the future?
The opportunities are endless. Ultimately the biggest opportunity is to move the Under Armour brand forward: having a digital platform to tell our brand story and serve our core business is the most immediate one.
We’re really excited to be in this space and the growth potential is really exciting: we have the largest health and fitness network in the world.

Do you have plans to move into bricks and mortar fitness facilities?
We’re always looking at partnerships in the gym space. We think that’s an important part of the ecosystem and we know our users are in the gym. Gym is a fragmented space, so we’ll look at identifying best-in-class partners and continue to grow our experience.

How could health club operators work with Under Armour?
Our message is ‘data is the place to be’, and we can lead with connected fitness. We really think of ourselves as an operating system – the central depository for fitness and activity.

Our message to operators is to embrace the opportunity to refer us and bring their clients on board, so we can help them meet their fitness goals. We have the opportunity to collect data regardless of the wearable, and one in four consumers owns a wearable.

How do you think things will look in this field in five years?
I honestly don’t know, but connectivity will be everywhere. When MapMyFitness launched in 2007, it allowed users to track their runs in real time for the first time. When I think about the progress that’s been made between then and now, it’s shocking.

I’m really excited about data being used more predictively and the use of artificial intelligence. There are really exciting things to come for sure.

Will it help get people more active?
That’s the perfect sentiment to end with, because that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to get people to work out more, and I think there’s an opportunity to do this.

In the United Kingdom and the United States, 30 per cent of the population are regularly active, but more than half have a smartphone. If we can get participation levels up to somewhere in between those figures, we’ll have accomplished something.


NEWS UPDATE
Since this interview was conducted, Under Armour has continued its charge into the fitness technology sector with the acquisition of workout-focused search engine Gritness, which helps people find and join workouts. The financial aspects of the deal have not been revealed.

The acquisition of Gritness marks another step in Under Armour’s progress towards building a platform and developer network whereby it supplies the apparel, hardware and tracking apps used in a workout, as well as owning the resultant data. Gritness is a significant piece of the puzzle, both in terms of its advertising possibilities, as well as its insight into how users approach a workout.

The apps allow everyone to track their activity, from elite athletes to enthusiastic amateurs
Under Armour’s current goal is to create a single, aggregated view of the user
The message from Under Armour is: ‘Data is the place to be’
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Health Club Management
2015 issue 8

View issue contents

Leisure Management - The global network

Activity tracking

The global network


Earlier this year, Under Armour – the sportswear giant and owner of MapMyFitness – made a major play to dominate the fitness tracking sector by acquiring the MyFitnessPal and Endomondo apps, for US$475m and US$85m respectively. Doug Ziewacz explains why

Doug Ziewacz, Under Armour’s head of North America digital media and advertising
The apps allow everyone to track their activity, from elite athletes to enthusiastic amateurs
Under Armour’s current goal is to create a single, aggregated view of the user
The message from Under Armour is: ‘Data is the place to be’

Under Armour is a clothing company. Why did you decide to acquire these fitness tracking apps?
Clearly we’ve made some big moves for a brand that’s primarily known for its shirts and shoes!

Our CEO Kevin Plank says: “Moving forward, the world’s first handshake with Under Armour will be digital.” This move towards digital is in keeping with our core mission to empower athletes through passion, design and the relentless pursuit of innovation. In this day and age, data is the big topic. We want to provide athletes with the best sporting apparel, and with access to the data that’s going to help inform their decision-making.

Expanding our digital footprint is about enabling our customers to accomplish their goals, whatever they are. Goals are the reason why people are gravitating towards tracking their fitness. We want to be the world’s largest brand at the forefront of that enablement.

Facebook is the king of social media, but we’ve made a big bet and believe Under Armour can be the brand that owns health and fitness.

Why did you choose to acquire those specific apps?
With 30 million users, MapMyFitness was the largest and most comprehensive fitness tracking app in the US. It was an open platform, which was important for us to achieve the scale we’re looking for. We currently have 130 million users, but want to get beyond 500 million, so we need to be able to connect to all wearables.

Meanwhile MyFitnessPal is the world’s leading nutrition and health tracker, with 80 million users.

And in Europe, we wanted to find the best in class and a company that was aligned with our core philosophy of open integration and broad usage. Endomondo has done an incredible job of getting market share and penetration, with around 20 million users.

