NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with Jason Mayden (Director of Innovation @Nike Digital Sport

NetWorks Spotlight Interview with….Jason Mayden, Director of Innovation – Nike Digital Sport
By Tracey Savell Reavis

 

Jason Mayden Director of Innovation, Nike Digital Sports

Jason Mayden could talk about carbon fiber arch plates and laser etched tongue details all day. His goal, from the young age of 12, was to design sneakers, specifically Air Jordans. He chased his Nike dream with a laser-like focus, and landed a summer internship at Brand Jordan, while in his third year of design school.

But it was six years later, when the impossible dream, at least for a kid growing up on the Southside of Chicago, came true: He was named the lead designer on the new Jordan shoe. Drawing inspiration from the sport of fencing, from the propulsion of a Paralympic athlete, and from the legendary ball player himself, Jason created the Air Jordan 2009 with a design described as both conforming to the brand’s storied history, and demonstrating a fresh and forward-thinking approach. Since then, he’s spearheaded the design of signature shoes for Derek Jeter and Chris Paul.

More than just a former athlete – he turned down football scholarships to pursue a career as a designer – and more than just a creator – he considers himself an illustrator and graphic artist – Jason is also an innovator who can see the big picture for business. He just completed his Masters of Science at Stanford Graduate School of Business as a Sloan Fellow, where students are chosen based on their past accomplishments and their potential as future senior leaders. When Jason starts his new position on August 15th, one that was created specifically for him, there’s no doubt this is yet another chance for him to make an impression and to leave his unique footprint on the world of sport innovation.

So first question, what exactly will you be doing as the Director of Innovation at Nike Digital Sports?
[Laughing] Well, at Nike our core strength is the ability to innovate. This position is a way to implement technology into the sports world and to give the consumer a brand new experience. It’s a really fun, creative role, part design, part product development, and part business development.

And how did you find yourself on the receiving end of a newly created position?
I knew digital sports was a hot topic. And it was being in the environment at Stanford. It was a collaborative process, based on my interest and the company’s needs. I would say the process took the whole year. I basically went to class, and then this is what I would do 2 or 3 hours at night. This was my pet project. Then [this past] January I put together a presentation, and it morphed into the role that I now have.

It’s really about where the company is going, and where your core competencies and talents can fit in with that strategic vision.

You seem pretty proactive when it comes to your career. Would you say that has been a key to your success?
Yeah, ten thousand percent. But not even proactive, I would say I was curious. I pursued Nike because I learned at an early age that no one is going to come to your doorstep and give you a magic ticket. So I took the initiative. I remember someone telling me, Somebody has to design shoes. Why can’t it be you? And that stuck in my mind. Why can’t it be me? Why can’t I be that kid?

I asked for help early. I exposed myself to different conversations, different concepts. I had books that gave me a different perspective. I escaped through books. Reading Lord of the Flies, and Peter Pan gave me a chance to dream of a world outside of Chicago. That helped build my vision and that helped give me the confidence to take that first step.

What is it about sneakers that has captured your attention? What made you want to design shoes?
I’ve always loved shoes. When I was a kid, I had shoes that were literally un-wearable. I used to put duct tape on my shoes. So every time I design a shoe, regardless of how much it’s being sold for, I try to really pour my heart and soul  into it and give the kid more than just a piece of leather, but a story and value. Because I know there’s a kid out there, who was just like me who saved up their money, and this is their first pair of shoes, that really will make them feel confident and good about themselves, and I want them to take my shoes out of the box and put them on their feet and feel like they can do anything.

You consider yourself a designer, and yet you were interested in attending Stanford and pursuing an MBA?
I’m the type of person to turn my weakness into a strength. I applied, took my GMATs, and interviewed. But I don’t have an economics or finance background, and never worked as an analyst. And a lot of people said you’ll never get into business school being an artist. But I said, you know, creativity has purpose and a place in corporate America. I played it up as my strength. I said, “this is why I should be here”, because I’m completely different.  I knew this would be a chance for me to understand the conversations that were going on in [meeting] rooms and for me to contribute in my own unique way.

