As sports teams and leagues try to figure out protocols to safely return to action during the coronavirus pandemic, Under Armour might just have one of the solutions and Reebok might not be far behind.
Baltimore-based Under Armour’s UA Sportsmask quickly sold out in less than an hour when it launched last week, according to multiple news reports, and is now available for pre-order with product shipping by Aug. 17. The reusable, water-resistant performance face mask is designed for maximum breathability. Under Armour said this “first-of-its-kind mask” functions to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets by the wearer. The top of the mask features a moldable nose-bridge to help secure it in place and mitigate airflow to the eyes, helping to prevent glasses from fogging.
The UA Sportsmask features an innovative three-layer design engineered for athletes during performance. It can also be washed and dried, making it more eco-friendly than many single-use, disposable options.
The outer spacer fabric is light but has air pockets for structure, so it stays off the mouth and nose for better airflow. The open-cell foam breathable middle layer lets air through, but makes it hard for moisture and sweat to escape out. This inner layer is made from UA Iso-Chill fabric that feels cool against the skin, stretches and is treated with PROTX2, a non-metal anti-microbial technology that inhibits growth of bacteria on the mask.
Under Armour said PROTX2 has been shown in laboratory tests to destroy the coronavirus strain that causes COVID-19 and is being reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to confirm the efficacy of the substance as it is applied to the UA Sportsmask. Under Armour also has a patent pending on its design and construction of the mask.
The seeds for the UA Sportsmask were planted in mid-March when Under Armour began manufacturing face masks designed by its innovation team and distributing millions of units of personal protective equipment (PPE) to health care and community organizations to help fight the spread of COVID-19. During this process, Under Armour founder Kevin Plank recognized a need for performance solutions that would support athletes navigating the pandemic climate. He called on the innovation team in Baltimore, equipped with their recent mask-making experience, to join him in finding a way forward, and quickly.
“As soon as we finalized the design of our face mask for PPE, we dove straight into the innovation process of optimizing a mask for performance,” said Kyle Blakely, vice president of materials innovation at Under Armour. “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.”
Because of social distancing restrictions, the company went back to its roots during the mask construction phase. Plank’s design and Blakely’s materials were sent to Ella Mae Holmes, an Under Armour seamstress and the company’s third employee, who helped develop the brand’s original compression shirt. Holmes got to work sewing mask prototypes out of her Baltimore home. With input and testing from teammates across product development, Under Armour found success in the 13th iteration of the mask.
“Experience told us that fabric and performance had to be our first focus, so we set out to find a fabric combination that created structure to ensure the mask would stand off the face and offer maximum breathability,” Blakely said. “We applied learnings in fit, feel, and ease and speed of manufacturing from the face mask we created for PPE purposes. Throughout it all, the speed of the design process and a meticulous eye to quality and details were paramount.”
As part of the launch, Under Armour will be distributing the UA Sportsmask to student athletes in its hometown locations across the globe. This is part of the company’s ongoing efforts to protect the health and well-being of all athletes, who are diligently waiting and preparing for the full return of sports.
“At Under Armour, we always want to be part of the solution, especially during this extremely challenging time,” said Under Armour CEO Patrik Frisk. “We specifically designed this mask for athletes and for all of us who want to exercise and train while also keeping ourselves, and those around us, safe.”
The UA Sportsmask is available for $30 at UA.com. Stretchy ear loops and side panels offer a comfortable and custom-like fit across four size options. Additional colors of the mask will be released this summer and fall, alongside Under Armour retail releases in countries worldwide.
New Balance, which has produced more than 1 million general-use face masks for the healthcare community since the brand began production in late March, also launched a newly designed face mask this week for sale to the general public called the NB Face Mask V3.
In the coming weeks, New Balance said it also plans to sell an athletics-ready face mask. Assembly of the NB Face Mask V3 will take place in the company’s Lawrence, Mass., factory.
The new NB Face Mask V3 is a tri-layer, lightweight and breathable, non-sterile physical barrier face mask with moldable nose piece. The three layers consist of a combination of polyester/TPU, suede polyester fabric, a polyurethane filtration foam and nylon tricot. The NB Face Mask V3 is washable, secures with over-ear loops and will be sold in packs of three for $24.99 on newbalance.com.
Puma also launched reusable face masks, which it is selling in packs of two. Offered in black and bearing the words “Stronger Together” encircling the Puma logo, the masks are made with a nylon/spandex blend, three layers of protection and offer adjustable straps to keep wearers “cool and protected.” Some of the proceeds from mask purchases will be earmarked for PUMA’s pledge of €100,000 ($113,000) to the U.N. Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization.