Jesse Williams, Brooks Sports Marketing Manager, The RBR Interview, by Larry Eder By Larry Eder on February 25, 2011 12:35 AM

The picture above is of Jesse Williams, Sports Marketing Manager at Brooks Running. Notice the glasses, the glaze over the eyes. This is probably due to the fact that he has not slept in three weeks as Brooks is about to have their first Brooks PR Invitational. RBR will be at the PR invitational on Sunday, February 27, 2011. It should be a memorable afternoon of high school track & field competition.

Brooks has followed its own drummer for most of its current existence, which is now going on twelve years, I believe. This year, Brooks has increased its sponsorships of road running events (see the Competitor RNR series), but they have also increased their support of the high school market. In 2011, Brooks has announced the Brooks PR Invitational and the Brooks Inspiring Coaches Program.

Brooks wants to establish a relationship with the 1.6 million high school cross country and track runners, and 80,000 high school track & cross country coaches. Brooks knows that their future lies in creating a brand relationship with these young athletes.

The most successful brands find a way to reach out to young athletes, core athletes and new athletes. The newest efforts from Brooks are interesting in that, for the most part, it is a brand that actually stays with the programs it develops. Want to develop a long term brand relationship with the high school sports community? Then, you need to stay around more than 18 months. Brooks gets that.

RBR asked to interview Jesse Williams to see what makes him tick, and how Brooks is approaching the high school market. We hope that you enjoy the interview!

Jesse Williams, in a deep moment of contemplation

RBR, # 1. How did you get involved in running?

Jesse Williams: I started running in high school and got addicted to the people surrounding the sport.

RBR, # 2. What was high school running like?

Jesse Williams: High school running was pretty funny looking back now. We ran about 25 miles a week and thought we were super devoted! We would sometimes run down a block or two and just play pick up basketball for 25 minutes and then run back to the track. Our coach finally caught on and started to follow us on his bike or run with us. We started to improve really quick after that. Go figure

RBR, # 3. What did you like about hs running?

Jesse Williams: I really loved the team road trips we would take to our races. I swear that the actual running seemed so secondary to the social aspect of the team

RBR, # 4. Biggest mistake training in high school?

Jesse Williams: See questions #2. Actually, I was very lucky to have a great coach that knew how to train and peak us. We just needed to listen more

RBR, # 5. What was college like?

Jesse Williams: A little bit of the same as high school till my junior/senior year. We all thought we were training so hard at 40 miles a week and then we got a new coach my junior year. He taught us a lot and made us understand our training. Our team slowly moved up to 60 and 70 miles a week and by the time we graduated we were just starting to get it right.

RBR, # 6. What was diff in running in high school and college?

Jesse Williams: Mainly my willingness to wear short shorts while running.

RBR, # 7. How did you get to Brooks?

Jesse Williams: I actually applied to about every college coaching position I could and didn't get one call back. I knew I wanted to stick with my passion for running and so I started applying to other jobs in the industry. Brooks was developing an entry level tech program at the time and I was given one of the spots in DC. Soon after that we realized that with the recent signing of the Hansons ODP team we were going to need someone in a Sports Marketing role. Luck really

  1. Tell us about the development of PR invitational?

Jesse Williams: It's an idea we have had for a while and this was just the right time to launch it. You spend so much money sponsoring events and have very little control at the end of the day. We liked the idea that we could create an event and do it the Brooks way from start to finish. I think we have done well so far with the golden ticket invites and plenty more that you will hopefully see this coming weekend!

RBR, # 9. I just checked out the entry list and it is quite impressive, tell us about that?

Jesse Williams: We are very excited about the athletes coming to Seattle! We had no idea what to expect and how the invites would be received. Since this is the first year of the event and was never heard of till mid December....we are very happy.

  1. Tell us about the naming contest on your track spikes at Brooks?

Jesse Williams: Some of us used to joke about what the fastest times were in a few of our spikes. We are a small company and with only a few athletes till recently. We would hear that some kid broke 4 minutes in this spike or that this girl won state in another Brooks spike. I think our footwear group took those conversations and turned them into an idea for our new PR line of spikes. Now the name of the spike each year will come down to the fastest time run in them!

RBR, # 11. Where does high school fit in with Brooks running?

Jesse Williams: Till recently, it wasn't a huge focus at Brooks. We did a lot in our home state of Washington and a few other regions but didn't really put resources behind it. We knew high school running was at the core of what Brooks is about with the whole Run Happy Spirit. With the addition of the PR Invitational, the PR spikes, and our new coaches program we are very excited to showcase that spirit.

RBR, # 12. Tell us about Brooks Inspiring Coaches-where did that come from?

Jesse Williams: We have supported many charitable organizations and deserving individuals over the past few years at Brooks. Even though this was happening we were still searching for a program we could really get behind as a company. Something that made sense across the board. Our PR team had been managing our charitable gifts program and each year they were overwhelmed with stories of these selfless, inspiring coaches out there. Coaches spending their own money on team uniforms and travel, giving up weekends, molding athletes year after year. These stories gave them the idea for the program just launched as the Inspiring Coaches Program.

RBR, # 13. What is your goal with the program?

Jesse Williams: The goal would be bring attention to these coaches and what they are doing for the community. That is the first goal. The second is to provide them with the tools to keep doing what they do best, but at our expense.

RBR, # 14. What is it about the Seattle facility that is so good?

Jesse Williams: Part has to be the size of the track, right? If you read let'srun you would think that the track must be short, that there are spring underneath the surface, or that it was blessed by the Dalai lama. Really it's all about getting the fastest athletes on the same track at the same time to race each other. UW does it every other weekend during the winter track season and Stanford does it twice outdoors. That is always a recipe for fast times and deep races.

RBR, # 15. Tell us about the athletes you have sponsored?

Jesse Williams: We started with the Hansons Program and have slowly added a few more track athletes over the past few years. The Hansons were and always have been such a class act to work with and we look for the same in anyone we sponsor. All of our current athletes embody the stories we want to tell as a brand. They are inspiring and they are fast but they are also are having fun running and enjoy running for Brooks.

RBR, # 16. Where does Brooks go from here?

Jesse Williams: I should have an answer for this right? Well....I hope we keep growing but stay grounded in running and zig when everyone else zags.

RBR thanks Jesse Williams for his candor and his photograph, Tiffany Herman for the shoe photographs, Dave Larsen for his job title, and Jim Weber for his sense of humor. .