Warschawski and Under Armour: Building the Most Successful American IPO Debut in the Past Five Years: Warschawski for Under Armour
Under Armour, a performance apparel maker, had grown steadily since its founding in 1996, but it did not have much brand recognition outside of its own industry and area to go along with that. The company reached out to Warschawski – located, like Under Armour, in Baltimore – to help make the company a premier brand in the sports apparel industry in preparation for an IPO.
Although the company’s $49 million in net revenues made it only a tiny player compared to industry titans like Nike, it wanted to shift its reputation to one of an established and powerful company in order to ensure that branding was a strong differentiating factor when the time came for the IPO.
Warschawski came up with a two-pronged strategy. First, it sought to target the consumer market with a goal of growing the company’s revenue at least 50% each year. Second, it would target the business community to position Under Armour as one of the hottest brands in its sector among the financial movers and shakers.
Research revealed that Under Armour’s media coverage in the past had been close to nonexistent, particularly in the business press. Warschawski launched a media relations campaign targeting key sectors, such as sports and fitness publications, trade media, key consumer outlets, and the most prestigious national newspapers, magazines, and TV shows. The agency also entered the company in to several awards competitions in order to help it build a credible national profile.
The media campaign was an overwhelming success, securing more than 1.5 billion impressions over the course of four years. Highlights included an Inc. magazine award and cover story, endorsement from CEOs of retail outlets, a doubling in the number of outlets carrying Under Armour, and an 800% increase in revenue over the four years of the campaign.
The company’s IPO in late 2005 was wildly successful, with the stock rising from $13 to $31 per share on the first day of trading. It has continued to appreciate since that time, and the strength of the company’s brand, as a result of Warschawski’s work, has been widely credited as a central factor for the IPO’s success.
Judges cited the strong financial results and the agency’s success in accomplishing its stated objectives as key factors in the strength of the campaign.
Hill & Knowlton and Pacific Ethanol: Igniting a Stock and a Sector: Making Pacific Ethanol a Leader
Pacific Ethanol (PE), the only pure-play ethanol producer in America, should have been in a good position to reap the benefits of being an alternative energy producer as gas prices skyrocketed in fall 2005. But its stock price was stuck at around $8 a share, and interest in the company was minimal. Hill & Knowlton stepped in to raise awareness of the company among financial analysts and investors, and to boost interest in buying the stock. PE had no internal PR staff, so H&K worked directly with CEO Neil Koehler to position the company as a leader in alternative energy. Using the media, as well as meetings with analysts and high-profile conference appearances, H&K helped boost the company’s stock more than 450% over the course of eight months and multiply trading volume more than a hundred times. Judges deemed H&K’s role in the company’s explosive growth worthy of praise.
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