Michael Jordan at Press Event for 2009 Air Jordan Release

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I got was from my former big boss Michael Jordan. And he told me early on, when I was an intern, always under promise and over deliver.  And I live by that. I never over promise. I never try to sell someone on more than what I can do. I think being understated, being humble and being honest about your capabilities upfront then people start to build a trust and respect for your work and your work ethic. I live by that advice and I pass it on.

What advice would you give to people starting out about reaching their goals and achieving a seemingly impossible dream?
First thing, don’t tell yourself that it’s impossible. [Laughing] Tell yourself that it is going to take a lot of hard work and that it will be difficult. But with faith and the right team around you, nothing is impossible.

Dreaming is a free ticket to your final destination of where you want to be. I’m constantly daydreaming, about where I want to go in my life. I encourage myself; I’m constantly pouring positivity into my life.

And do everything you can to arm yourself with knowledge.  If you remove the notion of impossibility, be prayerful, and surround yourself with a positive group of people, the sky’s the limit.

What kind of career advice would you offer to anyone wanting to get into the sports industry, especially about the amount of work?
People look at hard work as if it is degrading or that it will take too long. I look at it from the framework of there’s heart work, h-e-a-r-t, where you have a passion and you’re going to do it anyway, and hard work, h-a-r-d, manual labor, where you’re doing it because you have to, because you need to take care of your family. I grew up watching my parents do hard work. They did what they needed to do to give us opportunities.  Now I’m in a position to do heart work, something that I love, a passion. And when it’s something you love, it shouldn’t matter how long it takes. You should be doing it because it makes you feel complete.

What does giving back mean to you and how do you support young people?
Giving back to me means giving time. I try to make myself available to as many people as possible. You can give money and resources, and that’s all necessary. But for me, in the type of world that I’m in, I try to spend time talking with people. And it means the world, because I had key people talk to me, and I never forgot it. Because everybody has gifts, whether developed or not. Sometime it takes just one person to let you know that they see it in you. So I try to be that one person for a lot of people.

If you weren’t designing shoes, what do you think you would be doing?
My other dream job besides designing the Jordan while working at Nike was to be in the movie industry, in special effects. And if that didn’t work out, probably an art professor, or coach. I just really love any way to interact with the young generation. At some point in my career, I want to go back and teach.

Get to Know Jason
Favorite Artists: Czech illustrator Alphonse Mucha and American concept artist Syd Mead

Favorite Clothing Designers: Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs

Favorite Shoe Designers: Manolo Blahnik, Tinker Hatfield

On his nightstand: Warrior of the Light, by Paulo Coelho

Most influential book: Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

 

In his music library: Anything from Bjork, Joe Henderson, Miles Davis

Follow Jason on Twitter @JayMay_ChiCity and find out more about what he’s doing on his website www.megamayden.com

Follow NetWorks Sports Consulting on Twitter @NetWorks_Sports and sign up to receive the “Changing the Game” Newsletter today!

 

Let us know what you think of this NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with Jason Mayden in the Comment section below!

 


NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with Jason Mayden (Director of Innovation @Nike Digital Sport

NetWorks Spotlight Interview with….Jason Mayden, Director of Innovation – Nike Digital Sport
By Tracey Savell Reavis

Jason Mayden Director of Innovation, Nike Digital Sports

Jason Mayden could talk about carbon fiber arch plates and laser etched tongue details all day. His goal, from the young age of 12, was to design sneakers, specifically Air Jordans. He chased his Nike dream with a laser-like focus, and landed a summer internship at Brand Jordan, while in his third year of design school.

But it was six years later, when the impossible dream, at least for a kid growing up on the Southside of Chicago, came true: He was named the lead designer on the new Jordan shoe. Drawing inspiration from the sport of fencing, from the propulsion of a Paralympic athlete, and from the legendary ball player himself, Jason created the Air Jordan 2009 with a design described as both conforming to the brand’s storied history, and demonstrating a fresh and forward-thinking approach. Since then, he’s spearheaded the design of signature shoes for Derek Jeter and Chris Paul.

