In the spirit of those insights, we present our Meet the Marketer series, where we discuss the careers and tactics of marketers behind industry-leading brands.
In this episode, we chat with Jason Wells, Managing Director at CHARLY USA. If you are anywhere other than Mexico, you may not know the brand yet, but with the tagline LEAVE OUR MARK, the athletic apparel company is on a mission to do just that... here in the US. Charly is a household name in Mexico, having been in the footwear and apparel game for over 60 years and, more recently, sponsoring more than half of the Liga MX soccer teams.
Now, their eye is on the US market and they’re making their mark fast. With Wells at the helm, they’ve already struck a multi-year deal with the San Diego Loyal soccer team, their first in American Soccer, significantly expanded their national footprint through notable retail partners, and made great strides increasing their notoriety beyond the Hispanic market.
We're going to talk about how he's bringing this Mexican brand to the US, about his career trajectory, as well as here about the playbook he's building on the fly. All inspired by his many years in footwear and apparel, including 13 years at ASICS. Welcome, Jason.
Can you tell me a little bit about your career journey and how you ended up in your current role as the Managing Director at Charly USA and some background on the company?
Reid Carr: Oh, yeah, that's right. Here we are in 2023, to mark this episode, because I think it's such an interesting time to have this conversation. You've been in your role at Charly for a little while now, but I really want to take a step back and tell me a little bit about your career journey and how you ended up in your current role at Charly USA. Maybe actually also tell us a little bit about Charly USA for the market that doesn't know it.
Jason Wells: Yeah, thank you. I'm a bit of a legacy child in this industry. My dad was in the industry and that's how I got exposed to it at a young age. I am like many people in this space, I was the guy that got in trouble and had to pack my dad's sample bags when he would go on his business trips and get things ready for him. But through that process, I got into brands, I got into product, I got interested in what he was doing in sports from a different lens. I played all the youth sports and everything. Growing up around sports and in that environment was a really fun and different way to grow up. Then, combining that with motor sports, which was the family business, seeing big brands, seeing high level competition. I got a 360 view of what sports was all about, from the business side and the competition side, which is a lot of fun.
Reid Carr: Yeah, from there, you got into the business.
Jason Wells: I did and following his footsteps. Had a great education, college athlete. Getting out of school I had that decision like everybody has, is what are you going to do with the rest of your life? I knew just because of how I was raised, I wanted to be around sports. I called my dad and said, "Hey, can you help me out?"
Reid Carr: Yeah, use the network.
Jason Wells: Exercising humility, using the network. He was kind enough to get me some interviews with his friends. I went through the merry-go-round of interviews and finally landed on a job right out of school with Reebok. I was in a marketing role there down here in San Diego and loved it. It was a great first job to get experience to all the different parts of the business, the product side, the marketing side, and the sales side when I would be helping out the reps. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it. It was incredibly challenging, but it was a great proving ground for someone just getting out of school. I learned quickly at that time that I was a little bit more sales driven.
I think I was just harnessing my competitive nature and needed to see if what I was doing was working. Sales made a little bit more sense for me at that time. I had to look down into the right and see a number, is what I'm doing working?
Reid Carr: Yeah, which is lo and behold where we are in marketing now, right?
Jason Wells: Exactly. Exactly. I got approached just because the industry's small, you network a little bit. There was an opportunity with ASICS to take over Southern California as a territory from a sales position. That was a really unique role where I took over an existing business. Then, I was also the local rep to where ASICS was at the time. I spent a good nine or 10 years in that role as an independent. Then, transitioned to an in-house role for the brand. I say that's where I grew up, was with ASICS.
Reid Carr: Yeah, it's 13 years. Yeah?
Jason Wells: Something like that. Yeah, and we went on just this meteoric rise. When I started there, it was a I think $75 million company. When I left there, it was I think $1.2 billion. We had nothing but success. I got to experience a lot of what it took to grow a brand and grow the business just through great examples and great product and watching what they were doing. That was just a blessing to fall on that opportunity when I did. After that, I realized once I was brought in-house, I needed to get smart. I needed to get smart in the areas that I wasn't as knowledgeable in. I felt comfortable in the product role, in a sales role and in a marketing role.
