Sport Innovation/IMG & Under Armour in Combine360 deal

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Under Armour and IMG Academies announced on November 2nd, 2009 that they are forming a partnership to develop a unique comprehensive athletic training platform that will establish a global measurement standard for improved sports performance, health and fitness for youth athletic performance called “Combine360.” By utilizing the performance and training expertise of Under Armour and IMG Performance, Combine360 would measure and record sport-specific ability and mental aptitude, nutritional level, ability to communicate and a variety of other performance disciplines allowing athletes of all abilities from across the world to compare their scores.

The idea behind Combine360 came from a meeting between Plank and Pyne in March. When Pyne invited Plank and his executives to Bradenton for two days, where they trained at IMG’s facilities and then brainstormed the new model.

As part of the new venture, beginning in early 2010, Under Armour and IMG Performance hosted over 100 combines at regional sites across the country. Staffed by some of the world’s top performance specialists from Under Armour and the IMG Performance Institute, the combines lay the foundation for a consistent platform for athletic analysis. This partnership will also help establish testing metrics, training methodology, certification standards and continuing educational programs to maximize athletic development and performance potential. The focal points of the integrated training platform are at three levels: 90 (Core Physical), 180 (Sports-Specific Physical) and 360 (Advanced Elements). These tests include physical conditioning, muscle regeneration, nutrition, sports medicine and anthropometric assessments. IMG is already a leader in training young athletes at its IMG Academies, and Under Armour can now be heavily involved with that Bradenton, Fla., facility, including supplying apparel, footwear and accessories.

To kick off the partnership and showcase the multi-sport applications of this joint initiative, Under Armour and IMG Performance in conjunction with the Dynamic Sports Academy (DSA) hosted a special grassroots combine for dedicated football, soccer and rugby players (ages 8-18) on Saturday, October 24th at DSA's base at London’s Finsbury Park Stadium in conjunction with the NFL game in London between the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Over 250 talented athletes participated in the first-ever program. The head of the IMG Performance Institute’s Strength and Conditioning program, Jeff Dillman, along with performance specialist Corey Stenstrup, and the Head of Mental Conditioning, Dr. Angus Mugford all crossed the Atlantic to work with some of the UK’s young athletic talent. Athletes attending the combine got some hands on coaching and sport skill work from some of the best coaches out there, including IMG’s own Director of the IMG Soccer Academy - Tom Durkin, in addition to Drew Brees’ Strength Coach and head of the Under Armour Performance Training Council Todd Durkin, Big E, Eric Ogbogu, who is the face of Under Armour and Under Armour Combines coach Noel Mazzone.

The venture puts Under Armour’s brand in front of young athletes and fits with the company’s performance-brand mission as it moves into new areas of the apparel business. IMG, meanwhile, as an established player in the training business, has benefits to gain by partnering with a youth-oriented brand. The pairing also underscores the profit potential to be made in youth sports, though the direct financial benefit for both groups was not immediately clear.

Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank described the term “combine” as a type of training.

“First and foremost, our goal is to have the word ‘combine’ replace training,” he said. Questioned how the company would make money on the endeavor, Plank responded, “This is a tent pole for our business and for our brand. We are building relationships with our consumers.” [4].

There will be three types of combines under the Combine360 concept. One will test core physical attributes; the second will test sport-specific skills; and the third will test a wide range of elements such as mental toughness, nutrition and reactive times. At the end of the testing, the participant gets a score, something that IMG’s Pyne said will be the athletic equivalent of an SAT score.

IMG Academies planned to rebrand its training center, currently called IMG Performance Institute, to IMG Performance Training. IMG Academies at the time of the announcement were also considering adding three new sports, Pyne said: football, lacrosse and women’s softball, each of which has an established presence in the Under Armour Combines program. IMG Academies currently offers tennis, golf, soccer, baseball and basketball [4[.

Pyne said the new business relationship would not affect its agents, who negotiate with a wide array of sneaker and apparel companies on behalf of their clients. IMG has a fiduciary duty to its clients, Pyne said, so the company would not steer athletes to sign an Under Armour endorsement because of the company’s new ties to IMG [4].

Next: C360 Introduction