For this edition of KTTP Unboxing Denise Jones and Rich Gordon open up the latest street soccer release from New Balance, the Audazo 4.0. We take a look at the details of the shoe as well as discuss the versatility of the silo. New Balance comes correct with a shoe that work equally as well on street courts as it does in the streets at large, blending functionality and aesthetics. Audazo means “bold” in Spanish and the kicks we open here definitely live up to their namesake. This pair comes in a vibrant combo of red suede and leather and sits on a gum outsole.
Have you ever heard of the “Red Sneaker Effect?” It basically says that if you wear red sneakers you are viewed as a noncoformist and a leader. People will respect you more and hold you in high regard. Here is a dope pair of red sneakers. Try them out and see how the people around you respond. Wearing these will get more passes sent your way when you are playing futsal, get you that job you are interviewing for, and will you secure a date with that attractive person in the produce section at Whole Foods, it’s science. Make sure to head over to newbalance.com to grab a pair.
Recently we talked to Southern California native and River Plate forward Jordan O’Brien about her soccer journey that has taken her all over the country and now across continents. She talks about everything from growing up playing with the boys to her love for checkered Vans. Peep the BTS video, photoshoot and convo below.
It has always been a thing since I was little. I have an older brother who also plays professionally, currently in the NISA. My dad played as well. So, I was always surrounded by it growing up and that’s an understatement. I literally like consumed my life. but I always saw my brother playing…so obviously I have to do it because I’m super competitive with him. When I was three years old, I started playing at a place in Garden Grove, CA called Garden Grove Arena—it was indoor, it was coed, and it was primarily boys.
What was your transition like from playing indoor to playing outdoor?
From indoor, I think my skills developed really nicely there. When I transitioned to outdoor it was in one of the Mexican leagues in Anaheim. I did that with my brother because he was doing it so naturally, I wanted to do it as well. I would play with his team or a team that was a year younger.
I think my skills translated appropriately because my skills developed nicely because of the futsal that I would be doing.
You mentioned playing and competing against your brother a few times. When you were growing up playing soccer did you often find yourself in the position of being the only girl on the pitch?
Yes, most definitely. Especially in the Mexican league, I’d be the only girl like quite often. It was a normal thing for me. And then once I started getting a bit older than I realized that there are women that play. It is common in Southern California. I started getting involved in that when I was six or seven, which, was great.
Tell us about your soccer journey. How did you get from a Mexican youth league to River Plate in Argentina?
I was at a club called ASC. My dad was the coach. I was with the team until I was about 12, 13. Then I made the transition to Slammers, which, is a really well-known club in Newport Beach. I stuck with them throughout my whole high school experience. I was playing at Marina High School…Marina and Huntington. Throughout my youth, I was getting called into ODP Southern California and then the regional camps.
And after that did you go to college or straight to playing professionally?
It was college. I went to school in the Midwest at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. It’s a really small private school. For me growing up, college wasn’t really a focus. I was always like, “I’m going to play professionally.” Then I realized when I was leaving high school that that wasn’t really a thing. My parents educated me on that. They were like, “Jordan you need an education because the women’s game is not going to foot the bill for the rest of your life.”
So I ended up going to college and getting my degree in psychology. As soon as I was done with college I said, “I’m outta here. I’m going to go play professionally.” I started out with the Houston Dash.
That is inspiring. You always had the mindset, ever since you were young that you were going to be a professional soccer player, even at a time when the path for women to have a professional career was not well established?
The thing is growing up I never really saw gender as that big of a deal. I thought, “my brother’s gonna play professionally and obviously I’m going to play professionally too. And I’m going to be better than him.” This was always my mentality. I always told myself, “I’m going to be better than him.” He always like inspired and pushed me to want to be more.
Throughout the course of my childhood, you can ask anybody that I grew up with, what I’m known for is soccer. Like everything that I do, my whole being was soccer. At recess, I’d be playing soccer with the boys every single day. People would write down what they wanted to be when they get older. Every single time I would write, “professional soccer player.” I attribute that to me seeing guys doing it and I’m like, “this is the thing that I’m going to do.” I never saw it as, “This is the guy’s thing.”
Were you aware of the women’s game outside of the United States when you were growing up?
I had no idea the world that it would open me up to after college. I obviously saw someone like Mia Hamm and that was really exciting—her being super successful and that was cool. But I don’t think I ever really like idolized any players like in, in the sense that put normal people do. I feel like I always just played for the pure enjoyment of playing. When I became a pro I was like, “I can literally travel the world. I can see the coolest teams in the world.” The coolest clubs with the most historical backgrounds and be a part of that. For me when I became a professional that was a really big pull for me.
That’s amazing. You really are an inspiration to kids, girls, and boys, that want to follow their dreams. Soccer more than any other sport can take you all over the world.
Let’s switch focus and talk about things off the pitch. How would describe your style?
