Music, sport, and fashion all have significant cultural relevance in society, particularly amongst the younger generation. In the U.S. it is not uncommon to see sports stars such as former NBA star Dwayne Wade as a special guest at leading fashion weeks around the world or musicians like Kanye West crossing over into fashion and building a multi-billion dollar fashion line. Whilst this is commonplace in the U.S. it is not so common in Europe. However, there is a new generation of athletes coming through who don’t want to be known for just their sport but want to get involved in other areas where they can fully express themselves like their U.S. counterparts. Two entrepreneurs who are working with athletes and brands and are at the forefront of this cultural shift in Europe are Jordan Wise & Hamish Stephenson, founders of GAFFER media platform and FALSE 9 creative agency.
Wise and Stephenson have been friends for years and were on very different paths before starting GAFFER. Wise had a successful career in sports management where he managed footballers contracts and commercial partnerships working with several Premier League clubs. Stephenson had a career in photography where he worked across music, fashion, and sport with many leading brands including Nike and Adidas. Whilst Stephenson was on these shoots he noticed “many footballers were not engaged in the shoots they were being forced to do” he recalls. Naturally, as a creative, he understood why but didn’t understand why in today’s environment where the athlete posting content on their platform can drive just as much, if not more, authentic engagement than the brand they didn’t collaborate more proactively.
Wise noticed similar issues when speaking to his clients and realizing the approach many brands were taking was outdated, the duo decided they would set up GAFFER a media platform showcasing this talent in a different, forward-thinking way that results in higher quality content when working with brands.
Building GAFFER & FALSE 9
To stand out the duo immediately realized the platform had to be different. To do this rather than trying to lure superstars they used their knowledge of young popular culture and sports talent and worked with young, up-and-coming stars they thought would gain prominence soon. Some of these include working with Manchester United star Aaron Wan Bissaka and Chelsea star Callum Hudson Odoi who both got their first cover shoot with GAFFER. “Our best attribute is not only our content but our ability to spot up and coming talent’ Wise says. Beyond the premium look and feel of the content, the pair thought it was important their print offering wasn’t a throwaway magazine either but similar to GQ and other high fashion magazines and would be “something you’re proud to have sitting on your coffee table.”
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After launching their print, digital and social media platforms this eye for up-and-coming talent and unique content was noticed and the pair started to get contacted by several brands wanting them to create a similar look and feel for them. Whilst it was flattering, it was imperative that whilst working with other brands the aesthetic they had created was not lost for commercial reasons “when we work with brands we take full creative control and work with the talent to ensure the campaign has the right look and feel” Wise says. Once this was agreed upon, the duo set up creative agency FALSE 9, a reference to the false 9 position in football. Across the media platform and agency, clients have included Burberry, Virgin Galactic, Beats By Dre and more recently the team worked on a groundbreaking campaign with Nike on the England national football team which was unique and received a number of plaudits in the creative space.
There has been a significant cultural change, driven by social media, in the way athletes and musicians market themselves and the number of verticals they go into. Whilst many agencies and brands have struggled to catch up GAFFER /FALSE 9 are ahead of the curve and their backgrounds will ensure they continue to be tastemakers in the space.
This article is part of a series featuring underrepresented people making a difference. You can find more articles (click here) and if you have a story to tell or want to be updated as soon as new features are released get in touch via Twitter @TommyASC91