Jason Wells: But operations, finance, some of the back-office type parts of the business was an area that I just wanted to get more educated in just to be more well-rounded. I put myself through business school. That was a big journey for the family and I, big undertaking to do that while you're fully employed. I went to business school and leveraged everything I possibly could out of that experience at ASICS to try and grow. I had every anticipation of growing within that place. I love that brand and what it is that they bring to the market and the consumer. But I realized I need to continue growing and an opportunity presented itself to me where I can get into a licensing role with a Nike affiliate.
Jason Wells: I thought, "Well, that's going to be a great experience and exposure for a young guy like me." I took the role, challenged the heck out of myself to learn everything I possibly could in a general manager position and really sharpened those skills that I went to school to go learn. That was just an incredible, incredible experience for me. Through that process I got a call from an old friend that was interviewing with this company out of Mexico. He says, "Ultimately, I'm not the guy for them. I take brands to Latin America, not the other way around, so I recommended that they call you." I got the recruiter call and I wasn't really open to the opportunity at the time, but I said, "Well, talk is cheap."
I took the phone call and had a couple of just open general discussion to see what this thing was all about. They offered to fly me down to Mexico. I thought, "Well, this is going to be interesting." I said, "All right, well, why not? Let's go check this thing out. This seems like a unique opportunity." I didn't have the full breadth of what it was that they were trying to do at the time. It was just something that felt right, like I should be exploring it. When I got down there, I couldn't believe it. I've never had a better experience from a recruitment standpoint, an interview perspective, anything like that. It was red carpet, white glove treatment the entire time, and it was a different, it wasn't what I was expecting.
It was about four days of, I'll call it intense interviewing. I couldn't count how many people I met and spoke to about the role. But as I got through towards the end of it, the final day, I could feel this thing getting into my bloodstream a little bit more. I could see a bigger and bigger opportunity presenting itself in front of me. I got to the very end and I met with the owner. It's a third generation family owned and operated company.
Reid Carr: Which is pretty unique.
Jason Wells: Yeah, and it started in 1949, so not many brands out there or companies out there are that old in our space. I thought, "Well, this is something different and nobody knows about it yet." They were starting to know about it. The little bit that you could Google at the time, it was a soccer brand out of Mexico. As I sat there with Agustin and, prior to that interaction with him I sat down in a showroom with nothing but product in there. There's a couple products in there, and I could see the pricing on them, and it was just one of their standard showrooms. I'm looking at this thing and I go, "Wow, this is a really interesting shoe for 60 bucks." Based on what I could do at the time with converting pesos in my head.
But I said, "This is a really interesting product for $60." This isn't just a soccer cleat, this is just your general running shoe. As we're getting into this discussion, it was a three-hour, I'll never forget it, I think it was close to a four-hour meeting, and it was very hot. It was in April. It was 105 degrees. We're sitting there, I'm all dressed up and sitting on white leather couches. It was brutal. We had a great conversation about family, about career paths. It wasn't about the business, it was about who I was as the person and who he was as a person. There was something really endearing about it. He took the resume, he threw it off to the side, he says, "If you've gotten to me, then you're doing something."
Reid Carr: You passed that part.
Jason Wells: Yeah, you passed the test. We had this really great discussion, and it wasn't until the end when we got into the business side of it and he says, "What do you think? What do you think about this opportunity? What would you do?" Throughout the discussions at the time leading up to it, I thought, or I was being told that we're a soccer brand and there's teams, there's athletes, and there's fans in the US market and we want to scale this thing up. I thought, "But you're more than that." I said, "Agustin," who is the owner, I said, "you have a bigger opportunity in front of you than what you guys even realize right now."
I said, "This shoe right here," I grabbed the shoe from their showroom and I held it up and I said, "this product right here is the equivalent of a Nike Flyknit upper and has a decent midsole that's comfortable on your foot." I said, "This product right here, it's $60. If you were to take off your logo and put a Nike logo on there, it's going to retail for 110 bucks." We got the internet out and we Googled it and we said, "Look, that's basically the same product right now." I said, "The family channel of distribution in the United States is one of the largest distribution networks in our country right now. It's healthy, they're easy to do business with, it's vast, it's diverse, and there's always room for new people to enter into this space, and they don't get this product from Nike right now at $110."
Reid Carr: I want to actually interrupt that for one second in the question here of do you feel like your background through the sales channel is different than the experience that you're able to portray in this category? It's different than somebody who comes up through the traditional marketing and promotion channel. Because your awareness of that seems to come from the hands-on product.
