Kevin Plank: From Humble Beginnings to Athletic Apparel Pioneer

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Kevin Plank: From Humble Beginnings to Athletic Apparel Pioneer
©  Kevin Plank / Under Amour

In the world of inspiring leaders, Kevin Plank’s journey from a struggling student to the billionaire businessman and philanthropist he is today is a remarkable tale of determination, innovation, and perseverance.

Founder and executive chairman of the iconic sports apparel company Under Armour, Kevin Plank’s life is a testament to the idea that success often follows an individual’s unwavering commitment to their vision. In this article, we will delve into the life and career of Kevin Plank, exploring his early years, the founding of Under Armour, and the impact he has made in the world of sports and business.


Early Life

Kevin Audette Plank was born on August 13, 1972, in Kensington, Maryland. He grew up in a family of five brothers, born to William and Jayne Plank. His father was a prominent land developer, and his mother served as a mayor of Kensington and later directed the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs at the United States Department of State under President Ronald Reagan. Plank’s upbringing in a supportive and driven family undoubtedly had a lasting influence on his entrepreneurial spirit.

Plank’s academic journey had its share of challenges. He faced academic difficulties and behavioral issues that led to him leaving Georgetown Preparatory School. However, he continued his education and graduated from St. John’s College High School in 1990. Despite not being recruited by top-tier collegiate football programs, he walked onto the University of Maryland’s football team and eventually graduated in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

The Birth of Under Armour

Kevin Plank’s entrepreneurial journey began during his college years when he launched a seasonal business named Cupid’s Valentine, which sold roses on Valentine’s Day and earned $3,000. Plank used this initial success as seed money for his groundbreaking venture, Under Armour.

The idea for Under Armour sprang from Plank’s own experiences as an athlete. He was frustrated by the inability of his cotton T-shirts to keep him dry during intense physical activity. This frustration led him to search for a material that could effectively wick sweat away from the body. After graduation, Plank used a combination of personal funds, credit cards, and a Small Business Administration loan to launch Under Armour. He experimented with various prototypes before settling on the one that would become a game-changer in the sportswear industry.


Under Armour’s Success Story

Plank faced several challenges in the early days of Under Armour, including financial difficulties. In 1999, he used nearly all of the company’s money to run a $25,000 advertisement in ESPN The Magazine. This bold move paid off, resulting in $1 million in direct sales in the following year. Athletes and teams began buying Under Armour products, propelling the company to its first billion-dollar annual revenue milestone in 2010. Plank himself became a billionaire in 2011.

Plank’s leadership took Under Armour through a significant expansion phase, including the acquisition of activity- and diet-tracking mobile apps. Although there was skepticism within the company about these acquisitions, Plank’s personal involvement and commitment to the strategy proved to be a success, leading to the creation of the world’s largest digital health-and-fitness community.

As of December 2017, Under Armour generated $5 billion in annual revenue and employed around 15,800 people. However, in October 2019, Plank announced his departure as CEO, succeeded by Under Armour COO Patrik Frisk.

Philanthropy and Challenges

Outside of the business world, Kevin Plank is known for his philanthropic efforts. One notable example is his personal financing of a customized wheelchair for his former roommate, football player, and professional wrestler Darren Drozdov, who became quadriplegic after an accident in 1999.

Recently, Plank faced legal challenges in connection with Under Armour. Shareholders alleged that the company artificially inflated its share price, resulting in losses for investors. Kevin Plank and journalist Stephanie Ruhle, who was questioned in the case, were both entangled in controversy.


Kevin Plank’s journey from humble beginnings to the founder of a billion-dollar sportswear empire is an inspirational story of unwavering dedication, creative innovation, and risk-taking. His life serves as a reminder that success often stems from resilience and the ability to adapt to challenges. While Plank’s career is not without controversy, his legacy in the world of sportswear and his philanthropic endeavors remain an integral part of his inspiring journey.


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