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Under Armour China recruits star power

Star power is being used to connect fast-growing athleisure brand Under Armour with Chinese consumers.

NBA All-Star Stephen Curry heads back to China next month for another promotional tour for sportswear brand Under Armour China (UA).

As UA seeks to take market share away from rival Nike, the basketballer will be touring the greater China region, including Taiwan, from September 2 to 6.

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank plans to more than double the company’s annual revenue to $10 billion by 2020, identifying three key growth areas: channels, categories and geographies.

“Our eCommerce in China has basically exploded for us,” he says, “so this is not just a bricks-and-mortar story.” He believes China may actually end up providing the script for the balance between digital and store sales.

So far this year, UA has reported a 157 per cent increase over the same period last year from its eCommerce initiatives in China. In just 10 years, the company has grown its overseas business exponentially, to $454 million last year from $6 million in 2006.

Probably trying to catch this wave, low-end Chinese sneaker manufacturer Tingfei Long Sporting Goods introduced its Uncle Martian apparel line in April with a logo similar to UA’s trademark intersecting arches. UA responded by saying it will pursue “all business and legal courses of action.”

To thrive in China, brand recognition over knockoffs is key for UA, which is why it is sending spokesman Curry into play. Following his first tour two years ago, quarterly revenue in China grew three-fold (Nike had a 23 per cent gain).

UA plans to open 120 stores in China, more than doubling its presence, by the end of this year. Adidas and Nike have between 8000 and 9000 stores in China already. Nike’s market share grew to 14.3 per cent last year from 11.2 per cent in 2011, while Adidas grew its market share to 13.8 per cent from 8.5 per cent over the same period, according to research company Euromonitor.

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