How Under Armour is linking fitness data with customer loyalty

Under Armour and MapMyFitness are working with sports equipment retailer Sports Authority to link workout activity with customer loyalty programs in a data play that is part of Under Armour’s efforts to become a technology company.

The companies are working together to create a new set of “challenges” on MapMyFitness, the workout-tracking app that works with phones, Jawbones, Garmins and Fitbits to track calories and workouts. Under Armour purchased MapMyFitness last year.

The 150 million people within the “Under Armour Connected Fitness” group will get a set of challenges (for example, “run 10 miles a week”), and if they complete it, they can win gift cards and points within “The League,” Sports Authority’s loyalty program.

Warren Kay, vp of advertising at Under Armour said that Sports Authority is looking for a way to invest in technology to strengthen their market position — and using Under Armour’s verified activity feed is a way to get data on those customers and marry it with the rewards program.

MapMyFitness challenges you.
MapMyFitness challenges you.

Crissy Davis, vp customer strategy at Sports Authority, which carries Under Armour, said that this helps the brand understand purchase behavior and activity level, creating more “relevancy.”

Sports brands have been hot on the wearables and fitness tracking trend — but it’s not all sunshine and roses. One of the pioneers in the arena was Nike, which learned the challenges sports and apparel brands face while dabbling in tech when it shut down FuelBand last year, stopped making hardware and fired the entire team.

Kay said Under Armour differentiates from competitors because it has opened its API and platforms to other brands and hardware manufacturers like Fitbit or Garmin — and lets its customer play across platforms — instead of creating its own hardware. Still, it requires a lot of resources, and a lot of money.

Under Armour, for example, bought nutrition- and workout-tracking leader MyFitnessPal earlier this year, plunking down $475 million for the company, and also put down $85 million for Endomondo, a social fitness network. Connected Fitness is the part of Under Armour that houses the technology to help its athletes and users: MyFitnessPal, Endomondo and MapMyFitness all live within Connected Fitness unit.

The payoff for Under Armour is partnerships like this one with Sports Authority. Active people that use fitness trackers are likely to buy apparel and footwear. And hopefully, they’ll buy yours.

That’s the kind of thinking that has led to investments in the fitness-tracker marketing as well as the launch of Armour39, UA’s biometric tracking shirt. Kay emphasized that the community angle is very important to the brand: “Getting in shape, losing weight are all personal experiences, and we can recognize and reward those efforts all at the same time,”

It’s an increasingly crowded space. In August, Adidas bought Runtastic, an app with over 70 million users that tracks runs and other fitness activities via phone or through its own wearable, Runtastic Orbit. Last year, the company also launched miCoach, a set of wearables and fitness trackers. And of course, athletic companies are also facing competition from Apple’s HealthKit and similar moves by Google or Samsung, all of which are trying to link health data and consumer data together.

For Under Armour, which is now the second-largest athletic brand in the country after Nike, the transformation into a tech company has also meant hiring engineering talent in places like San Francisco, Austin and Copenhagen (the last because Endomondo is based there.) “We are fighting against other tech companies for talent,” he said. “It’s competitive, but also we’re doing something very different than what other companies are doing.”