“Corporations Have Experienced … Monolithic Image Of A CMO” | Shannon Watkins Brings Black Girl Magic To Jordan Brand As CMO

Photo Credit: Sportico

The Jordan brand might be known for the legacy Air Jordan shoe and its Jumpman symbol of excellence, but now diversification of their employment ranks is becoming part of their history.

The company recently announced the addition of former Aflac chief brand and marketing officer Shannon Watkins, who joins the athletic lifestyle apparel company as its chief marketing officer.

Watkins begins her new role at the Nike-owned brand on May 16.

Blessed And Grateful

“Blessed and grateful to join the amazing Jordan Brand Family!” Watkins reportedly said via Linkedin.

Her profile describes her as a “proven, classically trained marketer consistently at the forefront of culture, and skilled at leveraging emerging trends to drive enduring brand relevance and growth.”

Now Watkins is one of the most influential Black women in sports marketing. Joining Aflac in 2018, Watkins facilitated the insurance provider’s partnership with ESPN’s “College “ She also reportedly renewed the company’s focus on HBCUs.

An Expert Marketer

Watkins’ history in marketing is extensive, as she spent over eight years at the Coca-Cola Company and was named one of the Most Powerful Women in Sports for 2021 by AdWeek.

“For decades, corporations have experienced and celebrated a monolithic image of a CMO, Watkins said to the Black Executive CMO Alliance.

“I am excited to continue to expand the aperture of what CMO leadership is – a focus on both brand and enterprise growth. I am thrilled to join a community of exceptional C-Suite leaders focused on serving the organizations they represent, and the deep pipeline of Black CMOs.”

Competitive Market

She enters a highly competitive and lucrative market, where Jordan Brand had sales of $4.7 billion for fiscal 2021, up from $3.6 billion the prior year, hitting a new sales record.

The company’s following earnings report comes in June, a month after Watkins begins.

“We need innovative leadership, someone who can lead us into the future by pushing creativity, championing diversity, and bringing our purpose to life,” Jordan brand president Craig Williams said to Sportico.
“Shannon’s experience across multiple industries and business sectors will do just that, helping to lead our marketing efforts into the future.”

The George Floyd Effect

Since the passing of George Floyd and the subsequent worldwide racial reckoning that followed, Williams has reportedly been shifting Jordan Brand’s focus to the Black community.

Watkins has the know-how and represents an overall shift for cultural representation for the world’s top corporate brands at the executive level.

“I think people are starting to realize that saying, ‘We can’t find talent of color at this level’ just really isn’t an excuse anymore,” said Shaina Wiel, founder of Minorities in Sports to Sports Illustrated. “And executives are willing to invest in the resources to look for that talent now.”

Jordan Brand has an extensive legacy with some of the most notable athletes globally, and the company is one of the most prestigious labels ever created. With a Black woman now at the helm of marketing, the branding campaigns will be created by the culture and steered by a maven of the culture.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.