More than just a former athlete – he turned down football scholarships to pursue a career as a designer – and more than just a creator – he considers himself an illustrator and graphic artist – Jason is also an innovator who can see the big picture for business. He just completed his Masters of Science at Stanford Graduate School of Business as a Sloan Fellow, where students are chosen based on their past accomplishments and their potential as future senior leaders. When Jason starts his new position on August 15th, one that was created specifically for him, there’s no doubt this is yet another chance for him to make an impression and to leave his unique footprint on the world of sport innovation.

So first question, what exactly will you be doing as the Director of Innovation at Nike Digital Sports?
[Laughing] Well, at Nike our core strength is the ability to innovate. This position is a way to implement technology into the sports world and to give the consumer a brand new experience. It’s a really fun, creative role, part design, part product development, and part business development.

And how did you find yourself on the receiving end of a newly created position?
I knew digital sports was a hot topic. And it was being in the environment at Stanford. It was a collaborative process, based on my interest and the company’s needs. I would say the process took the whole year. I basically went to class, and then this is what I would do 2 or 3 hours at night. This was my pet project. Then [this past] January I put together a presentation, and it morphed into the role that I now have.

It’s really about where the company is going, and where your core competencies and talents can fit in with that strategic vision.

You seem pretty proactive when it comes to your career. Would you say that has been a key to your success?
Yeah, ten thousand percent. But not even proactive, I would say I was curious. I pursued Nike because I learned at an early age that no one is going to come to your doorstep and give you a magic ticket. So I took the initiative. I remember someone telling me, Somebody has to design shoes. Why can’t it be you? And that stuck in my mind. Why can’t it be me? Why can’t I be that kid?

I asked for help early. I exposed myself to different conversations, different concepts. I had books that gave me a different perspective. I escaped through books. Reading Lord of the Flies, and Peter Pan gave me a chance to dream of a world outside of Chicago. That helped build my vision and that helped give me the confidence to take that first step.

What is it about sneakers that has captured your attention? What made you want to design shoes?
I’ve always loved shoes. When I was a kid, I had shoes that were literally un-wearable. I used to put duct tape on my shoes. So every time I design a shoe, regardless of how much it’s being sold for, I try to really pour my heart and soul  into it and give the kid more than just a piece of leather, but a story and value. Because I know there’s a kid out there, who was just like me who saved up their money, and this is their first pair of shoes, that really will make them feel confident and good about themselves, and I want them to take my shoes out of the box and put them on their feet and feel like they can do anything.

You consider yourself a designer, and yet you were interested in attending Stanford and pursuing an MBA?
I’m the type of person to turn my weakness into a strength. I applied, took my GMATs, and interviewed. But I don’t have an economics or finance background, and never worked as an analyst. And a lot of people said you’ll never get into business school being an artist. But I said, you know, creativity has purpose and a place in corporate America. I played it up as my strength. I said, “this is why I should be here”, because I’m completely different.  I knew this would be a chance for me to understand the conversations that were going on in [meeting] rooms and for me to contribute in my own unique way.

Michael Jordan at Press Event for 2009 Air Jordan Release

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I got was from my former big boss Michael Jordan. And he told me early on, when I was an intern, always under promise and over deliver.  And I live by that. I never over promise. I never try to sell someone on more than what I can do. I think being understated, being humble and being honest about your capabilities upfront then people start to build a trust and respect for your work and your work ethic. I live by that advice and I pass it on.

What advice would you give to people starting out about reaching their goals and achieving a seemingly impossible dream?
First thing, don’t tell yourself that it’s impossible. [Laughing] Tell yourself that it is going to take a lot of hard work and that it will be difficult. But with faith and the right team around you, nothing is impossible.

Dreaming is a free ticket to your final destination of where you want to be. I’m constantly daydreaming, about where I want to go in my life. I encourage myself; I’m constantly pouring positivity into my life.

And do everything you can to arm yourself with knowledge.  If you remove the notion of impossibility, be prayerful, and surround yourself with a positive group of people, the sky’s the limit.

What kind of career advice would you offer to anyone wanting to get into the sports industry, especially about the amount of work?
People look at hard work as if it is degrading or that it will take too long. I look at it from the framework of there’s heart work, h-e-a-r-t, where you have a passion and you’re going to do it anyway, and hard work, h-a-r-d, manual labor, where you’re doing it because you have to, because you need to take care of your family. I grew up watching my parents do hard work. They did what they needed to do to give us opportunities.  Now I’m in a position to do heart work, something that I love, a passion. And when it’s something you love, it shouldn’t matter how long it takes. You should be doing it because it makes you feel complete.

