Under Armour weathering speed skating negative publicity

Under Armour

Under Armour (UA), the athletic apparel maker that has been blamed by some sports fans for the poor performance of the U.S. speedskating team at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, has no shortage of fans both on Wall Street and in the sports world.

In fact, shares of the Baltimore-based company have surged more than 28 percent over the past month, outperforming rival Nike, which has barely budged in the same time period. The out-performance is even more stark when measured over the past year. Under Armour shares have more than doubled in that time frame, while Nike has gained some 35 percent - respectable, but certainly nowhere near Under Armour's growth.

Indeed, Under Armour's growth has been phenomenal. Sales have grown at least 20 percent on a year-over-year basis for the past 15 quarters.The company’s fourth quarter results far exceeded analysts’ expectations and they provided a bullish outlook for the year as customers took a shine to its new footwear and apparel offerings.

Though the U.S Speedskating Team decided a few days ago to switch to an older Under Armour design, there doesn’t seem to have been a corresponding improvement in performance in competition. Shani Davis, who was heavily favored to win multiple medals, finished 11th in the 1,500 meter race Saturday, ending his chances to win an individual medal at Sochi.

“In the big picture, it’s going to go down as more of a hiccup than an earthquake,” said Paul Lukas, who edits the blog UniWatch; which tracks althletic apparel, and also is a columnist for ESPN.Com.

The games have hardly been a bust for Under Armour. It has partnerships with the U.S. bobsled and skeleton teams and with Canadian snowboard governing bodies, along with endorsement deals with individual athletes on the U.S. hockey team, among others. In a statement, the company noted its commitment to “rigorously testing all of their Under Armour uniforms to ensure all of the athletes' needs are met and they can compete with zero distractions.”

Under Armour certainly has won over the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.

“We are wearing the suits here, and we've already won a silver and bronze medal,” wrote spokeswoman Amanda Bird in an email. “No complaints, the suits are great! We're on track right now in two-man bobsled, and our guys are sitting in third going into the final heat.They might break a 62-year medal drought for the U.S. in two-man bobsled! “

  • Jonathan Berr

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