Gene McCarthy is a foot man. He spent more than two decades at Nike, where he played an instrumental role in the development of the signature Jordan Brand. After a two-year stint at Reebok, McCarthy found himself on the edge of hip-hop culture at Timberland. Now he joins Under Armour, a brand growing quickly in a slow economy.
New title: Senior vice president of footwear, Under Armour
Previous job: Co-president, Timberland
First job: Assembling the Sunday New York Times at 5 a.m. in the local candy store in the Bronx
Education: B.S. in marketing, Fordham University (1978)
Grew up: “Clutch your handbag — I’m a kid from the Bronx.”
Executive most admired: Jack Welch
Brand most admired: BMW, Earnest Sewn, Apple
Favorite vacation spot: My mom’s porch in Long Beach, N.Y.
Last book read: “The Alchemist : A Fable About Following Your Dream,” by Paulo Coelho
Last movie seen: “Taken”
Favorite movie: “Saint Ralph”
Favorite musician/band: Bruce Springsteen, but Kings of Leon, the Yeah YeahYeahs and The Hold Steady are the three playing over and over in my car
Running has been a big part of your life. What is your opinion of UA’s new running shoe and have you worn them?
Yes, I have worn them. It was a wonderful first entry into the market. My motto is “good enough, never is.” There are runners, there are people who run, and then there are people who wear running shoes. It is a broad base, but it all begins with the people who are the runners.
UA’s next shoe launch is the basketball sneaker. How will your work with Brand Jordan play into the development and creation of the shoe?
We want to enter basketball on our terms, not on the terms of the industry. We want to have a very unique point of view of how we define performance in this category.
Who is UA’s target market?
The pinpoint focus that you want to start with is the young enthusiast. … The young kid who takes that sport so seriously that it becomes part of his being. We never want to lose sight of that because that is what brought us to the dance in the first place.
What is the next frontier for UA?
We have to lock and load on training, running, and basketball because that is core. There are other sports out there where Under Armour can make a huge difference: golf, tennis. That would probably start more on the apparel side.
One key factor mentioned in your hiring was innovation and growth in the global footwear business. Where will that growth happen?
Initially it’s going to be organic growth. Take running as an example. We went after sporting goods, athletic specialty in the mall and a bit of running specialty, those three channels. Organically we need to do a better job of hitting those three critical channels and also differentiating those channels. The second element of growth is definitely going to come from international. Europe and, in my opinion, Japan are very fertile soil for us but underpenetrated right now.
What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?
When I was at [the Jordan Brand], we decided to completely retract from the market and cut the distribution by nearly 60 percent. It was a huge risk, but it was a way to invest in the future growth and it paid off.
What is the one element you would like to see changed about the sports industry?
The overbearance of corporate influence. The whole of sports needs to become pure again.
This career spotlight is courtesy of the SportsBusiness Journal. CLICK HERE to visit their official website.