What does giving back mean to you and how do you support young people?
Giving back to me means giving time. I try to make myself available to as many people as possible. You can give money and resources, and that’s all necessary. But for me, in the type of world that I’m in, I try to spend time talking with people. And it means the world, because I had key people talk to me, and I never forgot it. Because everybody has gifts, whether developed or not. Sometime it takes just one person to let you know that they see it in you. So I try to be that one person for a lot of people.

If you weren’t designing shoes, what do you think you would be doing?
My other dream job besides designing the Jordan while working at Nike was to be in the movie industry, in special effects. And if that didn’t work out, probably an art professor, or coach. I just really love any way to interact with the young generation. At some point in my career, I want to go back and teach.

Get to Know Jason
Favorite Artists: Czech illustrator Alphonse Mucha and American concept artist Syd Mead

Favorite Clothing Designers: Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs

Favorite Shoe Designers: Manolo Blahnik, Tinker Hatfield

On his nightstand: Warrior of the Light, by Paulo Coelho

Most influential book: Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

In his music library: Anything from Bjork, Joe Henderson, Miles Davis

Follow Jason on Twitter @JayMay_ChiCity and find out more about what he’s doing on his website www.megamayden.com

Follow NetWorks Sports Consulting on Twitter @NetWorks_Sports and sign up to receive the “Changing the Game” Newsletter today!

 

Let us know what you think of this NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with Jason Mayden in the Comment section below!

 


My Top 15 WNBA Players of All-Time

By Angela Taylor

After spending the last 48 hours in San Antonio in anticipation of Saturday afternoon’s WNBA All-Star Game, which promises to be a wonderful celebration of 15 Tremendous years of the WNBA, many have asked me to share my Top 15 WNBA Players of All-Time.

Tomorrow at half-time the WNBA will recognize the 15 individuals who fans voted from a pool of 30 candidates.  While there are some very obvious choices, many have found it very difficult to identify their list of 15 simply because there truly are so many different individuals who have played a huge role in the league’s success over the last 1.5 decades.

A few of these individuals were left off the list, but that does not (and will not) diminish the impact that they have had on the league, its fans, its staff, and the young women who are the future of the game.  There are names like Andrea Stinson (aka Lady Jordan) who thrilled fans in Charlotte for years and on numerous occasions had fans in the Mecca of Basketball, Madison Square Garden, on their feet as she went coast to coast between defenders and finished with highlight reel flare.  Others who could easily have been placed on the list are Michelle Timms, Vickie Johnson, Michelle Edwards, Jennifer Gillom, Eva Nemcova, etc.

For your reference, here is the press release with the list of the 30 players nominated for this recognition.

But let’s not dwell on who wasn’t on the list and instead celebrate these 15 players who have been pioneers for the league and who have represented the league with such class and grace both on & off the court.  While the list won’t be revealed until tomorrow, I would like to share those who I feel should be on the list.  Four experts from ESPN shared their lists as well in this article.

Here’s my list of 15 in no particular order (but I took the liberty of listed a couple of additional honorable mentions):

  • Cynthia Cooper
  • Lisa Leslie
  • Sheryl Swoopes
  • Tina Thompson
  • Tamika Catchings
  • Diana Taurasi
  • Sue Bird
  • Dawn Staley
  • Nykesha Sales
  • Lauren Jackson
  • Yolanda Griffith
  • Katie Smith
  • Deanna Nolan
  • Ticha Penicheiro
  • Becky Hammon
  • Others:  Teresa Weatherspoon, Candace Parker, Chamique Holdsclaw, Swin Cash, Delisha Milton-Jones, Tangela Smith, Penny Taylor, Cappie Pondexter…

Whoever the 15 players are when they are unveiled on Saturday are very deserving of this honor.  It has been a pleasure for all of us to be a part of this journey we call the WNBA.  The best part of the league is its players. These very dynamic women who are so much more than just how many points they score or games they help their teams win.

