Courtside: Lauren Mallon
Hi Lauren, and thank you for accepting to be featured in our blog event devoted to interviews. This is the first time that Bordocampo goes overseas! I would start from the beginning. What is your educational background and what were your first professional experiences?
«Thank you very much, it’s such an honor to be featured on the Fondazione FILA Museum blog! I attended the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland (USA). I graduated with a dual degree, one in Art Studio and another in Communication. While a student at the University of Maryland, I worked in the athletic department and assisted with Sports Marketing and the “Terrapin Club” (which is a sports booster program). In my last semester at Maryland, I took an internship class where I would receive college credits for the internship experience and have coursework related to the internship. I was accepted as a Public Relations intern at FILA and started my internship in September 1998. The rest, shall they say, is history!»
How did it come for you to meet FILA on your path?
«I was hired after I graduated from the University of Maryland as a marketing coordinator, a.k.a. a “catch-all”. You needed something done, I would do it whether it was for the soccer, basketball, tennis, running, golf, or ski/snowboard categories. So, that meant I would liaison with outside agencies with marketing department leaders (adv & PR), coordinate athlete appearances, worked trade shows, graphic design, anything. I was like a sponge learning as much as I could about the industry. At the time, we did not have a PR director, because my supervisor from my internship left the company to start her own PR agency. I decided that someone had to write releases and communicate to the trade press which I learned and assisted with during my internship. I took the initiative & started writing press releases & did outreach to the trade media. Shortly after I started, our SVP of Marketing, Howe Burch. was tasked as the global lead for Tennis Masters Series (TMS) sponsorship & he asked me to be coordinator assisting with the partnership. Very early on, I had to work with top-level executives at the ATP World Tour and ISL (an international sports agency at the time). I greatly appreciate the opportunity that Howe gave me to not only join the team at FILA as a recent college graduate but also being a fantastic mentor and guide during the early parts of my career at FILA. I was fortunate to be able to also work on the Discovery Kenya Program, which was a very successful distance training program in the Great Rift Valley. Over 3 years period, sponsored athletes won over 200 international marathons under the guidance of Doctor Gabriele Rosa. I traveled to the NYC & Boston Marathons to drum up press about Fila’s Discovery program. After an elite athlete pre-race press conference, I was at Tavern on the Green & introduced myself to a writer from Sports Illustrated. I pitched & worked with this editor on a five-page story in SI about Discovery Kenya. 2 years later, I was leading a media tour in Kenya of our elite running camps. Early on at FILA, I learned to be ready for anything. Given some changes at the company earlier in my career, I became the point person for our SVP Marketing to activate the sponsorship for the last 4 years of our US Open sponsorship. I worked on off-site partnerships with national retailers such as The Sports Authority, Bloomingdales & Macys. I planned launch Events with media tie-ins, in-store graphics/ promotions to push sell-through of co-branded U.S. Open collection. I helped to coordinate the on-site activation and operations for two retail locations that did over 1 million in sales in 2 weeks. For the past 14 years, I have been working exclusively in the tennis category and now in pickleball since our launch into that sport in late 2019. I have been very fortunate to have “found my passion” in my career and to work with an amazing group of people around the world who have a shared love of the brand and their work. Most importantly, I am extremely thankful for the mentors at FILA that I have had over the years such as Jennifer, who have helped shape the person I am today and continue to inspire the next generation of leaders in the organization. »
Nowadays you cover the position of Senior Director of Marketing & Strategic Partnerships for Tennis & Pickleball part. Which are the best ways to promote and enhance such an established, long-tradition brand?
«It is important to remember our roots in the category. Martin Mulligan and so many others worked tirelessly to build the business and create a strong position for the brand in the tennis category. It is paramount to continue to build upon that strong foundation. We must keep true to our values and sponsor players who really fit the brand ethos. It is important to sponsor players and build meaningful connections at the grassroots level…connecting with the next generation of players, our future customers. In addition, as I learned from Jon Epstein, we need to find ways to increase sales. We are not in the business of sponsorships; we are in the business of selling products. We find strategic partnerships that can help us expand the market share in the category. It is also important to create a through-line or connection with the heritage business so there is a synergy between the two categories. This has been important to create that connection through product initiatives and social media and content creators.»
Talking about tennis, what intrigues you the most about such pivotal practice in FILA’s history? Could you name your favorite players (choosing both from the past and present times, of course)?
«Tennis is our birthright, but more importantly, it authenticates us in sport. We can tell a heritage product (lifestyle) story because of our rich history in tennis and because we continue to design & develop performance apparel & footwear that has a distinct difference from our competitors. You can tell a FILA product…it is the Italian style and design sensibilities that are woven through our collections. My favorite players, that is so hard since there are so many! Of course, Björn Borg because he helped put the brand on the “map” and he was just so effortlessly cool. I would also say Evonne Goolagong-Cawley since she was such a trailblazer in her time as the 1st Aboriginal woman to win a Grand Slam and the 2nd mother in the Open Era to win a major. I also adore Monica Seles because she is just a wonderful person and so kind to everyone every time I see her at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. It was wonderful to get to know Kim Clijsters over the years, she is another person who was an inspiration to so many after becoming the 1st unseeded player to win the US Open when she returned to tennis after retiring before having her daughter Jada. Currently, I really enjoy the tenacity of Diego Schwartzman. He is quite the showman on the court and certainly enjoys every moment of the match. To think that people told him that he would never be a pro player when he was younger (his career-high is #8). Lastly, Ash Barty is a joy to watch and listen to during her interviews. She has such a great outlook on life and sport and I really respect the credit that she gives to her team in media interviews.»
Our conversation starts in Italy, the country in which FILA was born also. Have you already visited it? In case, do you think there are any connections between the brand’s features and Italian tradition?
«I have been to Italy many times during my time at FILA. I traveled through Europe after I graduated from university, but while working on the Tennis Masters Series, I supported the FILA Italy team at the Italian Open for a few years. It was a fantastic opportunity. Later, I traveled to negotiate the Italian Open sponsorship with Martin Mulligan and another colleague. I also attended a sales meeting in Italy. At the end of one vacation in Tuscany with my family in 2013, I took the train to Milan while my family traveled back to the US. I was able to come to Biella and visit the museum and archive and see Barbara and Marta (Foundation Vice President and FILA Italy Marketing Responsible, ed.) in the office. It was such a wonderful and very special experience to see the brand’s rich history in the museum.»
One last question, related to our ‘swapping’ event ACHIEVE THE ARCHIVE: is there a FILA cloth of yours that you’d never swap? Why?
«This is so hard! I have so many! My favorite jackets are the red “Settanta” jacket and also the red PLR jacket from the 2019 BNP Paribas Open. Have a look at the picture I sent you!»