Jason Wells: Yeah, a hundred percent, a hundred percent. I was a product and sales guy, and then I'll say I've turned into a marketer. To me, marketing has become the new salesman with just how things have evolved over the last 15 years even. Now, instead of just leveraging features and benefits and selling, my experience was, it was features and benefits and technology to justify the price point and justify the end user experience, and this is why you should buy this. Now, it's converting that to a price value discussion. Relies heavily on the brand and the marketing tools that you use and how you communicate who you are. I just told them, I said, "Let's look at ... " But it all starts with product at the end of the day.
Reid Carr: Yeah, exactly.
Jason Wells: I said, "This product right here," I said, "this product right here at $60 is going to offer up something to a massive consumer set. They aspire to get that product, but they don't want to spend the money to get that product. You can now do this. You can offer what they want to them at a palatable price point." I said, "This is a much bigger opportunity. Now, you have this football component, football meaning soccer, you have football and you have family." I said, "75% of the Hispanic market in the United States right now considers themselves a football fan." I said, "You've got this really unique, authentic football family heritage story that you can play, that you can take up to the US market and scale much quicker than what you guys are currently planning to do.
Because you're limited if you just go to the soccer channel, you're limited to your license product, your soccer cleats, and what you can generate from a team sale or something like that. You can build your brand in other channels of distribution in this really unique, compelling way at the premium, at the price point level." Through that discussion, and that actual disagreement, and tell him, "I think you're going about it the wrong way." It turned into an instant respect for one another.
Reid Carr: Well, that's what you're supposed to do. Challenge them in healthy, strong ways, in a respectful way, respect where they've been and show you ... They're not trying to hire someone who's just going to always agree with them, I would assume.
Jason Wells: Yeah, he respected that. He didn't want a yes man. Through that process and being able to challenge it right out of the gate, I had nothing to lose at the time. Going through that experience and having that honest discussion right out of the gate was important for me. We basically cut a deal right there, and I flew home and said, "Hon, I got a job."
Reid Carr: Well, that and I would think that that also helps too, coming from a place you actually loved being already puts you in a power position in that respect, is you're in a place, if you stay there, you feel great, and if you get this new job, you feel great as well.
Jason Wells: Yeah, and for me, it was an opportunity to stay in Southern California, be close to my family, stay in an industry that I know that I love, and challenge myself in ways that I had never been challenged before, and use it almost as a proving ground to myself that I can go do this. It was motivating, it was inspiring. Then, when you step back and you look at the real challenge in all of it was the Mexico component. No brand from Mexico has ever been successful in the US market, let alone beyond its own borders.
Reid Carr: Well, aside from maybe food and drink, I think we were talking about that. I think we're all familiar with your Cuervos, and your Coronas, and maybe Herdez, but from this standpoint, yeah, I certainly can't name one.
Jason Wells: From a footwear, activewear perspective, from an industry standpoint, I think we are the first ones to actually penetrate the market and show signs of success out there. There's a lot of intrinsic reward and there's a lot of motivation to what we're doing right now because we are the first ones to do it. To have the opportunity to start something from complete scratch, it was zeros across the board. I joke around, I said, "Four years ago, it was me in a WeWork and a computer and the ambitions of an entire country to be successful in the US. There was no pressure at all."
Reid Carr: Well, and can you put that in context of obviously in Mexico, they're a notable brand. You're a zero here, but there, you're building off of something that's third generation, the endorsements and the things that they have. Maybe give it some relative comparison.
Jason Wells: Yeah, I wasn't necessarily starting it, I was just starting from scratch in the US. The brand is massive down in Mexico. It's the number one sportswear brand, I should say it's the number one Mexican sportswear brand. Nike and Adidas are larger down there, but it's the number three brand overall and number one Mexican brand down there.
Reid Carr: Of thousands, right?
Jason Wells: Of thousands, yeah. Through the mids, it sounds weird to say it, the mid 1900s, for 30 years it was a closed economy. They had to rely on local distribution, local manufacturing to supply footwear apparel accessories to its own market. All these brands have popped up. There's thousands, hundreds, if not a thousand different brands down there. It's really incredible once you go down there and see it. To be the biggest and to see all those brands, to know that all those brands have tried to be successful in the US market, but they've been unsuccessful, the first thing I said is, why? Why have they been unsuccessful? It comes down to the business model and how business is conducted in Mexico, and what they thought they needed to do in order to make it.
They thought they could just badge and tag it up here in the US and do it the same way. The business models are widely different with just even how the transactions are conducted between the brand and a customer. I had to navigate all that and learn that business model in order to convert and translate, to translate that business into a way that was going to work in the US. I was running solo for a while, just back and forth every 10 days down there, just being a sponge, brushing up the Spanish.
