Trevor Edwards Biography - Accepted Wisdom from His Mother, Developed Winning Campaign
Trevor Edwards is corporate vice president of global brand management for Nike, Inc., a leading athletic footwear, equipment, and apparel designer, marketer, and distributor, known as much for its popular athletic shoes as it sporty celebrity ads. With a one billion dollar budget, Edwards develops and executes Nike's global strategy; he is in charge of the brand's design and its communications as well as the functioning of its advanced concepts team. Edwards' marketing genius has been instrumental in the signing of top athletes like LeBron James and Serena Williams. Mark Parker, Nike brand president, said in the company's announcement of Edwards' latest appointment: "Edwards has elevated and advanced the brand in Europe and the U.S. with creativity and innovation, which has put the Nike brand in a position to lead in growth and innovation in our industry worldwide." The company ended its 2005 fiscal year with record revenues of $13.7 billion, gaining across all regions and product lines. Nike has several subsidiaries marketing related products: Converse Inc., an athletic footwear company; Bauer Nike Hockey Inc., a manufacturer of hockey equipment; Hurley International LLC, a line of action sports and teen lifestyle apparel; Cole Haan, a line of high-quality footwear; and Exeter Brands Group LLC, a designer of athletic apparel.
Edwards was born on November 28, 1962, in London, England, and grew up in the South London suburb of Norbury. His father, Ossie, was an accountant who went on to work at several other professions; Edwards' mother, Joyce, was a nurse. Both worked hard to give their four children the things they needed and wanted and were Edwards' "guiding inspiration." Although Edwards' family was one of the few minorities in his predominately white town, life was good. Edwards remembers his early years in this typical English enclave fondly, although he could have done without the yard work. The family's three-bedroom home included a garden and apple trees. "We grew tomatoes, lettuce, you name it, we were growing it," Edwards said in an interview with Contemporary Black Biography (CBB). "I spent a lot of time having to rake the leaves and picking apples. My parents were always asking 'Hey could you rake the leaves?'" With a hearty laugh he told CBB, "That's why I now have this dispassion for raking leaves!" Edwards' home was a lively place, filled with lots of laugher. He feels this environment helped to shape his personality, making him confident about who he is and what's important to him. Edwards said his parents contributed by allowing him to speak his mind, "even if I was wrong."
Accepted Wisdom from His Mother
When Edwards was 13 years old the family moved to Jamaica, something he did not initially appreciate. Living in Kingston and the town of St. Andrews, Edwards found he was now not in the minority because of his color but because he was English. He was teased a bit because of his accent, but he came to enjoy the differences about this new culture. "It taught me to see the world from a different perspective, and I came to love Jamaica," Edwards said. "It was just the culture shock of living where people saw the world quite differently." Edwards developed a love for sports, specifically basketball and football, but he also played cricket, threw the discus, and took part in gymnastics. He did it all. He recalls the types of athletic shoes people wore back then. "They were pretty basic," Edwards said. "One would have dreamed to have what we have today. There were a lot of small brands at that time and you didn't wear anything in particular."
In high school Edwards excelled academically, displaying a particular aptitude for foreign languages. He studied French, German, and Latin, and briefly considered becoming an interpreter. Edwards graduated and entered Baruch College in New York, receiving a bachelor's degree in business in 1984 and, in 1989, an M.B.A. in international marketing and finance. Edwards took a position with Goldman Sachs, a global investment banking firm, in 1984, handling "high-wealth" clients. He found no passion for this work, and only his tenacity kept him going. He had yet to realize that he needed to give himself permission to move on, but his mother could see that her son was not happy. "I came home one day and I guess I didn't look very cheerful," Edwards said. "You don't like your job," Joyce said to her son. "You know, you don't work this hard not to enjoy what you do. Find something that you enjoy." She helped him understand that he was not failing in his work and he would be fine. "It was a release for me," Edwards said. He appreciated her approach to his problem. "I always tell people that my parents never pushed me, they guided me."
In 1986 Edwards found his calling at Colgate-Palmolive, working in brand marketing. In 1992 Edwards first heard about an opening at Nike from a headhunter. He later answered an ad in Atlanta that brought him onboard with Nike as regional marketing manager for its eastern region. In 1993 Edwards was placed in charge of strategic accounts (Footlocker), and in 1995 he was promoted to director of marketing in the Americas. Edwards then took over Nike's European marketing department from 1997 to 1999. He was then promoted to vice president of marketing for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Upon his promotion to vice president of U.S. brand management in 2000, Edwards took charge of sports marketing, advertising, brand design, and public relations. He also implemented a successful integrated marketing team concept in the United States. His successes had distinguished Edwards as a charismatic and creative force in marketing. With his promotion to vice president of global brand management, Edwards was recognized as one of the smartest marketing minds globally.
Developed Winning Campaign
"Brilliant" might be the best term to describe Edwards' marketing skills. At a time when Nike needed to "reestablish its connectivity" and "rekindle it's relationship with consumers" in New York City, Edwards made it happen. "We basically boiled it down to the world of street basketball," he said. "We felt that if Nike could show that we understood street basketball, then clearly we had a better knowledge of sports than any other company." People within and outside the company still talk a lot about this campaign. Up to that point Nike's focus was on lead athletes. "This campaign celebrated, certainly from a basketball perspective, the heroes of New York." These were the athletes who played on courts throughout the city. Edwards feels the campaign worked because it was grounded in reality. "We didn't make it up. This is my approach to all of my marketing efforts, it's grounded in a real behavior." As a result, every product marketed in the New York campaign, such as the Air Darwin outdoor athletic shoe, completely sold out.
Mixing sports, marketing, and advertising in a cutting-edge shop at Nike means there is no typical week. Each is different. "It really depends on what challenges we have, or what opportunities we are trying to drive," Edwards told CBB. "I spend a lot of time working on driving the Nike brand. I attend lots of meetings, working through creative challenges we may have in terms of trying to connect with the consumer." He enjoys his work, especially the extensive travel it involves. "I have the opportunity to see different cultures, connecting with our teams around the world to create and communicate the messages that define Nike brands," he said. He also likes living in various cities, having also lived in Brussels, Amsterdam, and now Beaverton, Oregon. It informs his work. "I'm always inspired by meeting people from various cultures and seeing how their lives are similar or different from mine," Edwards said. "I believe this has shaped me in a big way." Exposure to other countries and cultures is not the only source of his talent and inspiration. "I let my instincts work for me," he said. "With everything I look at, I trust my gut instinct. I think that comes from my background and my family, who always let me have my point of view." Although he may be opinionated according to his family, Edwards said, "I'm always willing to share my point of view and listen to others to hear theirs in order to come together with the right answer."
Edwards still plays his favorite sports from his youth, nowadays throwing in a bit of tennis here and there, and he understands well the "love-of-the-game" and its connection to successfully marketing the Nike brand. "Because marketing is a daily challenge creatively," Edwards told CBB, "it is important to market something you really care about. If you care about it then you are better able to put your spirit and soul into it and you will then come up with the right solution. I would say to anyone going into marketing, or any field, let your passion be your guide; then your instincts will follow."
"Trevor Edwards," Nikebiz.com, www.nike.com/nikebiz/nikebiz.jhtml?page=7&item=exec (June 15, 2005).
"Nike Announces New Corporate Vice President Global Brand Management," PRnewswire, www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/10-07-2002/0001813773&EDATE= (June 15, 2005).
Additional information for this profile was obtained through an interview with Trevor Edwards on June 30, 2005, and July 16, 2005.
—Sharon Melson Fletcher