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Rashida Gayle, founder of Twenty Six Marketing Agency.
Rashida Gayle, founder of Twenty Six Marketing Agency.

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Rashida Gayle: “The Plug” Negotiating Sneaker deals for some of your favorite Athletes

The world may be at a standstill right now but business is still booming for Rashida Gayle. In 2019, Rashida made history as the first and only black woman in sports to independently represent MLS and NFL athletes. Rashida specializes in securing off-the-field endorsements and marketing opportunities for professional athletes.

Her roster includes several high-profile players including Devonta Freeman, San Francisco 49er’s Deebo Samuel, Baltimore Ravens’ Running Back Justice Hill, Atlanta United’s Forward Josef Martinez, and Miles Boykin, wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens.

Her path to greatness has been nothing short of a blessing. As a graduate of Pompano Beach High School, Rashida started off as a manager for the football team where she served all four years assisting the team. “I liked a boy during my freshman year, and he asked me to be the football manager for the football team. I think he thought it would give us some time to hang out. He ended up transferring first semester, but I stayed on with the team. That experience really opened my eyes to the culture of football (American Football)”. Gayle is a native of Jamaica, and moved to the United States at a young age with her family. “I got close to 700 hours of community service hours from my time with the football team– that’s how many hours I spent with them. This is when my interest in football really sparked,” says Gayle.

Gayle’s love and passion for football lead her to Florida State University which is known for its academics and football program. She knew she wanted to be involved once she arrived on campus, but didn’t know in what capacity. “Originally I wanted to be a Gynecologists, so I majored in Biology and had a double major in Women’s Studies. I took organic chemistry. I wasn’t really sure if I loved this, but I knew I wanted to work in sports” said Gayle. It was at this moment she realized it was time for a change. “Where I really got my head start was when I had the ability to work as an administrative assistant in the sports marketing department at FSU”. Every day after class she went to work and on the weekends she attended all of the different sporting events. “I was able to be on the administrative side and the activation side of marketing and that’s really how my interest sparked to further my career in sports.”

Once graduating from college Gayle knew she wanted to turn her passion for sports into a career and she did exactly that. “Everyone was like yeah you can work for free. I had done so much for free working in college so I was kind of over that. I just had to say to myself, look Rashida you have great relationships with the guys that you went to school with–so I went for it and I asked to be their assistant. I knew I could get better hands-on experience doing that” said Gayle.

James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman had no problem giving Gayle any opportunity to be their assistant. At the time Devonta had just been drafted to the Atlanta Falcons and she had just moved to Atlanta after graduating, so this was truly perfect timing. She quickly became Devonta’s right hand making sure he had the ability to focus on what was important. “During the off-season, he started talking about marketing opportunities. His agency at the time wasn’t giving him the time of day to get any marketing or branding going. That’s when I had the ah-ha moment that I could do it myself. I had some background experience in marketing from FSU, so I said let me try to get him some interviews and get a football camp going. I really made sure I put him in a position to be branded at a high level”.

Source: SCARNICI/Getty Images North America)
Source: SCARNICI/Getty Images North America)

Gayle has raked in over $5 Million dollars in off-the-field opportunities and endorsement deals for her clients with companies such as Marriott, Pepsi, and Nike within the last five years. In 2018, she scored a groundbreaking deal with Courtyard by Marriott for Devonta Freeman, in which Gayle negotiated his visibility beyond the NFL regular season—allowing
Freeman to maintain market relevance outside of football.

As Gayle continues to make her presence felt in this space, she has taken on the mantra: “What makes me the different, is what makes me the most unique in the room”. So instead of being what everyone else is or what everyone else looks like, Gayle has embraced her differences and speaks to that. Being an African-American woman in this space allows her to bring a diversified opinion to the experience which has truly helped in the long run. “One of the things that I make sure I focus on while working in sports is providing opportunities for younger people of color to mentor them and give them an opportunity to be more hands-on so they can go into the workplace and be more prepared. I think that’s really important. I want them to know their worth so that the playing field is fair, ” says Gayle.

Since the pandemic, Gayle finds herself pivoting like most American’s but business still goes on. Now more than ever she finds herself helping the athletes she works with maintain their brand on social media. Everyone has so much free time now, so she’s helping athletes figure out how they can continue to be creative and be effective in their work. “Now more than ever it’s time for you to know that athlete outside of the helmet or outside of their respective field. I want to make sure when we get back to the new normal that people understand and know who they are”.

Gayle, known for securing deals for her clients finds herself in a unique place when it comes to the sneaker industry. “I would say to preface the pandemic, sneaker deals have been cut down tremendously from all brands. Cuts were already happening for athletes. Right now unfortunately with where the economy is, it’s expected for deals not to go through. During the draft I was negotiating a shoe contract for my client knowing it made sense, but once the pandemic hit we had to put everything on hold. If a shoe company was in the middle of sending an offer then you were probably going to be ok, but if a company was evaluating a new athlete and trying to decide if they want to bring them on as an ambassador that all went out the window once the NBA canceled their season– it started a ripple effect”.

“Sneakers play a huge part in my career. I really enjoy being comfortable. I am behind the scenes especially since I do a lot of ripping and running. It’s very difficult to do that in heels. Comfort is key for me”.

In her line of work, comfort is key. Gayle admits she loves sneakers. “A couple of my clients had Reebok and Nike deals so I always got free sneakers. Shoutout to my clients and all the sneaker companies that keep me cute and comfortable” said Gayle.

She’s still growing and she’s still learning but Rashida is truly making a mark that can’t be erased. “If I can offer anyone a piece of advice looking to get into this industry it would be you have to have a hustle and a grind. Don’t think that you are doing this in vain. You are planting seeds for that tree to grow. Integrity goes a long way and compromise is never worth it. Stay on track!”

You can keep up with Rashida on social media at @rashidagayle.

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