Is there a playbook to it going from one country to another? or is this unique coming from Mexico to the US?
Reid Carr: Other brands have come from other countries that come into the US. Obviously, ASICS being a notable one. Do you feel like there is a playbook to it going from one country to another, or is this entirely unique coming Mexico to the US?
Jason Wells: I wish there was a playbook. I have been associated with other brands that are internationally driven or globally driven, and this one is really unique. The Hispanic market is very different in the US. I'll say we in the consumer base, we thought that we had this market locked down and understood. Through this journey that I've been on, I've uncovered how much we don't understand this consumer and trying to provide tools to the market to see how we can understand it more and speak directly to them. Going back a little bit about the brand so that we understand it more, it's a third generation family owned and operated company. It started out as shoe stores down in Mexico City where it was just a very simple, actually children's shoe stores down there in Mexico City.
But because of the closed economy and local production, they realized, "Well, why are we spending all this money on wholesale partners just to supply our own stores and then sell to people? Why don't we start making our own product?" They moved from Mexico City to Leon, started their own factory, built their own children's shoes. It was called Campanita at that time, stood for Tinkerbell.
Reid Carr: Oh, okay.
Jason Wells: But it was more of just a product solution at the end of the day. Through that time they realized, "Well, we can't just have this thing." Part of that journey, I should say, is another brand came in to ask Charly, or what was Campanita at the time, "Can you guys help us manufacture products? We have some Mexican distribution that we need to tackle. We're having supplier issues somewhere else. We need you to make us a hundred thousand pairs." "Sure, no problem. We'll make you a hundred thousand of these shoes." They seem pretty easy to make at the time, we were not an athletic wear brand at that particular time. It was fashion footwear. Just everyday wear. It was just basically a white leather sneaker.
We made those hundred thousand pairs of white leather sneakers and we failed miserably. The brand that we made them for rejected all of them. Yeah, it hurt, right? This is our current owner's father at the time. He had to give back the money and he's sitting there on a hundred thousand pairs of shoes that he doesn't know what to deal with, of rejected products. Okay? He called his dad and said, kind of like me, he said, "Hey, dad, I need some help. Can you help me move or sell these hundred thousand pairs?" He says, "Sure, send them down to me in Mexico City and I'll call some friends and see what we can do." Two days later, he calls his son up and says, "You know those white leather sneakers that you made?" He goes, "Yeah."
He goes, "Can you stop all production on your children's shoes and make me a million pairs? I just sold all of them." This is two days later, he said, "I just sold all of them to the Mexican government to supply the school systems in Mexico." At that time, and I'm sure to this day, I'm sure it's expanded, but they had to wear all white or all black leather sneakers. They became the exclusive supplier of athletic shoes, athletic sneakers to the school systems of Mexico. Obviously, business boomed as a result of that. It was this unique organic opportunity that they capitalized on it, but it was still a product solution at that particular time. They realized, "Well, we can't call all these shoes Campanita."
Because there's men, women, boys, and girls, and the shoes are called Tinkerbell. "We need to work on this. How do we create a brand?" But it was still just supplying PE shoes, right? They weren't taking it that serious. They didn't really believe it was going to mushroom into the thing that it's turned into today at that particular time. Literally, mom was spritzing a perfume, and at the time it was a Revlon product called Charlie.
Reid Carr: Oh, yeah.
Jason Wells: It was Charlie perfume. She goes, "Just call it Charlie, change the IE to a Y. That way in English and Spanish it's pronounced the same way." They said, "Okay, fine." Not a lot of thought went into it. There wasn't this big brand analysis that came about. They just said, "Well, we got to put a name on it and it's got to work." They thought it was fine, it was catchy, and it stuck. No explanation on why it just stuck. It's not the big story like a Lasse Viren winning in the Olympics and holding the shoes above his head, putting ASICS on the map, or a Jordan signing. We didn't have that big crescendo moment that a lot of these other brands have in order to establish itself or establish its reputation. It just happens.
