Reebok has stayed on the pulse of culture thanks to collaborations with the likes of Cardi B and Future most recently, and part deals with artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Swizz Beats, and Rick Ross. Often, Damion Presson, Reebok’s director of global entertainment marketing, was the man behind the scenes making the deal go and assuring the brand is continuously presented in the best lights.
Presson, a Mount Airy, Philadelphia native, started as a field marketing rep and through the course of a 15+ year-long career has gone from working in product and development to executing product drops with retailers and designers on to spotting the next big talents.
Case in point, it was Presson who inked Travis Scott to a deal before he became a household name.
There is no better behind the scenes shot caller to kick off our The Sneaker Game column. Peep some of the knowledge he blessed Hip-Hop Wired & Cassius with in our Q&A below.
Hip-Hop Wired: Considering your title, how do you keep up with global trends?
Damion Presson: Working with a company like Reebok affords you the ability to travel. I get to see what is happening and moving the pulse of youth culture on multiple continents. I also stay connected to social media, I read blogs and publications. Travel, good eyes, and research are the ways that I stay on top of trends and gauge what’s moving the needle.
HHW: What are the biggest difference in the sneaker business from when you first entered 16 years ago until now?
DP: The footwear industry is more sophisticated now due to growth in technology which has expanded unprecedented access to the consumer. The internet and social media have allowed the consumer to become more savvy and sophisticated. They can get sneakers authenticated and work directly sellers. The access can be somewhat of a double edge sword, as quickly as things can catch, just as fast something can be perceived as old.
The e-commerce platform was not as significant as it is now. The sneaker boutiques were the primary resources to get exclusives. Now a kid with a computer living in South Dakota can buy a pair of exclusive Yeezys online or barter a sneaker deal with someone across the world who they may have met on social media. The straight to consumer market that the internet has afforded stands out to me the most.
HHW: Have these changes affected your job duties at Reebok?
DP: I started off in the business as a field marketing rep, working out of NYC. I later transitioned to product, specifically headwear/accessories, basketball, and footwear. Eventually, landing in entertainment and marketing.
In product, you are working 12 to 18 months in advance. You are working with designers, developers and hearing feedback from retailers that assist with the overall execution of the product.
Entertainment marketing is somewhat different. You have to know who is hot now but also be able to hedge your bet on who you believe will be up next. Example, I signed Travis Scott prior to him being the huge global star he is now. I was invited to see him at a video shoot and something felt dynamic about him, I knew he wouldn’t be a fly by night talent. Additionally, having a good rapport with industry execs and influencers is an asset, but I truly believe in order to do my job effectively you have to have the ability to anticipate what is next.
As my role grew in the company my duties obviously changed. There is a higher expectation to work cross-functionally with different groups both internally and externally.
HHW: What have been the biggest challenges?
DP: The process. The corporate engine can often be a very slow one. The entertainment industry can go 0-60 in three seconds like a Ferrari. We, on the other hand, will still get to the finish line but often at a much slower pace. Therefore, the challenge often becomes how we stay in the race. Finding business strategies that allow us to execute deals faster with the same level of efficiency that got us to our multi-billion dollar level is something that can be at times frustrating.
Another challenge is the battle of getting people with various opinions to feel comfortable that we as a marketing team are making the right choices regarding artist signings, and that these decisions benefit the overall growth of our company. There is such an immense level of subjectivity when it comes to what people like or see as beneficial, the convincing part becomes an arduous task at times but a challenge I have eagerly accepted throughout my career.
HHW: Beyond the obvious reason, what made y’all sign Cardi B and Future?
DP: Cardi B has proven the ability to be a global star and carry a brand. I love the work she has done with Fashion Nova. I believe she will be a great partner and a tremendous asset to the Reebok family. Future has proven he can do more than hold his own in the fashion world. He has a great sense for fashion and his style is his own. He has been a great partner and someone I have enjoyed working with.
If there were any regrets I would have to again reference Travis Scott, We signed him early and Reebok did not see the long term potential. We allowed Travis to get away and sign with Nike. I am not surprised by the type of success they are having with him over at Nike.
HHW: Do you think that Black men and women are aware of the potential for a career in your business? If not how can they be made more aware?
DP: I think there is room for increased awareness around the opportunities that exist in our industry. I think there should be more recruitment programs at our country’s HBCUs and not just the five or six we think of when we think “HBCU.”
I also believe these companies can be more integrated in urban communities across the country at high school career days and community festivals where so many of our creative young people walk around with big dreams but very few resources and relationships to help shorten the pipeline to industry opportunities.