I’m obsessed with checkered Vans. I always have a pair…I definitely have always had an appreciation for vintage jerseys. I have quite a few of those. I have a Norwich one that I’m obsessed with. It’s a nineties print. I then there’s this 1990 England jersey that’s my favorite. It’s massive but I love it so much.
I have always loved the vintage vibe. I have a bunch of old t-shirts. My dad used to play beach soccer and they created this shirt called “O’briens Pub.” It has him on the back with a beer in his hand and it’s the coolest t-shirt I’ve ever seen. It’s this weird pink color but I am obsessed with it.
I’m big on things that are super worn-in. I like my shoes clean but everything else really worn-in and looking really dirty. I feel like that’s the vibe I give off with my style, which isn’t necessarily a good thing, but I think I might love it. I love the fact that off the vibe that I might be slightly dirty. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. My hair is normally pretty crazy. Nothing is that tame ever, which, is how I like it. I’m a slightly messy person, so I think it represents me appropriately.
Thank you. That is a refreshing answer. One thing we try to do at KTTP is to highlight the different personalities of those in the game so thank you for keeping it real. Vans are definitely an Orange County staple. Their headquarters are in Irvine. Lace-ups or slip-ons for your checkered Vans?
Slip-ons normally, I just recently branched out and got a pair with laces. There’s also one other shoe that has been a staple throughout the course of my life and it’s Sambas. I like any opportunity to play pickup. I jump at it. So if I am wearing Sambas I’m chill. I’ll be wearing them and I’m just prepared if anybody happens to want to play pickup.
I love it. You are ready for soccer 24/7. On the rare occasion you are not playing footy what do you like to do?
I definitely love being outdoors. I love being at the beach. Anything beach-related, honestly. I would go surfing all the time with my friends. For the record, I’m not that good but I love being out there so much. I used to longboard quite a bit. I love slack-lining, that’s another thing I really enjoy. Yoga is another thing. All beachy, hippie, chill things.
The women’s game is definitely growing here in The States and abroad. The on-field product is obviously one thing that helps it to grow but also learning about the individual stories of the women involved in the game will help people connect with the game even more.
So each and every individual person has their own story to tell. And I think that’s so beautiful. I highly value every interaction that I have when it comes to my experiences with this game because nobody’s path is the same. You may see a little bit of overlap, but it is actually incredible.
Style-wise, too. Every single person’s style is so different and has a story to tell. I feel like each and every individual that you see and how they present themselves and even their sneakers show an incredible story they have to tell. There are so many people out there that deserve this type of spotlight and to share what they’ve learned and grasped from the game.
We agree. That’s one of the things we are trying to do. There are so many stories that should be told both on the women’s and men’s side, especially in the US. The more we tell and share these stories the more young people are going to connect and see their reflections in these stories and think, “maybe I can do that, too.”
One kid might read a story about me and think, “that resonates with me.” This is my story and I’m not her. She has a whole different story to tell but maybe she’ll see something I’ve said and think, “She went through this struggle and she made it through so I can make it through and continue on with my story.”
Now your story has taken you to Buenos Aires, Argentina and to one of the most storied clubs in all of football, River Plate.
It is so crazy, it was actually insane to be here. Yeah I’m in the preseason and we have a tournament coming up and we actually play Boca, so it’s a big deal. We got smashed by them 5-0 last time but I actually sat in a bombanero and watched from a box. I actually get to play and hopefully we can get something good going and get some goals this time around.
We sat down with the tattoo artist responsible for some of the Premier League’s best ink, Jessica Simpson. Jessica has tattooed Hector Bellerin, Danny Williams, and DeAndre Yedlin. Perhaps her most impressive and reported-about piece is on the back of Watford’s Andre Gray. Nicknamed by some the “Black History Tattoo,” Simpson decorated Gray’s entire back with incredible portraits of some of the world’s most important black leaders and activists. From Marcus Garvey to Bob Marley and from Rosa Parks to Nelson Mandela, Gray and Simpson combined for a marvelous work of art paying homage to black leaders.
Listen to Jess tell her stories about her first tattoo that she got when she was fifteen and when she used her own legs to practice her artform. Make sure to follow Jess on IG @jess_on_tatts to see more of her incredible work and portraits and tune in to Black Crew Ink season 6 on VH1 to see Jess ply her craft with the crew in Chicago.
Pete and Niki Hoppins are English ex-pats living the American dream in Portland, OR. Married(to each other) with two kids; they are the owners of the English football pub, the Toffee Club in Southeast Portland and the founders of one of the nation’s most original and popular amateur football leagues—the Toffee League. You can now add brewery owners to their list as they opened Away Days Brewery next door to their pub in August of 2019.
Let’s talk about the Toffee Club first, how did that come to be?
