Under Armour debuts face mask for athletes

Under Armour unveiled a new performance-focused face mask Thursday, seeking to make exercise in gyms and in groups safer for athletes without restricting their breathing.

Under Armour debuts face mask for athletes

Health officials widely encourage the wearing of masks to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. The virus is often spread through respiratory droplets, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says wearing a face covering can help prevent the droplets from infecting others.

In the age of Covid-19, many people have resorted to creating their own masks from old t-shirts, or buying them from smaller makers online. More recently, bigger retailers such as Gap have also developed their own.

Under Armour’s UA Sportsmask takes a new approach, specifically seeking to serve athletes by making its mask more breathable and designed for exercise. Most masks currently on the market are oppressive and hot and could make for an uncomfortable training experience for athletes, especially heading into the summer.

In announcing its new product, Under Armour showed some local and national athletes wearing the Sportsmask while exercising. They include Baltimore-based basketball program Team Thrill, lacrosse midfielder Taylor Cummings and NFL wide receiver Deonte Harris, a Baltimore native who most recently played for the New Orleans Saints.The performance mask is another example of how the sportswear company is all-in on products made specifically for athletes, compared to other brands like Nike and Adidas, which have focused more heavily on casual and more fashionable apparel known as athleisure wear.

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, Under Armour (NYSE: UAA) was losing market share in North America, its biggest region, as more consumers have gravitated toward athleisure over performance apparel. In light of the global health pandemic, CEO Patrik Frisk said last month he expects the company could see a boost from people focusing on health, fitness and wellness at home. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Under Armour’s biggest wholesale partner, has said the same.

The new UA Sportsmask was developed by Under Armour’s innovation team developed shortly after the company began manufacturing regular face masks, as well as face shields and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care and community organizations in mid-March.

“We knew our athletes would need us to come through quickly with a solve to aid their return to training, one that would put health and safety first and adhere to current CDC guidelines,” said Kyle Blakely, vice president of materials innovation at Under Armour.

The new UA Sportsmask is made up of three layers;

Closest to the face is a stretchy fabric called UA ISO-CHILL, intended to feel cool against the skin. It is treated with anti-microbial technology called PROTX2, which inhibits growth of bacteria on the mask.

In the middle is open-cell foam, a breathable material designed to let air through but not moisture and sweat.

On the outside is spacer fabric, which Under Armour describes as light and soft with air pockets for structure to keep it off the mouth and nose, creating better airflow.

According to a release from Under Armour, the anti-microbial PROTX2 has been shown in laboratory tests to “destroy Covid-19” and is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to confirm its effectiveness in the new mask.

UA Sportsmask is also water-resistant and reusable. It is held in place with stretchy ear loops and includes a moldable nose-bridge to keep air from going up and fogging glasses. It also has side panels for additional coverage.

Under Armour is selling the masks for $30 online. They come in four sizes and for now, and only in black. Additional colors are expected to released later this summer and fall, along with a worldwide in-store release. As part of the launch, Under Armour is also distributing some of the masks to student athletes.

The new product comes shortly after Under Armour began the gradual reopening of its North American stores on May 28 after a prolonged closure due to the pandemic. The company reported in May that it saw sales plunge 23% in the first quarter, resulting in a $590 million loss. That’s on top of the $15 million loss the sportswear maker suffered in the fourth quarter, also due to Covid-19.

Under Armour also finds itself amid a myriad of other struggles. Most recently, one of the company’s largest institutional shareholders disclosed that it began selling off millions of shares of Under Armour stock, down to just a 2.5% stake, before the pandemic even began in the U.S.

This news was originally published at bizjournals.com