Under Armour's Big Step Up

Out of a basement rose an apparel brand that soaked up sweat and poured profits. Now the company wants a piece of the sneaker market. Why Nike is hearing footsteps

Justin Steele for TIME

Having conquered clothing, Under Armour is betting that its young customers will follow the company into footwear. The pitch: Train in our specialized shoes.

A poster hangs over the desk of Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour, the red-hot athletic-apparel brand that has joined Nike, Adidas and New Balance as a major player on the market. Under Armour pitchman Eric Ogbogu, a former NFL lineman, is flexing his impressive pecs; underneath him, the tagline reads protect this house.

That slogan has been at the center of the company's marketing campaign, and Under Armour has an equally muscular business: over the past five years, the company's comfy, moisture-wicking shirts and shorts have helped it grow at a blistering 65% annual rate. Under Armour, which had $640...

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