That's been how we've been developing Charly USA here. After that the business grew and the family benefited from it. They started expanding into other categories and they converted everything to sportswear for that matter. But it wasn't until 2014 when they got into soccer and they realized, "We're making all these athletic shoes. We're the biggest supplier of athletic footwear in Mexico, but we're not in the biggest sport in Mexico. Why?" It was through fear. The current owner, my friend, once he took over the company, that was the first thing he did, was say, "We are going to go after our, we're going to tug at the heartstrings here." Because they don't have an NFL. They don't have an NBA or an MLB, they have soccer and it's football, it's the Bible and it's Coca-colas are the three most recognized icons down there.
Jason Wells: You're born into a team down there. It's like a religion. He said, "We're going to go for it. We're going to learn." They started out by sponsoring a division two team just to use it as a training ground to learn. They did so well with the kit releases and the service to that team, more and more teams throughout the Liga MX started to call them. Now, we are the official sponsor of Liga MX. We have over half the teams as Charly teams there. It's given us global recognition. You can look up on the soccerbibles.com and you're seeing the brand broadcast out there through this kick culture that's so relevant in today's market. We've gone about it the other way, where sport has driven the rest of the brand.
We used this massive company to give us, to create an opportunity to get into sport. We've reverse engineered our way into a successful business in Mexico. Now, we're leveraging that into the US in the reverse manner, where we're using football first to get in.
Reid Carr: Which for folks here is, you were the first in the USL with the San Diego Loyal. Maybe talk a little bit about that. That's clearly hitting a deep passion for us here at Red Door as well as for our community here in San Diego.
Jason Wells: The San Diego Loyal has been just a blessing. It's been an incredible partnership and an opportunity for us as a brand, a great learning experience for me. I've never sponsored a professional soccer team before, so this has been great. I was fortunate enough to be able to use the case studies of how we service the business in Mexico and realized through the Mexican entity that I get to work with, there is clearly a point of differentiation on how we partner with our teams, and that's been our secret sauce. It's not a transactional relationship at all where we're just sponsoring and providing uniforms. We help market, we help them drive their business, and we help create opportunities for them to grow their brand as much as we're growing our brand.
That's been this really great symbiotic relationship that we've created with Loyal. I just knew that if we were to do this correctly, we would have more, it would just create more opportunity for us throughout that league. With MLS locked up the way that it is with Adidas, this is our best foot forward and a great launchpad for us.
How's is the introduction of Charly into the US market going?
Reid Carr: Talking about a launchpad now, we're a few years into it. We've talked a little bit about the beginning of it, so how's it going? A pretty broad statement, but we know it's going somewhere. How's it going?
Jason Wells: Well, considering we had to launch the brand in the middle of a pandemic, actually at the beginning of the pandemic, I'd say we're doing very, very well. We had zeros across the board, like I mentioned earlier, and now we're in close to 3000 points of distribution across the US. We have professional teams now at the Loyal and more coming. We have professional athletes on the way. I don't know if I could have written that up any better for us. It's okay to get lucky every once in a while. I think considering timing of when we entered the market, we had an opportunity to capitalize on what people didn't think was important. Specifically Nike in this case, they got out of the family channel of distribution.
Referencing my comment earlier about having certain products specific to the family channel, our timing, we got lucky on the timing of that. When Nike exited, we just knew there was open to buy dollars there. If we serviced the business the right way, we prepared ourselves the right way and could deliver, we knew that we would be able to create an opportunity for ourselves. Then, the salesmanship came in, how do we get into that market? We had to use data and we had to figure out what do we have to work with. We partnered with a research firm, and that research firm was able to pull all the census data and we were able to look up every retail location for all the core customers that we were targeting.
We were able to walk in there and say, "Okay, we have an authentic Mexican brand and you have Mexican consumers, so you say. Of your 500 locations, how many of them have a high Hispanic door count?" They thought they knew. We pulled all the census data and we drew a radius around each store and we said, "Okay, let's call it 40 grand, 50 grand, 50,000 people are within 10 miles of all of these particular stores. We can verify it through data. If we were to sell a $50 pair of shoes twice a year to these people, we can deliver you a upwards of a $15 million business." Then I said, "Are you sure you have the Hispanic consumer?" All of them would then sit back in their chair and go, "Okay, keep talking."
Okay. Now, are you speaking to that Hispanic consumer in an authentic way? Are you doing it in a bilingual fashion? Because if you're not, we can help you do that, because authenticity matters. We had a heritage that no other brand had in this space, and they have the Hispanic consumer because they have to buy shoes. But if there's an authentic brand and an authentic way that we can communicate with these people, and this is all independent of soccer. Soccer's easy, when you step back and you look at it in this regard. But if you were to look at the general footwear market and this consumer set that shops in there, how do we build an opportunity for the retailer and then partner like we did with the Loyal? We got to partner with you guys.
