Under Armour -- 3 Signs Stephen Curry Is Having a Profound Impact

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Golden State Warrior's star point guard Stephen Curry is now an NBA champion, which is music to the ears of one large company.

Curry's sponsor Under Armour (UA) will likely look to capitalize quickly on the young phenom's growing popularity, which is at an all-time high following a widely publicized NBA championship series. But, make no mistake, Under Armour was well on its way to cashing in on Curry fever before his biggest ever pro win. 

In February, Under Armour launched the Curry One basketball sneaker line. It is the athletic-wear maker's first signature basketball sneaker, taking aim at Nike's (NKE) Michael Jordan brand and other formidable athlete sponsors including Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Curry's competitor in this year's playoffs, Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James. The sneaker launched with six different styles at an affordable price of $120, which is almost half the price of some of Nike's top Jordan basketball sneaker lines.

Since the well-received launch of sneakers, the Curry brand has been splashed by Under Armour on t-shirts with motivational phrases, and performance socks. This summer, Under Armour will unveil a low-top version of its now sought-after Curry sneaker, likely a precursor to some holiday-season special editions. TheStreet takes a look at how Under Amour's new sports-star money maker was showing up in the world of retail and importantly, the company's growth before becoming a champ. 

A photo posted by Foot Locker (@footlocker) on


1. Retailers want to sell more Curry merchandise.

Prime spots on the sales floor of a specialty sneaker retailer are tough to come by as Nike tends to be a formidable foe with its signature basketball and running styles. That equates to Nike sneakers hanging on the walls, plastered on window ads and sitting in glass display cases at the center of these stores.

But Curry's popularity both on and off the court has caused at least one major sneaker retailer to consider offering more of its floor space to Under Armour. A decision to officially do so could be looming now that Curry is an NBA champion. 

"We have some things in discussion with Under Armour regarding vendor space," said Foot Locker (FLCEO Dick Johnson at an analyst event held in mid-February. The comments came after a favorable response by consumers to the Curry One that was available at Foot Locker.

Foot Locker did not respond to a request for comment for this story. Its main competitor in the mall, Finish Line (FINL), declined to comment citing quiet-period restrictions ahead of its June 26 earnings release.

The relative affordability of Curry sneakers and related apparel, as well as his appeal amongst everyday kids, could also lead it into a department store such as J.C. Penney (JCP), whose shoe section is heavily dominated by Nike. While J.C. Penney has no current agreements in place with Under Armour, the retailer said it would be open to doing so. 

"We have not announced a partnership with Under Armour, Curry One, or Jordan Spieth, but we are always open to exploring new design and brand partnerships if it makes sense for the J.C. Penney customer," said a Penney company spokeswoman via email.

2. A new product launch crashes the Under Armour Web site, and is already being resold on eBay (EBAY).

On June 13, Under Armour released the Curry One "MVP" sneaker, the first of two new editions due out in the month. Minutes after the release, according to Complex, the Under Armour Web site faced technical issues after being hobbled by high traffic.

With the new "MVP" sneaker selling out quickly amid serious consumer interest, it has spurred an aftermarket on eBay.  As of June  17, Curry One "MVP" sneakers are now being hawked on the marketplace Web site for a range of $399 to $600, more than four times the retail price. Prior editions of the Curry One, which hit the market priced at $120, are also on display on eBay, fetching about $180 to $230.

The next Curry One release is called the "Father to Son," and arrives on June 20. The Apple product-like reception to the "MVP" edition could spur even more interest in the "Father to Son," now that Curry has a place in sports history.  It could also perhaps cause Under Armour to raise prices on future styles to capitalize on the frenzy.

3. Under Armour's footwear sales are surging.

First-quarter footwear sales for Under Armour increased 41% to $161 million, with footwear now representing 20% of Under Armour's total business. The company's basketball business had been hovering around $100 million in annual sales prior to the release of the Curry One sneakers in February. Sales growth in footwear is likely to quicken in the second quarter, and into the holidays, as folks gobble up the latest Curry merchandise.

Under Armour's founder and CEO Kevin Plank has gone on record as saying the company wants to build a billion-dollar basketball business.  A consistent stream of new signature basketball sneakers, apparel and accessories will go a long way toward feeding that ambition. So will a greater presence of the Curry brand at places such as Foot Locker and new places, such as J.C. Penney.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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