PARK Social Soccer Co
A spotlight on PARK Social Soccer and how they use football to help kids in need around the world.
Every now and then, something special comes along which captures the imagination. Welcome to football with a social conscience.
I’ve long been interested in social conscience branding and have often discussed with clients how it should or could be an intrinsic part of their brands. I’ve also had the pleasure of working on various social conscience brand projects. But in this spotlight, I want to explore the work of a friend and designer Sam Davy who created PARK Social Soccer Co, a socially conscious sports brand which sits at the intersection between football, creativity and doing social good.
What is PARK Social Soccer Co
Co-founded by Sam Davy and Tara Montoneri in 2015, PARK Social Soccer Co is set up to use the power of football to positively impact the lives of disadvantaged kids around the world. In partnership with local charities, NGOs and Government Agencies, PARK gets soccer balls onto the feet of kids that need them most with their Pass-A-Ball Project. This is a one-for-one model, so that for every ball purchased, an identical football is passed to kids around the world so they can play the sport they love.
It began with Steve Jobs
I first met Sam through mutual friends In London in the late 1990s. We were all designers who shared a passion for football, many of whom played in an industry five-a-side competition at Spitalfields Market.
In 2002, just as I decided to migrate from the UK to live in Sydney, Sam had been appointed Creative Director at Apple, a role he would have for more than a decade, where he would work with well known figures such as Steve Jobs and Jony Ive. It was at Apple that Sam first connected the idea of social awareness with a commercial venture:
Ten years ago, Steve Jobs called me into a meeting and asked me to explore how Apple, “can do well by doing good”. This was the first time I’d contemplated the idea of connecting social awareness with the bottom line.
Sam continued, “I was fascinated. I developed a solution called iTunes Action which used the connective tissue of the iTunes Store to give customers and artists a global platform to create positive change. Steve loved the idea, but our timing was off as shortly after his health took a turn for the worse and sadly he had to take indefinite leave from the business.”
That conversation planted a seed in Sam’s head which would ultimately lead him down the path of creating a social enterprise. Eventually, Sam left Apple and migrated to Melbourne to be closer to his wife’s family. After a couple of years in Australia Sam revisited the concept of doing social good through commercial activity. This time, however it would be in combination with his love of football.
In an interview, Sam articulated how he was “becoming increasingly disenfranchised by the way football was conducting itself; the obsession with money, the FIFA scandals and inflated transfer fees. There was this material obsession driven by brands which was supporting wasteful purchasing behaviour that would impact the next generation”. At the same time Sam was having conversations with his eldest son about “his lack of respect for his football gear, just leaving it lying around to get damaged by the elements, while so many kids around the world would kill for the same stuff!”. That’s when he felt their was an opportunity for a football brand which was not built on material obsession, but with an obsession for the game and by people around the world. As Sam says:
I wanted to create a brand which celebrated football, not money.
Passion is universal. Opportunity is not
No other sport is as universal as football. No other sport has the accessibility. No other sport comes close.
Football is the world game played and enjoyed by millions of people around the globe. This diversity within football has the power to engage people far beyond the sport itself, to engender empathy, compassion, teamwork and leadership skills. It can also transcend social and economic divides because all you need to actually play the game is a ball and you can use literally anything for goal posts. It does not matter who you are, or where you’re from because when you’re on that pitch, it’s all about football. Football is a universal language which everyone can grasp, understand and benefit from. What better vehicle is there to create change.
PARK Social Soccer Co was created to strengthen this sense of community offered by the beautiful game by giving children a ball to play with. Sam often recounts the story of a young boy called John and his brother Cosmos who lived at a children’s home in rural Uganda. “John loved soccer but never had a real ball - he and his brother made them from plastic bags. He had joined the children’s home with only a small backpack of belongings, so when he was given his own new PARK Social soccer ball it became his prized possession. He is now doing really well at school and playing soccer in the local team. The fact that John understood a kid on the other side of the world had thought of him and passed him a ball is a beautiful thing”.
At the time of writing, PARK SSC have passed over 11,000 balls to kids across 36 countries, supporting and enhancing the lives of refugees, at-risk youth, abandoned boys and girls by helping them play football. This act of giving has a profound ripple effect. It teaches kids resilience, teamwork and dexterity; it brings communities together; and connects these kids to millions of fellow players. Sam explains that “From an impact perspective it [football] ticks all the boxes…”
Designing PARK Social Soccer Co
Beyond the social good the brand does, what stands out to a designer is just how distinctive everything looks. This should perhaps come as no surprise given Sam’s background as a designer himself and his experience at Apple, but it is very different to the ‘sporty graphics’ served up by traditional ball designers. According to Sam, “the PARK SCC eye logo references the mystical concept of humans having a ‘third eye’ which provides an ability to be perceptive and to see beyond what is directly in front of us – super important if you want to imagine a better future!” Sam continues, “The graphic style is influenced by many different people and things, it’s a big mash up really. I just push it through the filter of simplicity and past the barometer of can it be easily drawn and understood by a child anywhere in the world”.
In recent years PARK SSC footballs have become the official team balls for a variety of amateur and professional football clubs. They have also expanded into other products lines, including clothing, accessories and even video gaming. It is an incredible achievement both of doing social good and design. If you love football or design you’ll love PARK SSC and we sincerely encourage you to explore the brand.
For further reading, check out the following links:
In Conversation with Sam Davy by Soccer Bible
Welcome to PARK at the PARK Social website
If you have any questions or would like more information please send us an email via the link below and let us know how we can help.