They have the audience, they have the consumer. How do we work with them on marketing programs to speak to their consumer set that they already have and amplify our messages through there, because they're the trusted resource right now, not us. We were a new guy coming into the space, so how do they know it's going to be good quality? But if the retailer that they trust is working with us and promoting us and helping us, then that gave us an instantaneous credibility. It's turned into success after success after success. What was really interesting is going after the Hispanic market and going after the Hispanic market with a Mexican brand, the natural tendency was to put us close to the border, put us in those densely populated Hispanic neighborhoods.
We did that and we showed signs of success, but it doesn't work all the time. We had a couple key partners say, "Well, let's try you guys out in non-Hispanic markets and let's do some tests." That is where we actually saw the most success.
Reid Carr: Interesting.
Jason Wells: We realized, "Wait a minute, we came in as a Mexican sportswear brand or a Mexican soccer brand. We have to pivot now. We need to pivot on who we are as a brand. We need to make sure that we're communicating that we are an activewear brand competing head to head with all the biggest brands out there. We happen to be from Mexico. Let's let people discover that. Let's not just be a brand for Mexicans. Let's be a brand for everybody that happened to be from Mexico and foster that relationship that everybody wants to have with Mexico and let them discover it on their own." We realize that force feeding the narrative wasn't going to be the most successful approach for us, and it's turned into a lot of success.
Reid Carr: Now, is that a function of price point? Quality product and we've talked about that, I think that the manufacturing capabilities and all the engineering and things that you have there produces quality, and then price is also a function of that, when you talk about the family segment?
Jason Wells: Yeah, price. We knew we had something to start with and there was a foundation of products that we knew that we could get into the market with that were just as competitive with everybody else. What's interesting about our take is having football on one end of the spectrum from a pricing standpoint, and then the family channel on the other end of the spectrum. We're sandwiching the market right now in a way that isn't expected, it's unique. Football is giving us the ability to innovate and it's given us the ability to develop technology and develop performance based attributes to the product and cascade that into our lower price point models. We can start to bridge that gap from a pricing standpoint.
Then, through that effort you're creating marketing stories and marketing opportunities, not just product marketing opportunities, but brand marketing opportunities through that effort. It's unique, it's incredibly challenging, but it's inspiring good work at the end of the day and the team's motivated by it.
What have you learned about Charly brand loyalists at this point?
Reid Carr: Yeah, so what have you learned about now, you've had it a little while now, the loyalists, those who are repeat purchasing. What have you learned about Charly brand loyalists at this point?
Jason Wells: It's funny. They want to see us succeed. There's definitely a passion, I think, with everybody about the challenger brand and to look at it ... What I'm proud of is just our fearless approach to how we're going about our business. We've had to say no to certain opportunities in front of us because we wanted to maintain some integrity of how we were conducting ourselves in the marketplace from a business standpoint. You start to work with these retailers, they want to, genuinely, they want to see you succeed. They want the new guy to come in and take some market share. They don't want to be reliant on the incumbent brands to drive their business.
Coming in with that fresh approach and that fresh partnership relationship, it was something that was lacking, and it was something that was needed. It was something that they were asking for and wanted to get back. It's a little bit old school in the approach, but there's something refreshing about all of that. It's been really inspiring to get rooted on by the consumers and to see those repeat customers come back and to see every positive message. That's that intrinsic reward that I mentioned before, is this hasn't happened before and people are motivated by it. Even take the consumers and the retailers out of it. I had an opportunity with Fox Deportes to do an interview with them, and this was mid-pandemic and it was a unique in studio deal that we did during a game. To see the entire Fox Deportes staff stop in their tracks and shake your hand and say, "Good luck. We're rooting for you. We really want to see you guys succeed." Then, to see a major network like that give you free airtime and give you all these extra benefits because they wanted to see you succeed. It was really an inspiring experience to go through and energizes you and really helps you focus your energy on the right things. We're doing something much bigger here by being the first in many ways. There's a responsibility in that. We don't want to mess that up.
Reid Carr: Yeah. Well, yeah, it sounds you're doing it on behalf of a community, of passion, and it's beyond footwear and athletic wear. That's pretty interesting. We talked obviously around knowing that the core number is sales and how we're growing within in the US market, but what are some of the other things you're doing to, your willingness to learn, what are some of the other things that you're measuring or looking at to see how things are performing as maybe leading indicators toward those sales?
