John Shumate, Eastbay VP of Marketing Talks Winning, Social Media, and Hip Hop

The marketing professional shares career insights and how black millennials influence cultural trends

What does the Vice President of Marketing for Eastbay know about Ace Hood, Rick Ross, Waka Flocka? Deeper than their lyrics, he knows how to turn their catchy lines into inspirational moments. I recently had the chance to sit down with Eastbay’s VP of Marketing, John Shumate, to discuss everything from his own career to how everyone is in the business of marketing.

Wearing black and blue AJ-1 mid’s and a button-down shirt, Shumate was dressed how a VP at Eastbay would look; Casual, comfortable, yet still ready for business if need be. The Columbus, Ohio native started his career at Zero Casualties, an urban apparel line much like FUBU. Studying business at Wittenberg University, a small liberal arts college located in Springfield Ohio, Shumate’s interest in sports soon spilled over into his work life. Like many young men growing up, there was no shortage of athletes to aspire to be, but Shumate’s path was a little different; sports management was his way into the sporting arena.

Attaining his MBA from Florida Atlantic University with a specialization in sports business, Shumate learned the business and ultimately landed a job working for the Miami Dolphins. He’s also worked with the Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL) and the Orlando Magic, navigating the goals and objectives of corporate sponsors to connect with consumers. While in Miami, the opportunity presented itself to work for Gatorade. Doors opened, but reluctant to enter, Shumate was pushed by his former boss to accept the opportunity and no regrets have followed.

With new opportunities came new roles and the gears shifted for Shumate. From working with NHL, NFL, and NBA franchises to transitioning to the world’s largest food and beverage company PepsiCo, specifically working on several key brands such as Gatorade, Aquafina and LIFEWTR, Shumate has built an extensive resume to date. And opportunities continued to knock.

 

Life at LIFEWTR

Premium water that needed a push to millennial consumers. Well doesn’t everyone drink water? Sure, but maybe not the newer brand, LIFEWTR. You know…the bottle with the eye-catching art. Shumate led the launch of the brand that commissions artists to create unique artwork that inspires creativity. How did that reach their target demographic: millennials? Creatives! The need to stand out but not too much, the expression of one’s self resonates within that population. Tap into that and voilà; a successful brand was born. What makes marketing campaigns successful? Shumate emphatically answers, “Knowing your consumer.”

I asked Shumate what influence do black millennials have on marketing strategies and brands? “Black millennials move the culture and set the tone.” He expressed how critically important it is for any business to tap into the $1.2 trillion dollar buying power (according to Nielson) of the black consumer and “several corporations lose sight of the opportunity.” But if our culture is that influential, then how come it’s hard to get brands to see the value in it? Shumate explains that if something isn’t a part of their ecosystem, there is a complete loss of visibility and an overall lack of awareness. This happens in marketing. For example, it happens in your social media feeds. What people see on their social media news feed can vary by demographic. “When there are issues or tragedies in the black community, that information and news will show up in black users’ social media feeds, but other demographics may not see the stories in their feeds at all. When something like that happens – just how it does with the several brands— you are not aware of the issues and not necessarily looking for it.”

“When you belong to a minority group where not everyone may be aware of what is going on in the black community, it helps to have a diverse group of people at the table who can genuinely speak to the cultural trends and drive awareness of what is going on in the community.” To evoke awareness and change, clear communication is key. Shumate drives this idea home when he talks of building relationships. Effective communication leads to the building of relationships, especially when trying to get a start in any industry.

 

How did that get John Shumate to Eastbay? 

Cruising Catalogs

To all my readers 24 years and older, do you remember going to school and seeing people flip through a catalog full of jerseys and the latest versions of shoes? Often it was an Eastbay catalog. Athletes, as well as aspiring athletes, would scour the pages, circle the wish-list of products they wanted. Even if you weren’t on a team, the nostalgia of flipping those pages can’t help but come to mind. Under the Foot Locker umbrella, Eastbay has been around for close to 40 years, marketing to high school athletes that do everything for the win.

Looking to re-ignite the brand and target Gen Z athletes, Eastbay brought in Shumate to lead and transform the brand. “Eastbay’s role is to make athletes feel like winners, and athletes are redefining what it means to be a winner,” says Shumate. “Winning to this athlete does not always mean how many points you win by, but it can mean helping classmates, getting good grades and helping their communities and families.” Shumate has noticed that there is a disconnect in performance gear and everyday style. “The way we see street style, when it comes to sneakers, has not necessarily translated on the field or court of play. Eastbay is bringing the style back to performance.”

 

Where does this style come from?

Connecting with Consumers

With the help of social media, brands can connect directly with consumers. The ability to learn and communicate has improved business for digital brands. “Social media allows everyone to market themselves as a brand. It’s used as an opportunity to position yourself and to frame people’s perception of a story. “It’s marketing 101”, said Shumate. “If you wanted to know how you can get started in marketing…many people don’t realize they are already doing it.”

 

Keys to Success

To bring our conversation back full circle, Shumate left me with the keys to success in which he referenced the ‘Three R’s’; Results, Relationships, and Reputation. Results refer to what impact you’ve made and how you met or exceeded expectations. Building relationships allows you to connect and learn from those around you. Lastly, what is your reputation? What do people say about you when you are not in the room? Always make sure your story, no matter who is telling it, is a good one and by delivering impactful results, building and maintaining strong relationships, as well as developing a solid reputation is a very important part of anyone’s success. You can’t have one ‘R’ without the other; they work in conjunction.

Quoting Rick Ross, “These haters ain’t gone hold me back,” Shumate gave me his own definition of winning: “Winning is making a difference and having a positive impact in people’s lives. Helping others to win and doing it the right way.” That definition reminded me of my own rap lyric reference. “Over here we measure success by how many people successful next to you” Jay-Z, a winner.

Shumate emphasizes getting out there and putting in the work. Seizing opportunities that come your way, even if they don’t look like what you initially envisioned. A strong relationship with GOD, an unwavering work ethic, and remembering that even despite our mistakes, we all have what it takes to go for the win.



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