Topher Gaylord on How Under Armour is Using Customer-Generated Data

February 26, 2018


Check out the full video interview with Topher Gaylord below

#DOCSF18 – Meet Topher Gaylord. Topher is the SVP and GM of the Run, Train, and Outdoor divisions of Under Armour. Topher talks with Bre Cunningham, CEO of CODE Technology about how Under Armour is using customer-generated data to build community and help customers reach their goals.


Bre Cunningham: Hi there, Bre Cunningham again here at DOCSF. I have the pleasure of interview Topher. Topher is at Under Armour. Tell us about your role at the organization.

Topher Gaylord: Great to be here, Bree. I work with Under Armour in Lead Three of our sport categories. I’m the Group General Manager for Training, Run and our Outdoor Categories. We look at Under Armour at all of our products through a lens of, “How will it impact? How will it make athletes better? How do we make each individual consumer better in the way they live their lives and their goals to have a healthy and well lived life.

Bre Cunningham: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Now, was that always the vision of Under Armour to utilize that data, or is this something that you’ve shifted over time? You’ve really pioneered the Sports Industry with this, Under Armour, everything at the Combine. The data utilization is amazing. How’d you get there?

Topher Gaylord: It’s really cool. I mean, we’ve got a great origin story. Kevin Plank is a very inspiring entrepreneur. It’s really one of the great American success stories. In 1996, he was a football player at the University of Maryland and really looked at technology through, what would be considered now, a traditional lens of technology using product apparel, in this case, a wicking shirt that would enhance the performance of on-field athletes across the world.

It was that insight of how you can unlock performance through simple apparel technology that spurred a way of operating inside the company, which has always been centered around looking for solutions to make athletes better and looking for technologies to make athletes better. By and large, the first 15 to 20 years were really dedicated to apparel and footwear solutions that could transform athletes’ performance. We’ve, in the last five to six years, really evolved our learning about athletes into how technology from the standpoint of data can unlock an athlete’s performance. To that end, we really look not only at an athlete’s experience at the moment they’re performing or training, but we look at the complete life of an athlete.

So, we look at how are they training, how are they competing on game day, but what are they doing for recovery, what are they doing for nutrition, and how are they living all 24 hours of their day. We started to build technology solutions that would tap into that 24 hours of an athlete’s life and building software platforms that would capture that data. Today we now have an online digital community of over 225 million in our community.

Bre Cunningham: Wow.

Topher Gaylord: So, we can start to see where athletes are having challenges in their training cycle, in their recovery cycle, in their competing cycle. Really, our solutions have been around, “How do we build a dashboard for athletes around the world that can capture all of those elements to their day in one centralized location? Then how can we use that data to help coach them and help inspire them and motivate them in the community?”

Bre Cunningham: Data utilization, so you’re collecting all this information, you have great things, you’re putting it into dashboards. What are some utilization stories?

Topher Gaylord: I mean, for us, we use some really simple things. For example, we were looking at runners. Just in the US alone, there’s about 58 million runners. It’s the most accessible sport in the US. Through our software app universe or ecosystem, we capture an enormous amount of data. We can see when people have injuries, when those injuries are leading to significant periods of time off, and we can correlate those to their weight, their height, the distance they’re running-

Bre Cunningham: Wow.

Topher Gaylord: … and all these different things. We also know that stride, and stride length, and cadence are one of the lead indicators of what can create injury for an athlete. We looked at that, and using that data, have developed an emerging sensor technology that we’re embedding into our shoes that can give a much more precise understanding of cadence, stride length and help ideally prevent injury in the future and give runners just an insight of what’s working, what’s not, and help coach them for that. We’re really looking at the data to help us create new solutions for athletes, and new solutions also within our products to make athletes better.

Bre Cunningham: I love it. I’m not a runner but I am an athlete, and I could see that data being super helpful. Let’s put the healthcare lens on here for a second. That data is also really interesting to an orthopedic surgeon. Right? If you’re like Doctor Bini and you want to take the best care of your patients, how are you incorporating that data with healthcare providers?

Topher Gaylord: It’s interesting. I think we’re still in the early phases. I think a lot of people in a lot of companies are in the early phases. I think about that moment a patient comes in and talks with a doctor. Today, they have no data to really provide to a doctor, so they’re just giving their subjective point-of-view of how they’re feeling. They may give either a negative bias to their view or a positive bias to their view, but it’s purely subjective. Most often an athlete isn’t really able to connect with their doctor until they do some standardized testing.

Imagine if a doctor could have the ability, and a patient would have the ability, to bring their entire dashboard of their life, their athletic life into a visit with an orthopedic surgeon and really see how are they using nutrition, how are they using recovery, how are they using training and competing. The data that comes along with all of those silos of their life, I think it can create a more robust picture for a surgeon or a doctor to really prescribe a path forward that can optimize their potential.

Bre Cunningham: I love it. They talked a lot about, in the earlier sessions of the conference, about technology that’s helpful and useful for surgeons in real time in work flow. All this great pieces of information, how do you package it and make sure that it’s usable for the surgeon? What’s Under Armour doing to make sure that it’s in the right format and usable for providers?

Topher Gaylord: We launched in 2016 what we call Health Box, and Health Box is basically our point-of-view of how we capture all of the elements of an athlete’s life into one consolidated platform that allows an athlete, in this case a patient, to come into a doctor and share with them their complete life in terms of how they’re pursuing their athletic pursuits. That can just create a much better interaction between the patient and the doctor to really get at the root cause and what the solutions could be for them.

Bre Cunningham: In 2018, what do you think is going to be the theme for Under Armour and the data behind your products?

Topher Gaylord: I think the big move in technology going forward is around friction-less experiences for consumers. Still today, you’ve got wearables, you’ve got apps, everyone’s rolling with their phones. Those are all good, but they create a lot of friction in a consumer’s life. So, we think that the frontier now is about friction-less experiences with technology. How do you embed technologies into your every day life to the point where you don’t feel them, you don’t notice them, you don’t know they’re there, but they’re constantly providing you feedback on how you’re moving throughout the course of your day. So, I think embeddables are a big focus in the future.

Bre Cunningham: I love it. How does one get access to that data from like the Combine that you guys have been collecting?

Topher Gaylord: Obviously, [crosstalk 00:09:07] there’s proprietary information. We scrutinize privacy, of course, both patient’s and consumer’s data.

Bre Cunningham: [crosstalk 00:09:18] and your athlete’s data-

Topher Gaylord: Yeah. Absolutely. We also recognize if there’s a power in recognizing trends, and we’re able to see some of those trends on a broader level.

Bre Cunningham: Right. From return to play to those little nuances, I can just imagine how helpful that is for athletes and the provider’s taking care of them.

Topher Gaylord: You know it.

Bre Cunningham: So exciting what you guys are doing. Can’t wait to listen to your speech.
Topher Gaylord: Well, looking forward to it.

Bre Cunningham: Thank you very much.

Topher Gaylord: Thank you, Bre.