Jason Wells: We're definitely in that awareness phase right now. The approach that we've taken has been a little unique because it's really through partnerships and it's not your traditional collaboration where after listening to David's podcast of X, there's brand X, other brand, that's been going on for quite some time now, and that does work. We're just not ready for that. For us, our partnerships-
Reid Carr: No Ferragamo partnership with Charly just yet?
Jason Wells: I hope we can do it at some point, and we will do that. There's going to come a point in time where it's going to matter. Teams and athletes is the layup, but not many brands right now are partnering with TV networks. Again, going back to the consumer, the Hispanic market, when we initially got in, they over-indexed twice as much on TV time and screen time than any other consumer group in the US, and so I said, "Well, that's where we need to market then. We need to be on AM radio and on TV." Those aren't your, in modern marketing terms, those aren't your traditional vehicles to go through.
Reid Carr: Not too many people lead with AM radio these days.
Jason Wells: No, and so I thought, "This is ludicrous. This is not what you learned in business school. It's all about social media and your digital handles." We are working on all of that stuff. But for us, we know that awareness is coming through some of these non-traditional or formerly traditional marketing mediums, and so we're focused on that. We are still trying to build out the other social entities to try and get our followers up, but after you do all of that, it's the content. How many organic searches are we getting? How many people are leaning in, trying to learn a little bit more about us? Those are the ones that tell us we're moving the needle or we're not, not just the amount of likes we get because that can be manufactured.
Reid Carr: Yeah. Oh, gosh, for sure.
Jason Wells: We're not wanting to pull those levers. We don't want to buy all of that stuff. We want to really try to earn it. That's where our energy's focused right now.
Reid Carr: Yeah. Well, it's obvious that you're open to, again, considering AM channels and entering all of this with a degree of curiosity and openness, obviously, from your background being so hands-on, face to face with buyers and consumers, hands-on with product, I think those are some of the features and attributes that make you curious and connected to consumers in those ways. With all that being said, there is still tools and technology and all the things that have to happen in the background. Plus, you have a corporate center that lives in Mexico. One, how do you keep up to date on what you think are the right technologies and modalities and tactics in the US? Meanwhile, balancing that with a corporate back in Mexico and balancing what you need, you feel like you do need to move the ball forward in the US.
Jason Wells: This has been a tough one because we've had to pivot, like I mentioned earlier on how we are entering the market. Once we had success beyond what we thought our core consumer was going to be, those mediums and those marketing tactics had to change because the consumer receives their information differently, beyond the original market we were going for. The different tools, the different technologies, I rely on people like you to tell me what we need. I'm not as well versed in it as I should be, but we're developing a team and we're hiring some subject matter experts to really guide us and create those measurable tools that you need in order to see if what you're doing is actually working.
Because I've been blown away at how one, just going digitally, how fast everything goes and how many more tools are being created. It's hard to keep up with it. That's why I go back to those more organic metrics of, okay, how many people engaged with us and how many people are actively participating in our brand journey right now versus being forced into it? It's unique and sales is obviously a big one. Is what we're doing driving, moving the needle at particular retailers? Partnership is a big thing. Investing in our retail partners and investing and getting them to ride along with us in this journey is really important for us.
Reid Carr: How often do you get into the retail channel and observe, into your customers, and observe customers with hands on shoes?
Jason Wells: All the time. All the time. It's everything. People say you need to be in the office more and I say, "I realize that, but I got to be in the market too." If you don't see people interacting, not just with your brand, but with all the brands, what makes them excited about a product, whether it's yours or something else, and getting into different sectors in the market as well. You got to look beyond just where your sandbox, you got to play in other sandboxes, I'll call it. Going into electronic stores, going to car dealerships, what is going on in these other spaces? What are motivating purchasing factors for people? Understanding that and looking at the demographics of the individuals that you're talking to.
Like, where else do they shop? Where else does the family channel consumer spend their time when they're spending their money? What other types of retailers? Really understanding that part of the business is important.
Reid Carr: That's one of the biggest things I try to get clients or anybody to realize is, as much as you can sit back and look at data in spreadsheets and on dashboards from the comfort of your own home, seeing a consumer with hands-on product, it changes your perception of how they see it, what they're looking at, what else they're looking at when they consider your product. That feels, to me, the only way you can really make that authentic emotional connection between consumer and product.