When you put the three apps together, you get the world’s largest health and fitness platform and very little overlap among users.

What do you like most about each of these apps?
It doesn’t do MapMyFitness justice to say it’s simple and easy, because behind that is a lot of complex work – but it’s true that our teams really have made it very simple and easy.

Meanwhile our members are fanatical about MyFitnessPal, which they’re using to accomplish their goals – a lot of them weight loss. There aren’t many opportunities in life to be part of something where you’re changing people for the better, so that’s really, really exciting.

And finally, Endomondo has sophisticated training programmes that are self-calibrating, based on the individual’s activity. As the team is based in Copenhagen, they’ve done a lot of globalisation and have a very passionate following.

I don’t think we could have found better partners to bring into the Under Armour family, to help us build this path as a connected business.

How are you integrating the apps into your business?
These three platforms create an ecosystem and sit under the umbrella of Under Armour Record, which is really the dashboard for the connected user. The user today could be using MapMyRun and MyFitnessPal for different reasons, and get an aggregated view through Record.

Will you be upgrading the platforms?
The goal is to make living healthy as cohesive as possible, with single user sign-in. We’re always trying to provide best-in-class experiences, improving functionality and user experience. Users demand high levels of reliability and validity, so sometimes the changes we make are not the sexiest, but we know they’re important in terms of the user experience.

How are you planning to use the data you’ve acquired?
Ultimately it has to serve the end user experience: it’s their data, so the goal is to provide them with as much of it as possible, to inform their actions and get the best out of what they’re doing, whether that’s workouts or nutrition.

I think one of the best opportunities with connected fitness is self-actualisation and being able to measure progress. It’s a continuation of the quantified self and is paramount to the core experience.

How soon do you hope for a return on these apps?
What we’re really moving for is a bigger experience around the consumer. Digital will complement our core revenue streams in every way possible and will drive the brand as a whole.

What are the synergies between all the elements of your business?
Over time you will see changes, especially in the area of wearables. Connectivity will find its way into apparel and footwear and there will be a tighter integration between these two sides of our business.

Are you looking to buy any more apps?
No comment!

How about developing more platforms or apps yourself?
Right now, we’re really focused on taking what we have and creating the concept of the single view of the user.

What are the immediate opportunities, and in the future?
The opportunities are endless. Ultimately the biggest opportunity is to move the Under Armour brand forward: having a digital platform to tell our brand story and serve our core business is the most immediate one.
We’re really excited to be in this space and the growth potential is really exciting: we have the largest health and fitness network in the world.

Do you have plans to move into bricks and mortar fitness facilities?
We’re always looking at partnerships in the gym space. We think that’s an important part of the ecosystem and we know our users are in the gym. Gym is a fragmented space, so we’ll look at identifying best-in-class partners and continue to grow our experience.

How could health club operators work with Under Armour?
Our message is ‘data is the place to be’, and we can lead with connected fitness. We really think of ourselves as an operating system – the central depository for fitness and activity.

Our message to operators is to embrace the opportunity to refer us and bring their clients on board, so we can help them meet their fitness goals. We have the opportunity to collect data regardless of the wearable, and one in four consumers owns a wearable.

How do you think things will look in this field in five years?
I honestly don’t know, but connectivity will be everywhere. When MapMyFitness launched in 2007, it allowed users to track their runs in real time for the first time. When I think about the progress that’s been made between then and now, it’s shocking.

I’m really excited about data being used more predictively and the use of artificial intelligence. There are really exciting things to come for sure.

Will it help get people more active?
That’s the perfect sentiment to end with, because that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to get people to work out more, and I think there’s an opportunity to do this.

In the United Kingdom and the United States, 30 per cent of the population are regularly active, but more than half have a smartphone. If we can get participation levels up to somewhere in between those figures, we’ll have accomplished something.


NEWS UPDATE
Since this interview was conducted, Under Armour has continued its charge into the fitness technology sector with the acquisition of workout-focused search engine Gritness, which helps people find and join workouts. The financial aspects of the deal have not been revealed.

The acquisition of Gritness marks another step in Under Armour’s progress towards building a platform and developer network whereby it supplies the apparel, hardware and tracking apps used in a workout, as well as owning the resultant data. Gritness is a significant piece of the puzzle, both in terms of its advertising possibilities, as well as its insight into how users approach a workout.


Originally published in Health Club Management 2015 issue 8

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