How did that come to be? So yeah, this about like four over four years ago, actually it’s always kind of been a dream of ours, like myself and Nikki, to own a bar, but maybe in like retirement, you know, like we’re gonna like finish up the corporate jobs and then move back to the UK or somewhere a bit more tropical and open up a bar and like semi-retire. But it actually all kind of kicked off when my brother Jack moved here, met his future wife, moved over to Portland, and kind of moved here and thought to himself, “Okay, well what are you gonna do?”
We were brainstorming ideas about what he’s going to do in Portland. And then that kind of like snowballed into the idea that we could bring the idea of owning a bar to life sooner than we thought. We were kind of throwing out ideas of what this could be and I think we’d already built like the deck—the concept of what it could be before we even started seriously talking about it. Then we thought we had a really good, solid idea. We specifically thought about Portland. We were like, “what’s Portland missing?” There wasn’t really like a proper pub, like an English pub or that kind of culture that doesn’t really exist. There wasn’t really a definitive place to watch football.
There were a few bars, but there was an opportunity to kind of combine those two things together in an authentic way and then bring that to Portland. So we looked at a bunch of places, like a bunch of different venues and we were semi-serious at the time. And then we saw this, the current space, which was basically a warehouse, but it’s in a really kind of cool kind of part of town, a developing part of town. And as soon as we saw this place, we were like, “This is it.” And then as soon as we locked down the lease and there’s no tenant, you’ve got to do it.
So yeah, I think we, we definitely saw a gap in the market as well for a more inclusive space to watch football and to create a community around football. There are a ton of football parks in Portland, a ton of great football parks. But as a non-football fan, I love the World Cup. I love the social side of it. I love a pint and a game but I don’t have a team. I didn’t grow up as a fan. I would often be in these football pubs feeling quite out of place, or like I didn’t know enough. We wanted to create a space that anyone could come to whether you’ve grown up as a born-and-bred football fan or if it’s your first time watching; whether it’s men’s or women’s as well. So the Thorns obviously have a huge following in Portland, but there are not many places that have given them a focus or a real-life place to shine.
So the pub, in a sense, is very traditional with the food, etc. but it does feel very modern. It is like a modern space with the soul of a pub.
That was our challenge. How do you create an English pub in a warehouse, an ex-strip club in Southeast Portland? How do you take that space and make it feel like a cozy welcoming pub? That was definitely a design challenge when we started and that space has evolved over time. We opened the space with three pictures on the wall and two rugs and a few tables. It’s really grown over the last few years.
We first met you guys when the Toffee Club opened three and a half years ago. How has it evolved since then?
It’s interesting, we went back through the original concept and the deck, which was basically in our heads, the original idea behind it. recently. We were like now feels like three and a half years in four years and whatever we are getting to where we always wanted to be. It was definitely a struggle at first. I think it was a little bit of having the confidence to fully realize what we wanted to do, but also it was how do you convince other people who haven’t grown up on this and with this culture to understand what you’re trying to do.
It’s like you’re creating as something that hasn’t been done before in the space. But you’ve grown up with that your whole life. You know, it’s like, “Oh yeah, why wouldn’t people get into football in Portland? They like beer. They like English stuff. So why wouldn’t this work in Portland?” But you know, it’s a new kind of concept. Just the idea of pub culture and it is going to change over time. Not just the football aspect of it but the community aspect of a pub.
There’s a lot of great bars and fantastic restaurants in Portland, but it’s a different type of culture, a different type of space that we wanted to create which revolves around community and everyone knowing each other and hanging out all day whether football’s on or not. Just a different kind of environment. A different kind of space.
Another thing we always dreamt of is becoming the clubhouse. So in England, you have a team and there’s a clubhouse. And everyone goes and drinks at the clubhouse after matches. It’s the home team and the away team and both go and have a drink at the clubhouse. And there’s just not many places that have that clubhouse here. And that, I feel, has just been this last year we finally have rallied around. We now have over 50s, over forties, over thirties, and first division men’s in our football league. We have an outdoor women’s, an indoor women’s, we have coeds outdoor, we have an indoor futsal men’s team and we encourage them all to come back to the pub afterward. We give them a pitcher of beer and chips for free if they come back. And that means that we are now becoming that clubhouse space as well.
That was a really big part of our vision to start with but it has probably taken us three years to get there. People actually just want to come around and just hang out and this is essentially their home as well.
We didn’t have the football angle dialed up when we first opened a Toffee Club. It was to be more of an English pub and an English pub shows football. I’d say the biggest, the biggest change that has happened, and we’ve allowed it to change, is that it’s got the football dial is turned way up now. That’s really where we are at. At the same time, we don’t want to alienate the people who just want to come in for some nice food and a pint, a chat, a quiz, whatever they could have been coming in to do but the football side of things is definitely dialed up and it shows. That’s just the way in which people have taken to it. That’s the thing that has developed more and more over time.
So you built a pub. You’ve started a league with it sounds like over 30 teams. And then you decide, “okay, let’s build a brewery.” How did that happen?