Jason Wells: I agree. I think the emotional connection, it's an interesting comment. Just the other day I saw somebody walking around town in some Charly's and you don't see it much where I live. I say, "Oh, that's really cool. We did it. We made it. I see the brand in market now." Of course, I had to go walk up to the person and say, "Where did you get your shoes and everything?" He told us, "I got it at Big 5 Sporting Goods." "What do you think?" He says, "I love them." He actually said, "It's my second pair." Of course, I emailed everybody and told the owner, I was WhatsApping the world saying, "Oh, my gosh, it's happening now. We've done it. We have repeat customers. We've made it that." But the follow-up with that particular individual was when he said, "I love it and that's why I have my second pair now."
I guess that kind of connection, you can't really put a value on that. You're hoping for that at the end of the day, and you just got to put passion into what you do to achieve that.
What would you say are your goals for Charly US going into this future over the next few years?
Reid Carr: Yeah. Well, clearly that passion is going to drive your future. What would you say are your goals for Charly US going into this future over the next few years?
Jason Wells: Boy, the next few years we're still trying to build the brand. We're still trying to get that awareness out there. We're not quite there yet. We've started, people say, "Well, it's a startup." I said, "No, we're not a startup anymore. We've started, we're a small business now and we just need to get bigger." Skew count, door count, expansion is going to be key, which big investment into the product side, evolving into a true performance brand is definitely going to happen for us. We have some really exciting products that are coming out that are going to give us good marketing opportunities there to help broadcast. Door count, skew count, and then expanding our presence through the sport of soccer.
If you look at down the line, 2026 is going to be the World Cup in North America, and it's the only time it's happened across multiple countries. I said it the other day, and I'm known for my big bold statements internally, I said, "But this is the single largest sporting event on North American soil in history. It's bigger than the Olympics, if you really want to break it down. If you really want to look at it, it's going to be bigger than the Olympics." The Olympics is going to come two years after that, but it's going to be in one market. What are we doing to get ourselves ready for that moment? Because that needs to be our crescendo moment. Like every other brand throughout its history that I mentioned earlier, they've had a moment in time where it really catapults the brand and we need to be prepared for that opportunity.
The investment in R&D, the investment into the product, and then continuing to curate the brand throughout that process so that when it hits we've taken all the necessary steps in order to get there. I'm ambitious and I've definitely pushed the teams, even in Mexico, we've been put on notice that maybe we're not as ready as we thought we were in certain areas. Until you can go out there and say, we've delivered the single greatest thing out there in a particular area, you got to keep pushing for that. For us, 2026 is everything. Partnering with our retailers to be ready for that 2026 moment, because we want to be recognized not just showing up on the world stage, but known on the world stage by that point.
Which is going to require a lot of marketing and a lot of intense scrutiny over what we're doing each and every day with the consumer and with the customers that we're servicing, not just internally as a company. It's important.
Reid Carr: Yeah, I always remember the Tiger Wood Nike ball moment of it tipping into the cup, and now I'm envisioning a player finishing a PK with a Charly boot, putting it in the corner to win.
Jason Wells: Exactly. Having a Megan Rapinoe moment with the PK and cruising out, having her arms wide open. That would be just an epic moment.
Reid Carr: Yeah. It's a dream. Absolute dream.
Jason Wells: Totally. That's what I want.
Reid Carr: Yeah. Right now, for the listeners too, if now they're inspired to at least try Charly, where will they find the brand?
Jason Wells: Well, we're in every soccer specialty store across the country right now, and that's a really rewarding thing to say. We're in every soccer specialty store across the country. You can find us in your Dick's Sporting Goods of the world, all across the country, Academy Sports, Big 5 Sporting Goods, your Soccer.coms. If you're a jersey collector, Fanatics is a great partner of ours and it's been exciting to have all of these mega retailers, global retailers partnering with a little guy like us right now is pretty cool. It just opens up more and more opportunity, but meant good product. There's two or three guys out there that have driven the market for a long time and the market's open to new players coming in and delivering something great to them.
Reid Carr: Yeah. Well, you have another player in the over 40 soccer league out there, we're in the gear now these days, so we're making progress.
Jason Wells: We are. We are. Thank you for that.
Reid Carr: Yeah. Anyway, this has been a fantastic conversation. I appreciate your time here joining us. Hope our listeners give Charly a try as well and become the loyalists with the same kind of passion that we've been talking about. Jason, thanks for joining us here.
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