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Under Armour Inc. Aims at US Basketball Market, Targeting Leader Nike Inc.

Under Armour Inc., the U.S. maker of workout gear, is targeting Nike Inc.’s leading position in the American market for basketball sneakers, Chief Executive Officer Kevin Plank said.

“Our vision is to be the No. 2 market player in the next several years,” Plank, a former University of Maryland football player, said in an interview in London today.

Plank, 38, started Under Armour from his grandmother’s basement in Washington, D.C. in 1996. The company’s apparel is engineered to keep athletes cool and dry during their workouts.

Under Armour employs around 3,000 people and had annual sales in 2009 of $856.1 million. The clothing business generated 76 percent of revenue, footwear accounting for another 16 percent and accessories making up the remainder, according to the Baltimore, Maryland-based company’s annual report.

Under Armour will introduce its first basketball shoe Oct. 23, Plank said.

Nike, the world’s largest athletic-shoe maker, is the No. 1 in the U.S. market for basketball shoes.

“We wouldn’t enter any category unless we could someday be No. 1,” Plank said. “There is one company with three brands that controls 90-plus percent of the basketball business. So when you ask me, is basketball as a category, is it growing, is it shrinking? I wouldn’t be able to tell you one way or another, and frankly I don’t think it would matter. Because when Under Armour does introduce basketball footwear, it is a relatively good opportunity for us and we will take significant market share.”

Under Armour will also be opening its first store in China by the end of the year, Plank said. Under Armour will have 53 retail outlets in the U.S. by the end of the year, he added.

To contact the reporter on this story: Danielle Rossingh in London at drossingh@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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