So this was a brewery before. This was Scout Beer. They actually opened around the same time as us. They were doing that build-out at the same time as we were. And they for one reason or another decided to close here at the end of last year. They have a second location, just 40 blocks up the road. Um, so they contacted us at the beginning of November and asked if we wanted to take over the space. And it had been something we’d always talked about very much in theory. And at first I was just like, “no, no, a pub and two kids is plenty.” To take over a brewery sounded ridiculous. Then we started talking about it as a team and actually realized the opportunity of starting a very different business over here, in the same proximity, bringing in a different kind of clientele to this area, using economies of scale with our team in our kitchen, and actually building a brand that had real growth potential was an interesting opportunity.
So we started negotiating and we weren’t 100% set on the idea, by any means, but as soon as we start negotiating, we realized actually we could move in here, have the space turnkey for a very reasonable price cause they were keen to just move on. So then the fun project I suppose was starting to build this and make it very different from what the Toffee Club is. People will know it is the same owner if they dig a little deeper but we didn’t want and didn’t need a bigger Toffee Club. We definitely didn’t need more Toffee Club space. So creating something very different that will bring certain kind of clientele over here that will appreciate the Toffee Club. And the Toffee Club clientele will also appreciate here(Away Days Brewery). You kind of feed each other.
People get it. What separates them is the idea that Toffee Club is this English football pub and then Away Days is like your European away day, your trip. You are going away to watch your game for the weekend in Barcelona or Amsterdam or even Porto wherever it is, somewhere anywhere in Europe and this space represents that. But also that allows us to do open the aperture of what we can actually do with this brand.
The Toffee Club is going to be definitely kind of quite constrained in a way. It’s very much an English pub in Portland. Whereas Away Days, we can literally do anything with this brand. It’s going to be interesting.
Toffee club is much like less about the brand and more about the community, whereas this, like we have real potential with the brand, you know? So that’s actually really fun to think about that. We’re suddenly selling a product rather than an experience as well of course. But it’s almost like the beer has to be the first thing we’re selling.
And this is something that you can potentially do to scale.
Yeah, for sure.
But we don’t need two Toffee Clubs.
But that will always be at the center of it. However big Away Days gets it just kicks off from the pub. Like if we have a massive distribution of Away Days everywhere, it all comes back to the Toffee Club, That’s the original foundation and original spot where the culture was created.
You might just be coming back from warmer climates to visit the Toffee Club.
Maybe, we’ll see. But because you’re so into the football world the Toffee Club and Away Days have such a clear football association but there is only a small percentage of your everyday person(in The States) who gets that. So that actually gives us some flexibility. If this was in England, a Toffee Club pub with an Away Days Brewery next door is clearly in Liverpool with a total football focus. Whereas here we can stretch that concept quite a lot more.
So obviously starting a pub is quite a big undertaking. In my mind starting a brewery is even a bigger undertaking. What have been some of your biggest challenges starting this project?
Opening a second business with two kids while running a business has been just a whole new level. We signed the lease agreement [for the brewery] in January, we got into the space in February, and we were open the first week in June just before the Women’s World Cup, which was a month of madness, anyway. So, yeah, it’s been a crazy fucking nine months. But we have learned so much. Our operations are so much more straightforward here and we have an incredible team. Our main, winning moment was hiring our Brewer. He is creating fabulous beer and has really taken our vision of what we wanted the product to be and is just running with it and honestly, executing above what we ever could have hoped that he would.
That was our biggest fear or concern. We like beer, but we don’t really have like beer geek knowledge of making beer. Jack, my brother, he’s pretty educated in beer. But this is a beer town and we’re coming in with a new point of view. All beer in Portland now is good. It is really good. So we’ve got to be at least really good. So that was the biggest fear we had. But this guy Marshall, the Brewer that we hired, is so, so good.
You mentioned point of view. So when you think about Away Days Beer, what is that point of view?
So lower ABVs are a big thing for us. A lot of people agree that beer just went way too hoppy, too heavy, and too boozy. It was almost like you had to endure a pint rather than enjoy it. So lower ABVs, it is a trend back home, but it is always something that’s always interested us. Just a more sessionable drink. We love a day drink so we want to be able to have three or four pints and still feel okay rather than having one that will knock your head off.
We are figuring out that some people do want a little bit higher alcohol content so we are trying to figure out how to bring in an IPA that has a higher ABV that satisfies the person that comes in and just has time for one.
You know the lower ABV is a trend in New York and in Europe as well. Well, it’s always been in New York. People want to drink more over time and hang out with friends. And that’s like our culture so why shouldn’t we bring that up to Portland. And we combine that with the West Coast flavor.
So you guys have been opened since June, officially since August. Are you guys already starting to see where you want this business to go?
When we started Toffee Club we literally had no clue what we were getting into. Whereas Away Days has been a lot more strategic. We’re taking the learning from three and half years of Toffee Club into this space. The space is great. People love the beer. The branding is on point. But the most exciting part of it is getting the beer out there to the world in terms of wholesaling, getting accounts. That is the new and exciting thing. We are all about new challenges. That is what keeps us going, keeps us interested.
