Under Armour CEO, Kevin Plank at CES 2017 (Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)
“Every great brand is like a great story. Every great story is made up of chapters in a book,” Kevin Plank told an audience gathered at CES in Las Vegas. The billionaire chairman and CEO of sports retailer, Under Armour, delivered a keynote at the 2017 conference to show off his company’s new gadgets, including a smart-shoe and a line of sleepwear to help athletes recover after intense exercise.
Although Plank shared the stage with famous athletes and personalities such as Michael Phelps and sleep advocate Arianna Huffington, it was Plank the storyteller who wowed his audience.
Beginning at the four-minute mark in Plank’s CES presentation, he shared the story of how Under Armour came to be and how his personal story reflects the brands’ promise today. Kevin Plank’s keynote will teach you how personal stories fit in a business presentation.
Use specific, vivid details to transport your audience.
“All companies begin as an idea. My idea was simple. I was an athlete. I was a college football player. I wasn’t the biggest and I wasn’t the fastest, but I had a huge passion; a passion to be on that team. I wanted to run out of that tunnel. I wanted to be a part of it, a part of something bigger,” Plank began. That passion did put him on the field the University of Maryland. He vividly remembers practicing in the summer of 1995.
“It was hot on the east coast. You know what that humidity feels like. That heavy, heavy deep heat. That year, nine of my teammates had been treated for dehydration. Wearing heavy, sweat-soaked, drenched, cotton T-shirts. Why hasn’t anyone made a better alternative to that wet, cotton T-shirt? I thought.”
“That original insight was simple and pure,” Plank continued. “That’s where my passion met with my curiosity and the entrepreneurial spirit took over: to build something bigger, a better T-shirt. One that would keep athletes dry and light.” Plank didn’t know anything about apparel, so he hopped in his 1992 Ford Explorer and drove north to New York City’s garment district to learn more. The company, he said, was started “brick by brick,” literally. “It began on a dining room table in the basement of a brick rowhouse owned by grandmother in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.”
I don’t know what it’s like to play football for a Division I college, but I know what the east coast heat feels like in summer. I can picture a young man with a dream driving north in his 1995 Ford Explorer, or working at the dining room table in his grandmother’s brick rowhouse.
Small details add authenticity to personal stories, transporting the audience to another place and time.
Favor pictures over words.
While Plank delivers the personal story behind the founding of Under Armour, every slide is a photo. There are no words or bullet points. The slides show Plank playing football at several stages in his life. They show his grandmother’s brick rowhouse. They show photos of sweat-drenched players on the field during his playing days at Maryland.
Text gets in the way of a personal story unless, of course, the text is a key component of the story. Otherwise, use more pictures. Under Armour’s CEO uses photos to transport his audience. You should do the same. The more personal the photos, the better.
Connect the struggle with the brand’s values.
Plank doesn’t end the story by simply concluded that he developed a better way for athletes to stay dry. He infuses the brand narrative with purpose and meaning. “We don’t just make products, we solve problems,” Plank says. “Our mission is to make all athletes better, through passion, design, and the relentless pursuit of innovation…“We’re not just a logo slapped on a shirt or a shoe. Brand is a culture and that culture has the power to make you feel invincible.”
Wow. Who doesn’t want to feel invincible?
In seven minutes Plank brought us on a journey, from sweat-drenched playing fields, to the dining room table in the basement of a brick rowhouse, from $17,000 in revenue in his first year to a nearly $5 billion company today. Kevin Plank makes you feel unstoppable.
If you turn to the Twitter feed during Plank’s presentation, you’ll see words such as: “passion,” “inspiring,” and “goosebumps.” These are all “feeling” words. A great presentation has the ability to make people feel differently about you and your brand. And no technique makes someone feel as deeply as a strong personal story.