Under Armour's Purchase Of MyFinessPal: What Happened To My Data?

Like 80 million others, I use MyFitnessPal to log my calories and workouts. I've been doing this for about three years. MyFitnessPal made news last week when it was acquired byUnder Armour. I'm sitting here thinking two things: 1) Should I panic? 2) I'm so glad I didn't link my Nike Fuelband (not compatible) or Withings Body Analyzer (just hadn't gotten to it yet) with MyFitnessPal. I also had a MapMyFitness (acquired by Under Armour for $150M in 2013) account, but I hadn't used it as much. I always thought I'd have control over how my data was combined and by whom it would be consumed. There is simply a future promise "to deliver more impactful services and experiences."

I always knew this would be a risk. I downloaded a free app and willingly uploaded data to it. As an analyst, I also knew at some point that they would need to monetize their audience (yes, they now have ads in the app) and would want a return on their asset: data. Aside from my personal issues, as an analyst, I'm curious about the $475 million paid by Under Armour.

Two things matter in mobile: audience and data. MyFitnessPal has both.

  1. Audience matters because consumers are using fewer and fewer applications on their mobile devices. Brands can no longer pursue a "destination" strategy and expect consumers will come to them. They need to go engage consumers where they are. Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp for19B gave us a sense of just how valuable audience depth, reach and usage is.
  • Data matters because it helps us simplify or improve mobile experiences by anticipating the needs of customers or to improve the value of advertising - if you are monetizing your app that way. Under Armour just paid475M for MyFitnessPal for the audience, food database and personal data.
  • Both Under Armour and MyFitnessPal are celebrating. But, what about my data?

    The truth is, there are lots of players that *might* have acquired MyFitnessPal that worry me even more: one of the internet giants that already has too much information about me or an insurance company, who might use its data to evaluate claims -- or worse, assess insurability. I worry most about what dots are being connected.

    At least UnderArmour is a business that has never wavered from its commitment to supporting athletes, servicemen, and civil servants with technically superior products.

    To myself, and my Forrester colleague Fatemeh Khatibloo, Under Armour recognizes an important opportunity in the fitness market: "app overload". This is the sense that we all just have too many apps, and too many have redundant qualities. Most of us tend not to have especially deep loyalties to these myriad tools, so we might have three fitness apps on our device, collecting significantly similar data, but each with different data visualizations or other features that make them unique.

    If UnderArmour can successfully consolidate, standardize, and resolve the data that sits within MyFitnessPal and MapMyFitness, here's what it wins:

    • First, it becomes the fitness destination for 120 million users of fitness apps. This is what we mean by "intelligent agents," or services that consolidate an individual's data from many sources, but within a single "category." [this needs more explanation and fleshing out]
    • Second, it has created the most valuable focus group (for its category) on the planet. UnderArmour now has the ability to study actual behavior data, not just self-reported data, with respect to how frequently people exercise, how/where/when they exercise, and the full spectrum of consumer- and professional-level fitness activities. From a product development/product marketing perspective, this is priceless.
    • Finally, if UnderArmour decides to monetize the consolidated data from the apps it has acquired, it would be a tremendously valuable entrant in the global data economy. And this could all be done in a privacy-compliant way: the firm could, for example, sell city or state governments data about running/biking/hiking trail usage. It could help urban planners understand actual use of city paths to help them optimize energy usage (eg, one path might be more trafficked, therefore need better nighttime lighting), plan for future bike lanes, etc.