We did this event for Octoberfest and we were packed from start to finish. It was a really good moment. Especially for me because I do all of our marketing, all of our digital, and all of our social media. We had only been existing online for two months and we were doing an event. I was thinking, “Is anyone actually going to turn up?” We did sell all of our 40 presale tickets that came with a Stein Mug but half of those were to a bachelor party that was coming into Portland. They bought 18 of them. But it was busy from start to finish and it was a really good realization that we can do this.
We have the infrastructure now to get our name out there. We can use Toffee Club as a starting point but most of the people who came out were just from the beer community, the Portland community. We’ve really relied on the Toffee Club community to get us started. The first couple of weeks the only people that knew about us and followed us were from there. Since then I have learned a ton of systems of how to market, how to promote, how to connect, how to get people to know about us.
One thing I do know is that our growth here needs to be a lot faster than it was at Toffee Club. And the potential is there for it to be faster. We definitely have to have the confidence to be a lot more aggressive here. Because at Toffee Club we just relied on word-of-mouth. Whereas here…with so much competition…we are doing something different so know we can accelerate but we just need to have the confidence to do it.
We are really impressed with all that your family has been able to accomplish to continue to take chances on creating new things that resonate with and foster community. You have really been able to build a community with the Toffee Club and even now with Aways Days, we can tell it is more than just about selling something. There is a deep connection there to family, to Portland and to the football-loving people here.
You know we talk about the Toffee Club like it’s a community. And that’s been the thing that has kept us going. That’s been the most satisfying part of this. When I think about it, we don’t need to be doing this, really. Considering the amount of effort we put into this we could do something else that would be a lot easier. You know we used to make money(laughs). These things take years as you know. It’s about doing something you’re passionate about and other people will follow, hopefully.
So you have to be really passionate about the thing that you are doing and we have created something that we really are into.
That definitely comes across. The Toffee Club and Away Days are authentic to you guys. It seems like a place where you guys want to be, hang out, and have a pint with your friends. That authenticity shines through and I think that is part of what attracts so many people to you and your brand.
We are still figuring it out every day. It’s not like a formula…Our operations are extremely streamlined but in terms of a brand, a business, and a community—how do we continue to elevate and to grow?
I always like to ask this question to wrap things up: if you could go back a year ago, to before you started Away Days what would be one piece of advice you would give yourselves?
I would go back even further and go back to opening Toffee Club. This is actually a conversation I had with a friend a while ago. We’ve spoken about it a few times. She asked, “if you could back to when you were concepting Toffee Club, what would you change?” I told her, “if you could have told me how much money we would have to spend, how much time, how many weekends wouldn’t have had as a family, how many tears, how many sleepless nights, how many arguments,” I would have said, “definitely not. I’ll keep freelancing with my nice hourly rate and live a comfortable life and be able to pay daycare.” Then she said, “you’ve only talked about the bad things, but what the community that you’ve built and the experiences that you are building for people? What about all you have learned? What about what it has done and is doing for your family?” And I was like, “you’re right. I’d do it again.”
That was a really good moment. When she asked me I went right into the stressful things, In 20 years time we will look back on this and say, “wow!” Or we’ll be like, “we were so fucking stupid what were we doing? But it was amazing. We’ve built something.”
I think if I was to tell myself anything. If I went back three years ago. We could have gone for it more at the start. To be more confident in ourselves and in the vision.
We spoke to General Manager of Jordan Brand Women’s and Kid’s, Andrea Perez about the PSG Jordan partnership, expanding Jordan’s presence among women, inspiring women in sports, sneakerhead culture, and a whole bunch of other critical issues like the Vogue x Jordan collab. She dropped some gems on us including the story about how she asked a leading Nike Executive at her college in Guadalajara, Mexico, “How do I work for you?” which ultimately led to her getting a job with the Swoosh. Check out some of her insights and memorable stories in the following conversation.
One of the great things I’ve learned since being involved with Jordan Brand is the whole thing around the culture of basketball, and how that culture of basketball is not only what happens on the court. How that culture has evolved into having so much influence across many other things, including soccer, and obviously sneakers. The first shoes that you desired were from a basketball player and now they are worn by other athletes that you love.
We see the sport influence each other now seeing the tunnel, and what that has done in basketball. Some soccer teams are adopting that from basketball and using the tunnel as a way to be a way to show the personality of the players.
That’s been one of the best things of being involved with Jordan Brand is just learning and being more immersed in that culture of basketball and just understanding what living that culture means. It doesn’t mean that I can’t love soccer any more or even that they are that much different. There is a massive intersection with the culture and the love of basketball and the love of soccer and the love of sneakers and streetwear and all these things that you and I are interested in and have talked about for years.
