Building a digital asset management loop at Under Armour

Under Armour product analyst shares the journey the performance products manufacturer has been on to get its digital asset management ducks in order

Having an integrated, dynamic and highly automated content pipeline has become a reality for the team at Under Armour after shifting its digital asset management platform to the cloud and uniting its asset ecosystem across marketing and IT operations.

Under Armour product analyst, Ben Snyder, spoke about the sports clothing and products manufacturer’s efforts to get its digital asset management (DAM) ducks in order during the recent Adobe Summit online.

To do this, the company has moved its Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) platform to the cloud, first adopting Adobe Cloud Manager then AEM-as-a-service in order to connect the dots between DAM capabilities and data repositories, front-end marketing and content management applications, and its UA.com and mobile app offerings.   

Under Armour has more than 500,000 digital assets, some 12TB of data, and often has 7000 product styles each season. Its asset share portal, which is built on Asset Share Commons within the Adobe Marketing Cloud, has about 60,000 downloads per month and 225 daily active users.

Previously, Under Armour’s asset management, data sources, project management and applications set-up was only loosely integrated and not taking advantage of the cloud. This resulted in many manual steps and restricted more automated and dynamic rendering of assets.

Snyder said from a marketing operations perspective, business priorities to meet included great asset search, reusable content, solid reporting and published tracking of assets throughout the lifecycle. It was also important the DAM integrated directly with tools marketing and creative teams are using.

The overarching objective was to free up marketers and creatives “to have more time to do the things they need to do to provide a great result”, he said.

On the IT operations side, comprehensive governance rules around data going into the platform was a must, as was the ability to seamlessly tie together different data sources. Other objectives were ensuring continuous product updates and upgrades, reducing development time, automation where possible, ensuring great API integration and gaining ability to tie other systems into Under Armour’s ecosystem.

By way of example, Snyder noted improvements to photography partners uploading into the platform. “We were looking to automate around the metadata being applied in that step,” he explained.

Under Armour is using Workfront’s project management software for tasks like automating metadata assigned from trades briefs, and approval and project management. It was important to tie this into product lifecycle management software, and the company’s master data management (MDM) platform, automating product information shown alongside that asset.

“On the publishing side, we wanted to publish out to Dynamic Media [digital asset publishing tool] for consumption by our mobile apps or UA.com website, then have that tied into our asset share platform for dynamic rendition support. This allows wholesale partners to dynamically resize photography or request in different file formats,” Snyder said.

“From a user perspective, it’s then about providing standardised marketing projects through templates and systems. We wanted automated file structure and assets based on the templates, and user permissions in publishing automation.”  

Under Armour’s asset share portal for internal and external use is built on Asset Share Commons, an overlay for AEM. As well as capabilities such as bulk search and download, and dynamic rendition of assets, a range of metadata is now being automatically assigned to Under Armour’s digital assets thanks to the integration work. This includes creative brief and project details, category of product, product owners, athlete name, creator tools, project name and market, and more. The application also sets asset expiry dates and features usage statistics.

In addition, users of the asset share platform can see individual search pages, collections that have been created, FAQs, and filter down to asset details based on the metadata assigned.

In terms of the content pipeline, Snyder noted integrations between Workfront and PLM software provide external data sources that are standardised, allowing it to assign metadata in an automated workflow.

A Workfront AEM connector syncs up assets between DAM project folders, while Adobe Asset Link connects tools such as Photoshop and Illustrator into the ecosystem, creating a dynamic loop of applications.

To achieve all this, Under Armour moved its back-end systems to Adobe Cloud Manager and AEM-as-a-service. Snyder said these have helped Under Armour accelerate time to market, better ensure performance of its DAM, and gain flexibility around deployments and accelerated asset processing. In turn, these are integrated with Dynamic Media, allowing the software to automatically detect and crop to focal points in images and video and push assets our quickly to a wide array of media.  

And it’s the use of microservices built into the cloud offering that gives Under Armour “infinite scale, allowing us to process assets whether it’s thousands or five pieces of photography”, Snyder said.

He cited improvements of about 50 per cent, with uploading a 450MB file from 35 seconds to 16 seconds, thanks to its new cloud approach. Easily scaled up and down capability in the back end also recently helped the marketing team distribute fresh email signature templates to global teammates more seamlessly.

“Usually, we average 225 unique users a day downloading from the asset share portal. We had a spike to 2100 users on the day the email communications went out to global teammates. Dynamic scaling really helped us to provide a good experience to our team mates,” Snyder said.

“Now we have this great infrastructure, we are freed up to talk to our marketing operations team about enabling smarter creative.”

One project in Snyder’s sights is harnessing several Adobe Sensei artificial intelligence (AI) tools, such as smart crop and tagging, to further automate the content pipeline.

“We are having great conversations with the Dynamic Media team to use smart crop for use cases like social cropping in platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, and provide a great, automated experience, using AI to provide cropping throughout our asset share platform,” he said.  

Overall, Snyder said the work done to create Under Armour’s circular digital asset management loop benefitted every part of the business, through to external partners and end users.

“This provides us with a great way to tag assets in the DAM and provide great experiences for users on downstream systems, such as our UA.com or mobile team mates, as well as great SEO around content or personalised experiences for our end user,” he said.  

“It’s a great complete picture that allows us to automate around these processes.”

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