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Till Jagla takes Zoom calls with the board whilst at the hairdressers and stopped presenting slide decks five years ago. As Global Head of Energy at Adidas, Till was involved in "CONSTANT INJECTIONS OF ENERGY AND HYPE! STORYTELLING AND CONCEPTUAL FRANCHISE MANAGEMENT."
Since leaving Adidas in late 2021, Jagla has focussed his attention on growing his own brands, Pacemaker and Flowers For Society. Pacemaker started as a WEB2 Street-/Fashion Brand and is currently transforming into a WEB3 Streetwear Accelerator for creatives and entrepreneurs. Flowers For Society is the first Sneakerbrand that is built on Utility Rights.
And there is a lot we can all learn from his way of working. A lot.
HAMBURG - In 2014 Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) began collaborating with one of the world's most recognisable sports brands Adidas. That same year, Till Jagla transferred from Category Manager to Global Director of Adidas Originals, eventually becoming their Global Head of Energy.
As we get into conversation, I'm distracted by the seemingly endless towers of sneakers. After some small talk about his previous career as a professional footballer, he addresses the elephant in the room. "This is some of my personal collection, and they're all box-fresh," he says with a smile.
'Wow. I own two pairs of trainers. Or should I call them sneakers?' - I thought.
Then I ask the question I've been curious about since I saw the Krusty the Clown x Adidas Originals collaboration drop on IG...
Till sits forward, the stalwart logo of his Pacemaker (his brand) hoodie coming into full focus: I created heat for the brand. Responsible for hype, collaborations, licence, business and compelling storytelling. We needed to be different because the market is saturated. I shouldn't have to ever work with market research companies; we should know to do this in-house.
There is no difference between pitch and conversations. Either they get it or don't, but I won't invest time in slides, and I don't have stress.
Coming up with something very new, something that feels like a small brand - takes advantage of a bigger brand - but really brings back that energy, that fire, that mindset, that can-do mentality.
Till and his team were behind some of the most iconic sneakers to have left the Adidas design room in recent history. Collab-trainers with Lego, Sean Wotherspoon, South Park "Towelie", Krusty Burger / The Simpsons and Meissen x Sotheby's are just a handful of icons designed by Till and his team. According to a quote in Germany-based streetwear blog, Highsnobiety, Till has worked on "more than two thousand collaborations."
With over 30 years of experience, Till has met a lot of people along the way. Ten years ago, though, he understood what a new way of marketing means. He explains: To influence the way of working with Adidas was a luxury in that they trusted me so much. This trust was hard- earned. I have eaten a lot of dust over the years, but I have a track record, so people start to believe in you. Now I describe myself as someone who wants to disrupt the market. If you want a mainstream campaign, I'm the wrong person. If you want to break the internet - call me.
Do the unexpected and expect the unexpected. Till Jagla is known for taking important video calls, discussing contracts worth upwards of two million euros whilst having his hair cut. I also stopped doing presentations five years ago. If I am pitching an idea and articulating it as clearly as possible to elevate that pitch, either people get it or don't. Smart people will get it - even if it's just someone articulating that pitch - there is no difference between that pitch and conversations. I will be clear and sharp, either they get it or don't, but I won't invest time in slides, and I don't have stress.
Additional value. There is no reason to work with someone if that person has the same knowledge, mindset, and expertise. 1+1 = 3 is the magic formula. I love surrounding myself with people I like, but with collaborations, I need to create something I could never create on my own. A good product manager will take 100 articles and will say I can do the same with 50. It's the same with agencies. You need to deliver extraordinarily. Share an idea no one else has had before — surprise people. Tell people what they don't know.
It goes back to quality and substance. Make me want to double-click on something to see what happens. What kind of substance will appear?
I read every DM and every message on LinkedIn. I see everything, but I only react to the ones that I feel are interesting. If I smell that they want to sell, I won't react. If I have a gut feeling that there is some interesting person on the other side and there may be an exchange of interest and ideas, then I will respond to that. But I pick that very consciously.
Mass automated emails to brands are so dead. In my entire life, I have never responded to one of them.
I needed to organise myself in a completely different way. I would be in meetings all day long. Now I am so much more productive. I only do what I want/need to do, and I have more time.
You need to challenge every meeting request. Can I make a decision, yes or no? If not, then I don't need to be there. If my team is all sitting there agreeing, I don't need to be there. I call it a duck family. The senior, the team leader and the kids etc., go there and then everyone follows. There is a team of people hearing the same things. How does that make progress? On a football team, everyone is essential and has a role to play to win. If everyone is the striker, what's the point, you won't win?
So in a team, it's key to have diversity, and then everyone needs to strengthen the strengths and don't waste time thinking about the weaknesses. If you do that, you will be successful. I try to work from home as much as possible. I surround myself with people outside of the sneaker hub. I met about 50 people who don't work in the sneaker bubble in the past month - investors, bankers, IT people, BMW people, and it is so refreshing.
It shows you that with big corporations you can be caught in a bubble, and bubbles fade. You need to spend as much time as possible in the real world. Otherwise, you only see what you want to see. You need to open up and spend time outside of your goldfish bowl.
It's a new way of doing sport with a great brand with great people. We also wanted to own the game as the world's greatest sports brand, so there are strategic fits. The partnership with Peloton is excellent.
Very important. If you are in your bubble, in your goldfish tank, people need to perceive you in a different context with different collaborations. You need to test new waters and new ways of doing things to see how you are perceived in different contexts. There are situations when partners who are not honest with themselves have a hidden agenda, and 99% of those cases go south.
Consumers see through it. They feel the atmosphere and how the brands work with each other, and how they're vibing. It's so transparent with social media, and I think again 1+1 = 3.
There is no magic formula, and I believe in the power of conversation. Get in touch, jump on the phone, set up opportunities and potential.
I don't even know the difference between good coffee and bad coffee! But I do know you have to visit First Love Coffee in the heart of Hamburg; a great guy runs it.
This article was updated in October 2023.