So you’ve worked in Global Football and Jordan Brand and you have seen how the culture of Jordan goes far beyond the basketball court. How do you think that same type of cultural relevance can occur in soccer in North America?
I think the culture of basketball intersects with so many things. It intersects with skateboarding, with dance and hip-hop, with new forms like gaming and other new forms of expression, and even with soccer because there has been a mutual admiration with the two sports forever. It is less about whether or not that connection exists but more how do we highlight that and grow sport culture, basketball culture, soccer culture, and streetwear culture. Some of the things I have been really proud of since working with Jordan Brand is the work with Paris Saint-Germain. That team, it’s an incredible team coming from a city that is so deeply cultured in soccer, but also in basketball. How do you bring those two worlds together, because they shouldn’t be competing with each other? They should be embracing each other to make something bigger. I think our partnership with PSG does precisely that. It embraces basketball and some of the best things that sport has to offer—the swagger, the fashion, the style, and the Jumpman—and takes it to a team that has swagger, and it’s a team that has that culture. Just marrying those two together and creating something new and telling new stories.
It is interesting to see how American culture, sneakers, fashion, and hip-hip all have a huge influence on Europe and especially the European footballers. We see it in how they dress, what they listen to, and what they buy. The collaboration between Jordan Brand and PSG is one of the first projects to really embrace that. It seems like something that more and more clubs should embrace.
I think that, in general, the culture is becoming more global. Taking that initial ignition of basketball culture from Michael in Chicago and taking it to other parts of the world and combining it with new things gives us something that is completely different. Basketball culture transcends what happens here in Beaverton, Oregon, and even beyond Chicago or Paris. You walk on the streets in Shanghai and see a person wearing a PSG Jordan jacket. It makes you smile and wonder, “did that guy learn about PSG through Jordan or learn about Jordan through PSG?” It could be either and that is fantastic. It is through that blending of culture that creates things that are interesting.
Let’s go back to how you got here. Tell us about your journey to where you are now at Jordan Brand.
I always was a Nike fan; and a Jordan fan. My dad was reminding me the other day that I made him take me to the Jordan Steakhouse when we went to Chicago, just to see if he would show up. But I always was a big Nike fan. A lot of it came from growing up in Mexico and growing up a soccer player (not a very good one) and we did not have a lot of role models. Guys played soccer. Women did not play soccer. We got the bad times for the courts and got the balls the guys didn’t want to use any more. I would see one brand that was talking to athletes and talking about athletes that were women in a completely different way. I remember the 99ers, Mia Hamm and Brandy and Julie and this company was making ads about them and telling stories about them. I would look at them when I was fifteen and sixteen and would think, “I want that.” I knew that I wouldn’t be as good as them but I knew I wanted to work for a brand like that. A brand or a company that told stories about women athletes in the same way we told stories about male athletes. The only company that was doing that was Nike. So I was always Nike, through and through. When my college counselor asked me what I wanted to do I told him I wanted to work for Nike. He was like, “you kind of want to have a plan b.” I mean this was in Guadalajara, Mexico, not here in the states. I said, “maybe I’ll cook or something,” but But in my mind, I thought, “I am going to go work at Nike.” I used to make my own ads in my notebook and all that jazz.
I had the opportunity when I was in college to attend a speaking engagement that the GM of Nike Mexico hosted and I asked in the Q&A, “How can I work for you?” 300 marketing students there and I only wanted to know was how I could work at Nike. In the end, he gave me the opportunity to have some entry-level interviews which were amazing. I didn’t get any of those three jobs that he recommended me for but then they called me for a job that I thought was Assistant Marketing Director. I got the job and I was super stoked, but it was actually the Assistant to the Marketing Director, which is really different, but it was a great entry path for me. I learned a lot about the brand and I learned from a guy that was outstanding and I ended up working with him later on down the road in global football as well. I got the chance to learn and stretch doing different things while still doing my job. I ended up in Portland a few years after. I was in the marketing organization for a number of years. I lead the World Cup ’14 efforts for Nike, along with all of our innovation and athlete plans around that period of time. It was a fantastic experience spending a few months in Brazil helping with everything. It was incredible. Learning more about that country and culture because Brazil is a country that we go back to where the culture of soccer, the culture of basketball, and the culture of the street are really engrained and interwoven together.
Later I was the Head of Soccer for North America and I had the chance to lead the team during World Cup ’15 and what that meant for us. It was a chance to re-cement that love for the Women’s team and make it massive. And then seeing results later in ’19, even though I’ve only been on the sidelines cheering for the team, has been incredible.
*Andrea has worked as Global Vice President and General Manager of Jordan Brand for the last three years.
When you were the Head of Global Football, what did that role entail?
