On this episode we spoke to Gene McCarthy who until last year was the President & CEO of ASICS America. Gene has had a long and storied career that began in 1982 when he joined Nike. In the last four years of his 21 years there Gene was part of the fabled Jordan Brand. He then went on to work at the senior executive level at both Reebok and Under Armour as well as being the Co-President of Timberland and the President of Merrell. Gene spoke with us about the current market landscape and also he shares with us one of his favorite Michael Jordan stories from the late 90’s. Be sure to listen to the end when Gene shares a big announcement about the Sport Lifestyle Network!

Podcast Highlights

3:07 – Athletic footwear and apparel has a life of its own: “So this is an industry that has always had a life of its own. I mean, there were times it invents itself. There’s no college or school in the land that teaches anything about the athletic footwear and apparel industry.”

6:01 – The opportunities coming from the pandemic: “People were finding ways to get out and run and exercise during the lockdown as a way for their own wellbeing, their mental health as well as their physical health. And I think that’s going to be the new narrative going forward and it’s gonna force all of these great brands to shift their narrative and then to shift the products that they make.”

7:03 – Nike’s early days: “I began at Nike in 1982 and like many Nike employees was witness to some phenomenal moments that not only were just about this industry, but became cultural.”

8:12 – The development of the Jordan Brand: “We had to figure out how do you reinvent or reimagine the Jordan brand.”

9:01 – Cutting Michael Jordan’s distribution by 50%: “So I told Michael, I said, so here’s our distribution strategy. We’re going to cut about 50% of the distribution in the United States. And I got a look from this terrifically handsome yet intimidating man.”

14:30 – Collaborations in brands: “Reebok did a couple of great collaborations, which I thought was great that it ran. I thought they did it tastefully. I think I do like Kanye and adidas. I think that’s an interesting relationship, but I think what has to happen is the art of a collaborations has to be based on unpredictability, not predictability.”

18:25 – How to turn a production mistake to a marketing win: “That’s the kind of creativity that happens in the best brands and all the places I’ve worked. I can talk about Jordan and Nike and all the other brands too, had all of this cleverness.”

21:05 – Advice for the people who want to get into the sports industry: “We need people who love the business of sport. Anybody who follows this industry or knows this industry knows that the business doesn’t always mirror what sports looks like to fans or to people who love their city or whatever it may be.” 

25:25 – Gene McCarthy’s collaboration with the Sport Lifestyle Network: “What I hope to be able to do is not only recount some examples and stories from my 40 years working with all of these major brands, Nike, Reebok, Timberland, Merrell but tell some of the tales that might be interesting and entertaining. I think there’s a lot of takeaways that could help a brand or a young kid who wants to be an entrepreneur.”