Under Armour frees up marketing to focus on creative efforts with Adobe Cloud Service

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez April 6, 2020
Summary:
Performance company Under Armour has moved its digital asset management platform to Adobe Experience Manager as a Cloud Service.

Image of a woman exercising wearing the Under Armour brand
(Image sourced via Under Armour website)

With the increased variety of channels and rich media available, marketers face a huge challenge in delivering relevant digital content to audiences and customers, at the right time. Under Armour, the international ‘performance’ brand, was grappling with exactly this, with its digital asset management platform managing 500,000 assets being used by 225 daily active users. 

Speaking at Adobe (virtual) Summit, Ben Snyder, product analyst at Under Armour, explained that the company wanted to free up more time for marketers to spend on creative endeavours, rather than worrying about a platform that plugged into multiple data sources and systems and was experiencing sluggish download times. 

However, Under Armour has since moved to Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) as a Cloud Service, which has not only speeded up operations for marketing, but has also enabled teams to use automated functions - such as cropping and tagging. 

Snyder explained that the Adobe AEM as a Cloud Service enables the company to bring together the needs of both IT and marketing. He said: 

It’s a performance company, striving every day to make you better. Today I’m going to be talking about how marketing and IT can come together to provide a great platform for operations. 

What does marketing want? They want great search, they want reusable content, they want to have great reporting, they want to be able to integrate to the tools they’re using, and they also want to have more creative time to get great results.

What is IT operations looking for? They’re looking for governance around the data that’s going into the platform, tying into existing data sources, having continuous product updates, reducing development time, automated testing rules, and great API integration that tie external systems in easily.

As noted above, Under Armour has about 500,000 assets on its platform, using approximately 12TB of disk usage a day. It also has 7,000 styles that it has to multiply across all the assets it is delivering for those styles, and on the average day has approximately 225 daily users coming onto the platform to carry out downloads.

Moving to Cloud as a Service

Prior to moving to Adobe AEM Cloud as a Service, Under Armour first needed to make the move to Adobe Cloud Manager, which is a tool that’s offered if you’re an Adobe Media Server customer, and enables automated testing suites. For example, it gives you performance testing, security testing, code quality, etc. 

However, Cloud as a Service is what Under Armour was after, as it enables the use of microservices, auto-upgrades and ensures performance with auto-scaling. 

Under Cloud Manager, uploads happen directly to an AEM instance hosted by Adobe Managed Services in one regional AWS Zone. Whereas under Cloud as a Service, uploads go through the Content Delivery Network before ending up in AEM as a cloud service. 

Snyder explained some of the benefits of shifting from Cloud Manager to Cloud as a Service. He said: 

Previously we were an AMS customer and we had one of the larger AWS instances to handle the peaks and valleys of asset processing. But most of the time it would not be fully utilised, because we were not constantly publishing assets there. But now in the current Cloud Services environment, we are able to farm that out to microservices and infinitely scale up the platform to allow us to process assets. Where there are 1,000 or five pieces of photography. 

The Content Delivery Network also really helped us. When you think about our AWS instance, it was in a regional zone. So if you were on the other side of the world, those uploads could be slower. We saw improvements of easily 50%. This frees up the librarian to do other parts of their job that don’t involve just getting assets into the system. 

As an example, the auto scaling helped when Under Armour’s marketing team was distributing updated email signature templates to its global teammates. On a ‘normal’ day, the DAM platform usually averaged around 250 unique users coming into the system to download assets. But on that day, when the update email signature templates were distributed, the DAM platform saw a spike of up to 2,100 users.

Snyder said: 

A great example of where scaling helped us provide a great experience to our teammates.

In addition to this, the use of containers has helped for rolling code deployments. Snyder said: 

In the previous environment we would have to shut down our services anytime we needed to do a code deployment, or performancing indexing within the system, and then bring that back up when we had a version two of software that we needed to deploy. 

Whereas in the cloud services environment we are able to do that via containers, so we stand up a new container and switch it out once it’s ready to go. As a result there’s zero downtime for our users. We have no need to schedule monthly maintenance or any of those standard tasks.

Free time for value add

Snyder explained that the new set-up also allows different teams - creatives and those on the back-end - to use tools that they’re used to using, benefiting from syncing via AEM Connector. For example, the connector connects to Workfront and AEM seamlessly, allowing teams to focus on what’s important. He said: 

The AEM connector is a tool that lets you connect AEM and Workfront to be able to synchronise assets between the platforms. What this is going to enable us to do is really allow our creative team and the tools that they’re used to using [to keep doing so], but now they can upload assets through Adobe Asset Link. And then on the back end, our creative directors and project managers will be able to use the proofing and approval tools that they’re used to using within Workfront - and keep those comments and approval statuses in sync between the platforms.

Snyder said that having this new infrastructure in place allows the marketing operations team to be able to be smarter with their creative efforts. A lot of this is being done through new ‘smart’ tools that are made possible because of operating in Cloud as a Service. He said: 

We are also really excited now that we are able to have really great conversations with the dynamic media team to start to use Smart Crop for some cool use cases around croppings for social platforms like Instagram or Twitter. And really provide a great experience to automate those processes and use AI to provide croppings through our asset platform. 

Again, we are talking to the Adobe Sensei teams about providing a great way to auto-tag our assets within the DAM and provide a great experience for our users on downstream systems, like our ua.com teammates or our mobile teammates, to provide great SEO around the content they’re producing. Or provide really personalised experiences for our end users.

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