Saturday, January 11, 2014
At the N.F.L., Jaime Weston-Parouse Is Vice President for Brand and Creative
By MARY BILLARD
On the fifth floor of the N.F.L. offices in Midtown is an area designed to recreate for visitors the in-your-face feel of being on the football field. Giant screens stream live games, and larger-than-life photographs of players plaster the walls. The crowds roar, the music swells.
On a recent afternoon, the last Sunday of the regular season, it was all perfect except for one thing: the stubborn presence of a poinsettia.
“That is actually a bench, not a table,” said Jaime Weston-Parouse, vice president for brand and creative at the N.F.L. “And the flower people keep sticking a plant on it, which really annoys me, and I walk over here every day and move it.” She moved the offending plant and stepped back. “We should rethink this bench.”
Ms. Weston-Parouse, 42, was showing a reporter around the league offices on Dec. 29, a day that would begin with 18 teams with a mathematical shot at the playoffs and end with the 12 that would continue on. As the early games played behind her, she described her portfolio as working with the league, licensees, sponsors, broadcast partners and teams to present a cohesive brand image and message, a function that did not exist when she was hired in 2003. She oversees the departments responsible for creative services, brand management discipline, quality control and television advertising.
“Everyone jokes that I’m the brand police, but I’m not,” Ms. Weston-Parouse said. “Every employee is responsible for managing the brand.” Ms. Weston-Parouse pushed to update the N.F.L. shield, a process that took two years and 200 designs. (“It was archaic! We called the football the hamburger.”) She worked with the Miami Dolphins to update their logo. (“We thought the helmet on the dolphin was sacred, and the fans thought it was silly.”) And along with the N.F.L. creative director, Shandon Melvin, she searched for a perfect pink when the breast cancer awareness campaign, which started with the players, became a leaguewide initiative. (“We needed a masculine pink. Is that an oxymoron?”)
At one point in the tour, as she stood in front of a glistening case displaying the Super Bowl trophy, Ms. Weston-Parouse talked a little about her father, Jimmy Weston, who owned the popular Manhattan supper club on East 54th Street bearing his name. (The restaurant closed in 1989.) A former narcotics police officer who had played basketball for St. John’s University, Mr. Weston counted among his friends and patrons Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali and Pete Rozelle.
In 1970, Mr. Rozelle, then the N.F.L. commissioner, and some colleagues went to Jimmy Weston’s after the funeral of the legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. “And that’s where they decided to name it after Lombardi,” she said of the Super Bowl trophy. “A few days later, they made the announcement.”
Ms. Weston-Parouse retired to watch the games in a corner office, called the Fan Cave, which was decorated in homage to the 2013 Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens. There was also a very comfortable couch and products from the N.F.L. Homegating collection. A Pittsburgh Steelers helmet held pretzels and cheese. There was a Carolina Panthers “wine shoe,” a high heel with the team’s logo that cradles a bottle. “The shoe is one of our top sellers,” she said. “It’s amazing.” The quality control group will review about 170,000 licensing requests this year. “We have been broached by coffin licensees, but we’ve turned it down,” Ms. Weston-Parouse said. “People do want to get buried in football regalia.”
The early games were now in the final quarter, and Ms. Weston-Parouse was sorting out the domino ramifications of wins and losses. The designs for T-shirts for each team that had the potential to become conference champions were hanging on the wall outside. The Jets were beating the Dolphins. Ms. Weston-Parouse, a Jets fan, muttered, “Why couldn’t they play like that during the season?”
While taking in hard hits or cheering for a superhuman catch, Ms. Weston-Parouse commented on the logos. Every five years, teams are what is called “open,” or allowed to change their uniforms or logos, she said, adding that the hope is that they do not update their iconic DNA too often. Ms. Weston-Parouse admired the look of the Cincinnati Bengals. (“They have a great identity. I mean no one else has the stripes on the helmet, it’s so recognizable.”) She mentioned that the Atlanta Falcons took a pass on redesign. (“They didn’t have the appetite for it.”)
The Ravens lost to the Bengals that day, eliminating their chance to get to the playoffs, so the Fan Cave will be redecorated after Super Bowl XLVIII. The game will be played Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., but the championship will be omnipresent in New York. Ms. Weston-Parouse showed a mock-up of a 180-foot toboggan run that will be on “Super Bowl Boulevard,” taking over Broadway from Herald Square to 47th Street. More than 230 street poles will have Super Bowl banners. The N.F.L. is running a pop-up steakhouse, Forty Ate, at the Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel, working with the restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Events. League players will make appearances, and the 47 Super Bowl championship rings will be on display.
“New York is tough; it’s not like focusing on an eight-block section of Indianapolis,” Ms. Weston-Parouse said. “It’s really important that we found the key areas to reach fans.”
Soon, Ms. Weston-Parouse would be heading back to Long Island City, Queens, to watch the late afternoon games with her husband, David Parouse, and their two children, their son, D. J., 8, and their daughter, Tyler, 6. Her children play N.F.L. Rush Fantasy Football, a game geared for kids in which the lineup is set before kickoff each week.
Ms. Weston-Parouse admitted to looking over her daughter’s roster earlier in the day, and explaining to her son that players on teams that have clinched playoff berths may be sitting out the game. She tried to keep it to a minimum. “Otherwise my husband and I are playing fantasy football against each other,” she said.