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Under Armour (NYSE: UA ) made an interesting business move recently in an effort to lure the women who would gladly swap those skyscraper heels for a pair of comfy trainers. It signed a multi-year sponsorship deal with prima ballerina Misty Copeland.
This move underlines a major shift in the company's growth strategy, which has been in the works for some time. Under Armour has been slowly but surely softening its brand trying to win over more women. Will pink tutus do the trick?
Wearing sport clothes outside of the gym is an actual trend
The "wear athletic products outside of the gym" trend has really started to kick off. That's why Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank is so bullish on the company's female business. And he is right.
Athletic gear giants like Nike (NYSE: NKE ) and Adidas (NASDAQOTH: ADDYY ) have long mastered the art of designing active wear that looks good in and out of the gym. The Nike Air Max kicks are a must-have for every wannabe fashion it-girl. The queen of stylish workout wear Stella McCartney has turned the trip to the gym into a runway walk for Adidas' customers. Several nationwide retailers – Forever 21 and Macy's, to name a few – have fitness clothing lines, too. Most recently, e-retail behemoth Asos teamed up with sportswear brand Puma to launch an 11-piece collection of '90s-inspired sporty styles.
But that's not all there is to it. Workout clothes are steadily moving to the front of the high-fashion scene. At the Chanel Haute Couture spring/summer 2014 show, Karl Lagerfeld sent his models down the runway wearing trainers. Top designers like Alexander Wang and Calvin Klein have rolled out chic performance-clothing lines, adding a touch of sophistication to the otherwise ordinary sweatpants, and injecting a sporty casualness into female business wear.
This unfolding "comfy couture" is not just a flash in the pan. It's here to stay.
Tapping into the dancewear market
Trying to woo women with neon-colored sports bras and fashionable leggings is one thing; signing a deal with a prima ballerina with the view to establishing a foothold in the dancewear market is another.
For ballet dancers, life in general is a workout. Their daily routine includes two hours of training and around eight hours of rehearsals, meaning that they probably spend a lot on performance gear.
Not to mention, according to the latest figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dancers and choreographers is projected to grow by 13% for the period from 2012 to 2022. Under Armour could land some lucrative niche clients within the dance community.
Even so, it's not competing only against the likes of Nike and Adidas. There are key players in the dancewear field, which have been around for decades. Bloch, for instance, was founded in the early 1930s. The Bloch name is synonymous with pointe shoes. Yet, the company holds a diverse portfolio, which includes not just leotards and tutus, but also activewear and fitness trainers.
More importantly, some dance companies have their own dress code, as well as performance-gear providers.
Misty Copeland is worth her weight in gold. The dance world considers her a pioneer. She made history in 2007, when she became the first African American female soloist in two decades at American Ballet Theatre, one of the most prestigious dance companies in the country. She is strong and at the same time graceful as a swan. Modern women have every reason to look up to her and Under Armour has a lot to gain from this partnership.
Nevertheless, the dancewear space is already quite crowded, and the sports-street wear space is drawing a lot of attention. Under Armour needs to play its cards right if it wants to cash in on this deal.
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