Without a doubt one the big stories playing out this year in the sports apparel and footwear category will focus on Under Armour's entrance into the athletic trainer category, a category long dominated by Nike. By now we all now the humble beginnings of the Maryland-based company--launched by a UM student who was seeking a new kind of "performance" gear, and the rest is history. Essentially, Under Armour created a new category that was received exceptionally well by the market, the target being young athletes mostly between the ages of 12 and 24. It's hard to attend a high school or college practice of a football, soccer, baseball, wrestling--whatever, and not see a decent number of those kids wearing Under Armour gear. If you look back a few years, it seems like they kind of caught the behemoths off guard a bit and created a nice little niche for themselves. Perhaps Nike should have tried to acquire them five year ago? Who knows, may be they did try and were denied. Now comes the next step and the biggest challenge to date for a company that is yet to break the billion dollar sales barrier, conquering the athletic trainer category. It's a bold move to say the least. Being a public company, UA is under intense pressure from shareholders and the investment community to grow. They already own about half the market for performance gear and as we first mentioned about six months ago, they've been making substantial strides in the women's performance category. It's almost like they didn't have any other choice but to enter an entirely new category to stimulate aggressive growth. In an Applesque mystique, UA will introduce their new line of trainers this Sunday with their first ever 60 second spot during the Super Bowl. That's a big deal for a company that has a limited media spend compared to Nike or Adidas. Hoopla aside, the real question is whether UA can gain traction in the category and how fast the traction will come. So, that said, here's our prediction...if the new trainers can parallel the unique characteristics of their apparel line, it's not unreasonable to think UA won't capture at least a 25% share of the athletic trainer market within two years. If the new line doesn't offer that same type of innovation widely seen in their apparel line, then perhaps running that multimillion dollar spot during the biggest television event of the year wasn't such a smart move after all. We'll see.