The debate will rage on & new players will step up and challenge for the right to be considered the best that has ever played the game.  Names may fall off the list as new names are added, but the impact that EVERY player who has donned a WNBA uniform has had on people around the globe will never be forgotten.  The future is very bright for the WNBA thanks to those who have blazed the trails.

Tune in on Saturday to find out who will have the honor of being recognized as the Top 15 WNBA Players of All-Time!  Also stay tuned for some of my favorite moments from the 15 seasons of the WNBA

Catching Women’s World Cup Fever

 

On a typical Sunday in mid-July, households across the world were captivated by a group of women who potentially have rejuvenated fan interest in a sport that has been in hibernation ever since fan favorites Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain brought home the Gold Medal on a similar stage 12 years ago.

While Chastain & Hamm et al had, what we now realize was, much more at stake (the survival of a women’s pro soccer league in the states), the drama and intrigue for the 2011 U.S. Women’s National Team was equally compelling.  If the 1999 group seemed to be the pioneers for women’s soccer at the elite level, then the 2011 team were flag bearers for the viability of the future of the sport.

Sometimes it takes a perfect storm to conjure up just enough steam to generate momentum.  Was this the perfect storm?

If Twitter is any indication (and we all now seem to use activity on this platform as confirmation of interest), the answer is YES!  The 2011 USWNT was in the midst of the perfect storm.  In fact, on Sunday evening, Twitter announced that a new record of tweets per second had been set at 7,196.  Eclipsing the activity around the Super Bowl, Osama bin Laden’s death, and the NBA Finals.

While media members debate whether or not this team is fair game for criticism for blowing two leads in the Final as the heavy favorite, the team can be grateful that the chatter hasn’t ended despite the disappointing and devastating outcome.  Truth is, as consumers of sports in all forms, many of us can’t resist analyzing this important moment in sports.  For many, the following questions come to mind:

1.  Was a sports starved American public (which included the President of the United States and his family), longing for any type of action as a result of the NFL & NBA lockouts, Tiger Woods’ absence from the Open, and a hangover from Derek Jeter eclipsing the 3,000 hit milestone last week? An 8.6 overnight rating on ESPN is a strong indication that a sports-starved public was more than willing to jump on the women’s soccer bandwagon.  For the avid sports fan, the absence of NFL free agency and training camp talk along with the terse undertones of a potential long-term NBA lockout certainly contributed to the interest in the WWC.  But to say that is the only reason people tuned in is a disservice to the fans and to the women’s soccer team.  Through their play, they earned our respect and desire to tune in as they sought after the first WC Gold medal in 12 years.  A hungry child must eat.  If fans tuned in because this was the best option, they were pleasantly surprised with what may just become a sport they now choose to consume on a regular basis.

2.  Was the Nike Women’s Sports campaign influential? There is no disputing the fact that Nike and its agency, Wieden & Kennedy, produce many of the most compelling ad campaigns in the industry and their efforts around the WWC were no different.  Nike’s commitment to the USWNT certainly provides a certain bit of credibility, but doesn’t necessarily impact consumer behavior or viewing choices.  It may, however, sell quite a few of those purple Hope Solo jerseys that were wildly popular.

3.  How strong was the Twitter-effect? As is witnessed by nearly 7,200 tweets being sent per second during the World Cup yesterday, fan activity on Twitter definitely played a role.  Players tweeted about their experiences, fellow athletes offered their respect & support, and Twitter-nation rallied in support of the team.  For those who weren’t watching the games live, they were treated to play-by-play throughout the matches and tune in prompts when action got exciting.

4.  Was ESPN’s commitment to the World Cup and growing coverage throughout the tournament a factor? ESPN’s commitment to the WWC was impressive.  They covered all of the matches, offered pre-match analysis, involved various experts (and former players) to share their opinions & analysis, and invested in making this a great event for the network.  As the tournament continued, ESPN’s covered picked up with post-game interviews and interviews on off days.  This allowed us to get to know the personalities of the rising stars.  In what had to be a moral victory for the 2011 team, the tone shifted from recounted the successes of the 1999 team to admiring the fierce competitors on the 2011 team.  Fans will still have Hamm, Foudy, and Chastain etched in their memories, but now a new generation of soccer playing role models have staked their claim on our respect & admiration.

