Under Armour is using neuroscience to shape its Nike-crushing fitness app plans

Under Amour has made no secret of its desire to take on market-leader Nike as well as the likes of Apple with the creation of a digital fitness hub. In a bid to better shape the strategy it has turned to neuroscience in order to segment and serve the potential pool of 150 million people using its apps.

The move began in earnest after it ploughed an estimated $700m into acquiring two apps; MyFitnessPal, a free app for tracking food habits and calorie intake and Endomondo, a Danish pocket-sized personal trainer. It adds to a collection which already includes wearable fitness trackers, the MapMyFitness workout app and a network called Record, where people can store data from devices like Fitbit and Jawbone.

It had already used neuroscience techniques – including in-depth interviews with a cross section of its consumer base – to get a more nuanced understanding of people’s motives for engaging with the brand.

Speaking to The Drum earlier this year, Bill Besselman, VP of integration and digital strategy, said at the end of the process it for the first time split its customers into five groups. For each, it now has an in-depth view of their core drivers and a corresponding map of the various things that influence their purchasing decisions.

“It’s really trying to get into the mind of a person and how they work their way to an outcome,” said Besselman. “And you get interesting insights into how to attack these segments.”

This has so far seen it change tact in how it markets to the price conscious consumer – focus on product quality and value rather than the “cheap” message” – and how the brand is visually represented. On the back of the research it has also altered its messaging based on each market; in the US it talks about ‘winners and speed’ compared to the UK it pushes the ‘gritty’ side of training or Latin America where consumers care more than any other region about how they look.

It’s now beginning to use this segment insight to shape its fitness apps, where people are engaging with the brand entirely different, as well as look at how an e-commerce element can be woven in.

“Ultimately our job is to take the communities and sell them shirts and shoes so we have to link their behaviours and motivators in the communities to how they purchase,” said Basellman. “We have to be a catalyst for growth.”

This could see it begin to sell advertising within the community, or services such as training plans and then ultimately promote its wares. Under Armour hopes this tact will further accelerate its growth, and cement its position in not just in sportswear but across a plethora of other markets.

“We have 150 million people in the community. Under Armour is worth £3bn, Nike is 10 times out size, Adidas is five. They’re consumer base was 10 times ours but our potential consumer base is now 150m. So we just went round them. It’s potential but bigger than both combined. Tapping into it and making it a reality is the challenge but it feels like a way for Under Armour to get big, really fast.

“We’re not trying to be Nike. We don’t have that aspiration to be Nike but better. We want to be the next great brand. We look at Apple, Google, and Facebook and say: those guys could encroach on us. We’re thinking about how Apple, FB, and Google are looking at us. But we’re also looking at insurance, food, these are sectors we have the right to play in now and why not us?”

In fusing market research with neuroscience, Under Armour is hoping to understand peoples' sources of influence to create advertising that’s more reliable, creative and ultimately effective. Instead of asking why, its marketers want to know how to craft a more nuanced view of what people want from the brand.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.