I was the Head of Global Football for North America which meant Canada and the US. Our biggest thing has been, how do we make soccer a great part of the culture in the US and Canada? How do we support growing the game? How do we support growing the culture? How do we support the players and leagues that make this a great thing? It includes pitching product that we think is important, particularly in North America. I’ll give you an example, jerseys—jerseys that were different and significant for the Women’s Team and the Men’s Team and why that’s important. The job includes everything all the way down to marketing, merchandising, and selling those products. No day was the same. There were days when I was talking to external people all day and trying to make relationships happen that will push the game forward. There were a lot of days talking to people in product, trying to develop the product that the North American market needs specifically. There were days when I was out on market travel meeting with consumers and retailers creating the future by getting insights about what’s to come. So no single day is the same and I think that is what makes it exciting. Now you know we have a woman leading North American soccer that came from a completely different background than I did and she is having amazing success and has an amazing team. It’s great to see that it’s not something that is entirely dependent on a person. The culture and the support for the culture that Nike has in North America are so big.
Can we talk a little bit more about something you touched on? How does it make you feel as a female leader in the industry at a time when there is so much focus on and positive attention for the women athletes? Also, what do you think the future looks like for female sports?
I am incredibly excited for what is to come with women’s sports. I think a big part of growing women’s sports is how do we make women’s sports part of popular culture? To see 2019 and what that meant, even for us as a business and for the athletes themselves, was just a massive step forward in making women’s sports a part of the culture. Recently someone sent me a picture of a kid in a stadium with no shirt on and with black sharpie had written “Lloyd” and “10” on his back. It was incredible to see a boy admiring a woman on the field, which shouldn’t be surprising in this day and age but in a way it feels like a step forward that we are now embracing and creating a culture that accepts and promotes that. Guys and girls can grow up admiring both guys and girls. You don’t have to be restricted by your gender with regards to who you can look up to as an athlete. All of that has been fantastic.
I am very excited about the efforts we are doing in the Jordan Brand and even in basketball with people like Maya Moore, Kia Nurse, and Asia Durr and the roster of athletes that we have. And seeing what the team is doing in terms of elevating them as athletes just gives me goosebumps. It is really exciting.
So your role with Jordan involves a lot on the Women’s side?
I do, yes. I lead the women’s business for the Jordan Brand which has been a fantastic journey from two years ago when I took this position. Starting with “Hey, how do we want to create this line? How do we want to build it? How do we want to grow it?” to working with a team that is just amazingly passionate about making sneaker culture for “her,” something incredibly relevant and connected to basketball, authentic, and connected to the women that have always loved the Jordan Brand, but also connected to women who are just starting to learn about the brand and embracing it.
So there are a lot of female sneakerheads, but there has to be a huge opportunity there for growth and connecting with females around the world.
When we started, one of the very first things that we did was we went a spoke to women all over the world—North America, Paris, Shanghai, wherever, we went there. Having the opportunity to connect with many women, some of them had always loved the Jordan Brand they didn’t feel left out the were saying, “Hey, we love Jordans.” Others hadn’t really heard of them but told us they were cool and told us what they needed. We are in an amazing position where we have people that are so loyal and excited about the brand that we can count on to help us be better and stay connected. But we also have a massive opportunity with women that are just becoming interested in the Jordan Brand because of the work that we have done with women that are learning more and more about sneaker culture and streetwear culture and want to be a part of it through the lens of basketball culture and Jordan. And also with women who discover our product and say, “Hey, that looks amazing, I’ve never heard of you guys but this shoe or this Vogue collaboration you did is amazing,” or “I love Aleali May. I love what she is doing. I follow her in the fashion world and this shoe that you’ve made with her is really amazing.” So having these projects and creating those bridges that bring people to the brand is one of our main objectives.
Can you talk a little bit more about the Vogue collaboration because that seems like a huge way to connect with a new population of women?
We did it about a year ago. We wanted to partner with people and brands that are amazing in their field. When it comes to fashion, who is more amazing than Anna Wintour herself? She is a fashion icon. We wanted to make something that was true to Jordan, like an AJ3 or AJ1 but also something that was true to her 100 percent. It has some amazing details. The leather is incredibly soft. It is a bright red, which is a very fashionable color. She did the video about it and was very excited. The detail I love the most about the shoe is it has a translucent base and on the sole, it says “AWOK” which comes from Anna Wintour’s signature approval for anything that goes into the magazine. For us, having Anna’s permission to include “ AWOK” on the outsole meant she gave the stamp of approval to the sneaker as well.
Let’s talk a little bit more about the PSG/Jordan partnership. The women’s side also has the Jordan kits so that is another niche to increase Jordan Brand’s connection with females.
You know, Nadia Nadim is one of my favorite female players so I am excited that she is wearing the Jordan Brand. But beyond that, I don’t think that soccer’s fandom is separated by gender. I think that soccer fans are soccer fans no matter what. I would go to games with my dad in Mexico since I was little. In Paris when you look at the stadium men and women are there. They are fans of the game. There are women who connect with the game through playing and there are some that are fans. To be a part of the soccer culture in a city like Paris that loves the sport is huge. It is going to be embraced by men and women.
