Thursday, October 31, 2013

Under Armour Offers 25,000 Reasons to be Interested in 39

Like any great marketer, Under Armour seeks to improve the quality and performance of its products. The company is turning to the wisdom of the crowd to seek ideas for enhancing the Armour39, a performance monitoring device and iPhone app. The product is available as a strap (pictured) for $149.99 or as a watch for $199.99. Armour39 collects data such as heart rate, calories burned, and workout intensity. Data can be transferred to the app to compile and store workout stats for up to 120 days. Technology enables athletes to elevate their training efforts without requiring expensive, highly specialized training equipment.

Innovation through Crowdsourcing
Under Armour is using a popular practice to develop innovations for Armour39: Crowdsourcing. Many firms use crowdsourcing to solicit ideas from enterprising people who lack an outlet for flexing their creative muscle. Crowdsourcing initiatives typically offer financial incentives to attract interest and bring out the best ideas from the crowd. Armour39 is no different; Under Armour is offering a grand prize of $25,000 and a runner-up prize of $10,000 for the Armour39 Challenge. The competition will be executed in three phases:
  1. Capabilities - Entrants will submit a summary of their idea along with a 3-5 minute video in which they talk about their qualifications to come up with an innovation plus an explanation of how their idea would work. Under Armour will select 50 entrants to move to Phase 2. Phase 1 began October 14 and ends November 15.
  2. Prototype - The 50 winners in Phase 1 will receive a developer's kit that includes the Armour39 strap and software. They will have approximately three and one-half months (December 13-March 1) to develop a prototype of their innovation.
  3. Prize - The final phase is a competition among the 15 semi-finalists will be invited to demonstrate their innovation to a team of Under Armour executives at the Digital Future Show Event at Under Armour in early April. 
On the website, contest guidelines suggest innovations that the company is seeking such as competitive analysis of workout performance that compares different users, algorithms that identify the exercise a user is performing, and heart rate profile and assessment. In general, Under Armour is open to any ideas that will improve the functionality of the product.

Why Crowdsource?
The crowdsourcing approach is interesting in that Under Armour has been a wildly successful company without having tapped the wisdom of the crowd. So, why would the company start now? To understand why a company like Under Armour would use crowdsourcing, here are three considerations:

  1. Great ideas do not reside exclusively within the walls of an organization. As much as Under Armour or any other company would like to believe it has the brightest and most creative employees around, reality is that many smart people with viable ideas are unknown. Crowdsourcing encourages "closet innovators" to enter the limelight.
  2. It fits an innovation culture. Under Armour built its brand on offering a different kind of product. Encouraging innovation by going outside the organization is not an admission of weakness. Instead, it is a sign of strength as company executives are essentially recruiting globally to bring the best ideas to Under Armour.
  3. Crowdsourcing can enhance brand building efforts.The Armour39 Challenge has brought exposure to Under Armour for being innovative. People may see the crowdsourcing initiative as evidence that Under Armour is a highly innovative company, positively shaping perceptions that comprise brand image.
Time will tell how the Armour39 Challenge affects the evolution of the Armour39 product. But, rather than the product development process being cloaked in secrecy, Under Armour is building excitement for future iterations of the product by calling on developers everywhere to submit ideas for adding new value to Armour39.