5.  Is it the marketability of stars like Hope Solo and Alex Morgan? This isn’t even a question.  Simply Google Mia Hamm and you will realize how important it is for a struggling sport/league to have marquee stars. Over the course of Sunday’s Final, as reported by CNBC’s Darren Rovell, Morgan’s Twitter followers increased by 70%.  Yet, an important point to emphasize here is that these players are marketable primarily because THEY CAN PLAY!  Mia was one of the best (if not the best) players in the game who also was well-spoken and willing to carry the sport on her shoulders with her fellow teammates.  From what we can tell thus far, these players carry similar characteristics and both should be part of the USWNT for years to come.

6.  Is it the clutch play(s) by Abby Wambach that garnered instant respect with other professional athletes? Skip Bayless constantly harps on the “clutch gene” as he rates players in various sports.  In fact, despite his stellar play in the Eastern Conference Semis versus Boston & Finals against Chicago, LeBron’s fourth quarter disappearances in the NBA Finals still leaves Bayless questioning his clutch-ability.  Wambach’s huge clutch performances and game winning goals certainly made her one of the stars of this team.  To validate the impact clutch performances have on fan interest, we don’t have to look to far.  Remember Michael Jordan’s follow through as he hit a last second jumper in the Finals against Utah.  Think about Joe Montana & John Elway’s Super Bowl winning drives.  Recall Christian Laettnar’s game winner against Kentucky.  Clutch plays can make a career legacy!

7.  What will be the long-term impact of losing in the Final? Unfortunately, despite a cinderella-like journey through the World Cup that saw the team get off to a slow and unimpressive start, this loss will definitely have a negative impact on what “could have been” if the team brought home the gold.  The individual players will still benefit greatly from performing so well on this global stage, but they may not be able to generate as much off the field as they would have otherwise.  In addition, while interest will be boosted in WPS here in the states, we all love winners and may have somewhat of a hangover from the loss that stands in the way of us being motivated to tune into women’s soccer.  Hope Solo and Abby Wambach will now be household names and if they go on to win a Gold at the Olympics, they may be able to recapture some of what they lost.  It’s almost impossible to quantify the impact, but many of us will go on and say “what if”.

Despite the loss, the team captivated many unexpected fans. Possibly the coolest group of fans watching the theatre that became the Women’s World Cup Final was the POTUS and his family.  Huge fans of sports and fitness, the Twitter community was outwardly impressed that President Obama was not only watching the match with his family but also live-tweeting throughout the match.

Along with the question of whether or not sports fans will jump on board the women’s soccer bandwagon once the team returns to the states and their teams in the WPS, is the financial impact this attention will have on the new soccer stars Solo, Morgan, and Wambach.  An article in AdAge estimated that the stars each could have garnered $3 million – $4 million in endorsements with a victory.  Their eventual endorsement opportunities may not meet those expectations due to the disappointing outcome, but their agents’ phones certainly will be ringing off the hook with endorsements that can bring 7 figure incomes.  A newbie to the team, Alex Morgan, promises to become the face of women’s soccer.  She’s young.  She’s attractive.  She’s athletic.  She scored her first two goals in World Cup competition in two important moments.  She has a chance to become the next Mia.

We all have been treated to some amazing soccer over the last couple of weeks.  There were exciting victories claimed in the waning moments of regulation.  There was plenty of star power for avid and casual fans to follow. There was an amazing display of talented young stars.  There was great coverage from media members who typically hadn’t covered women’s sports or women’s soccer.  There were enthusiastic crowds in stadiums in Germany, pubs around the globe, and living rooms across the country.  And there were millions of Americans who Caught World Cup Fever!!!

The question remains, will they soon find a cure for that cold or will they continue to feed off the momentum and add a new activity to their calendars.  For those women who have worked so hard to put themselves in position to succeed on the grandest of stages, they hope that our interest is not temporary but that we will all find our way to stadiums around the country and watch them display the same passion for their craft as they play in the WPS.

Peace…