We see women all the time in the PSG Jordan product. Aleali May was part of the campaign. PSG Forward Marie Kototo was a part of the launch campaign. So we’ve embraced dual-gender positioning for PSG from the beginning because that is what the fans look like. We wouldn’t be true to the game if we weren’t embracing both genders.
How have the women of PSG responded to being on the one club in the world that wears the Jumpman?
I haven’t connected with any of them personally about it but, I see them posting on social media and seem to like it. Playing for PSG is very special. So playing for PSG and now wearing the Jumpman is unique and connects you to one of the greatest athletes in the world and connects you to a different part of the culture has to be exciting.
Everyone knows who Jordan is. It must be something to not only play for PSG but to wear that Jumpman on the pitch.
I want to touch on something. I think there is a particular confidence that you get from wearing Jordan. It’s the shoe a lot of people wear to graduations, to weddings, to so many significant things. Gameday shoes are Jordans. And we (at Jordan) have such an opportunity with women to create that same emotion that a man feels or a sneakerhead feels when you wear your Jordans. To have that also embraced by women. Why should they only feel confident when they are wearing heels? You can be just as confident wearing some Concord 11s. You can be just as confident wearing an amazing pair of AJ1s. You can feel that same way. I like to say that the Jumpman in a way is like a super-power and what our team does every day is to bring that amazing feeling and culture to more people—for them to feel that same confidence and to feel that sensation. [For these footballers] to feel that sense of empowerment when they step on the pitch. Look good, play good, right? Relating it back to the athletes on PSG.
We follow you and have seen that you have posted where you have given speeches to young female professionals. Can you talk a little bit more about that and what that means to you as a female executive and be in a position to inspire the next generation?
A lot of what I am doing, more than just making speeches, is making one on one connections. I have blocked out on my calendar three hours every week for anyone that wants to talk to me and wants to ask for advice. And it is not specific to a gender, and it is not just Latinos. Anyone that contacts me by any means and wants to talk to me. It has been an amazing experience. It came out of being asked for informational frequently and I was feeling like well, 1. I was pushing them out a lot and not doing them, and 2. When they were in the middle of the day I was giving the people the attention they deserved. So now I have them at the end of the day at a certain time and it allows me to be completely focused on the person. It allows me to not be worried about myself and the things I need to do. Everyone that comes has a problem or an opportunity and they are trusting me as an advisor to help them with their problem or opportunity. So I have been doing that for a number of years and it has allowed me to talk to hundreds of types of different people. A lot of them are here from Nike which allows me to stay in touch with younger talent. But a lot of them are from outside from within the industry, or people that are trying to break-in, or just people that are trying to do really random things with their life that think I can give good advice. But sometimes you just need a sounding board that is invested in your success as a human but not necessarily too tied up in it emotionally that is able to give you something like their version of the truth; help you see a different perspective.
So that is all I am trying to do. Being a mentor is really important to me. A lot of people mentored me along the way. I wouldn’t be here without those mentors that I’ve had. A lot of them are still working in the Global Football side of the business.
That’s one of the things that really keeps me stay connected to the Jordan Brand. The Jordan Brand, as I learned when I joined, is a brand that really values mentorship. They really value education, things that are really important to Michael. As a brand we have a community program called “Wings.” The Wings program is about mentorship and education. To be a part of the journey of this brand and to be a part of a program like that makes me feel amazing when I come to work. It’s never been about selling shoes. It’s not even about the culture. It’s truly about changing lives and changing lives with a very hands-on approach.
So what are the things that inspire you the most when you come to work and the things that you are excited about in the near future here?
I am someone that gets a lot of inspiration from people. I am very inspired by my team. I work alongside a team that is brilliant. A team that is ready to tackle any challenge. A team that has each other’s’ backs. Every day they come and they have the Michael-mentality of greatness. They have our consumer’s mentality. We like to call our consumers the “Fearless Ones.” They are people that are focused on the path. They are not talking failures as failures but as opportunities to learn. There are things that are easily said, but not easily done. But my team is fearless every day and is not focusing on any obstacle on the road. That’s what excites me the most when I come and have a day where I can interact with them for most of the day. Those are great days.
In addition to that, it is the consumer—looking and talking to all these young women who love the brand and this journey of basketball culture, and the players themselves. They are focused on their pursuit and their dreams. How can the Jordan Brand be an avenue and a partner for them to accomplish their dreams? Whether it is wearing the Jumpman and the confidence that instills of facilitating something on their path. Those things are the most inspirational for me.
So you have been successful in your career and have had great mentors. If you could go back and give the 15 or 16 year old Andrea one piece of advice what would be?
Never focus on the next opportunity. Focus are where you are now. And I would tell her to be nice to everybody because you never know. We work in an industry, in sports and in soccer, and you continue to cross pass with people from the past. The more you can embrace them and learn from them and get to know them as humans, the better your life is going to be because you are going to feel like you are always working with friends.