A conversation with Sam Davy
Favourite team: Leeds United
Preferred position: CDM
Favourite football moment: At the age of 12, I got a write up in the local paper for scoring a tremendous, top corner goal from the right wing. To this day, I insist it wasn't a fluke - the wind did not blow it in - I meant to score that.
You might already know PARK.
You might have seen football players like Sam Kerr or Serge Gnabry embrace our motto - “soccer can change the world.”
You might already know our mission, to create equal opportunity through the universal language of soccer.
That’s why when you buy one of our balls, another gets donated to a kid in need. Simple as that.
And we wanted to thank you for your kind generosity, because to date, we have donated over 8500 balls in over 26 countries. Together, we’ve brought the beautiful game to over 80,000 kids all around the world.
This wouldn’t have been possible without you, the PARK community.
So today, we want to bring you into the origins of PARK; where it all started and how it all began. And who better to do this with other than our Co-founder and Creative Director - Sam Davy.
Let's start at the beginning, what inspired you to create PARK?
S.D: PARK was the result of a few different things coming together.
I was working at Apple and one day Steve Jobs asked us - “How can Apple do well by doing good?” Together, we came up with an idea that tapped into the intersection of charity and commerce. Sadly, Steve fell sick and we were never able to get the project off the ground.
However, that conversation with Steve planted a seed in my head that has ultimately led me down the path of creating a social enterprise.
Having been a lifelong football fan, I was becoming increasingly disenfranchised with the way football was conducting itself; the obsession with money, the FIFA scandal and the inflated transfer fees.
There was just this material obsession driven by brands that was encouraging wasteful purchasing behaviours that would ultimately impact the next generation.
At the same time, I was having conversations with my eldest son about his lack of respect for his football and equipment. He would have them lying around, seeing damage from the elements, while so many kids around the world would kill for the same stuff!
That’s when I began to feel that there was room for a brand that did things differently, that stood for something different. A brand that wasn’t built on material obsession but an obsession with the game and the value it brings to communities all over the world.
I wanted to create a football brand that celebrated football.
And I thought to myself, I’ve got skills I could apply here, there’s a need for it, there’s room for it - this could be fun.
PARK is built on the ethos of social responsibility; that "soccer can change the world" - what does this mean to you?
S.D: I am a massive believer that sport can create change.
Playing sport comes with a range of benefits. Consider how it can introduce you to new social circles, how it cultivates skills like teamwork and leadership, and how it helps individuals realise their potential.
Sport can help you learn a lot about yourself. It can also cross social and economic divides.
Football is the world game, the one sport that is played by such a diverse group of people around the globe. The sheer diversity of our sport has the power to engender empathy and compassion.
And the beauty is that you need very little to play it. All you need is a ball; you can use literally anything else for goal posts - jumpers, cones, shoes, a tree, you name it! It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, once you’re on that pitch, it’s all about football - a universal language that everyone grasps, understands, and benefits from.
So what better vehicle to try and create change from.
Our footballs and apparel are all beautifully designed. How does art and design contribute to the movement for change?
S.D: Being a designer, I have a personal appreciation for art, design and the visual language. It’s been so important in my life.
You can draw something, create a pattern or present a unique palette of colours that can speak to people in a unique way. One that is more soulful and attuned to different personalities and different parts of the brain.
Any movement for change requires various points of interaction. Art and design has the extraordinary ability to create shorthand, cutting through complex conversations and issues, making them accessible for all.
Art and design is the essence of PARK. It is how we visualize and communicate our purpose, our passion and our movement.
That way, no one gets left behind.
What are some standout moments for you since PARK launched?
S.D: There’s been quite a few!
One that sticks out is our first giving trip to Lombok, Indonesia. This was even before PARK had been properly established. Tara and I just went out there with a bunch of footballs to better understand how this would work and whether it was fulfilling a need.
And on our trip, we stumbled across a kids school match.
There was this carnival-like atmosphere with 200 people in the stands, kids running around and food stalls with wonderful aromas filling the air. It was so colourful and filled with energetic activity.
Our driver pulls in and we get out greeted by a mob of kids! They tell us it's a final between two schools and we decide to stay and watch. 10-15mins go by and the game hasn’t kicked off yet.
So we ask, what's going on? Why hasn’t the game started?
They tell us that they don’t have a ball, and that one of the coaches has gone to go get one.
Hearing that, I went to our car where we had a whole bunch of balls, and gave them a few so they could play their game.
Realising there was a need for this, that moment sealed the deal for us. That even though everyone was there and having a great time, without the ball - something we take for granted - the reason they had gathered could not have kicked off.
Another notable moment took place a couple of years later. I got a phone call really late at night from a US Servicemen stationed in the Middle East, in and around the borders of Iraq, Syria and Jordan. He was a mad Cincinnati FC soccer fan.
He had seen the area decimated by conflict and how football can become a channel to rebuild. He wanted to expand on that idea and get 1000’s of balls to kids in remote conflict zones and hard to reach parts of the region.
In truth, I couldn’t believe that I was sitting and conversing with a guy on what sounded like a satellite phone; I pictured him huddled in a tent in the desert somewhere.
He said that if I could get him some balls, he could distribute them through the Iraqi Soccer Project - a movement he started. So we shipped 500 balls from our New York office to a central army base in New Orleans. From there, army transport took the balls to where he was out in the field.
He pumped them all up with his mates and started driving the balls out to local villages and towns. He partnered with the Jordanian Army to distribute them to kids in refugee camps. For more remote areas, he flew them out on helicopters.
That moment, that phone call, the creation of that relationship, blew my mind. I couldn’t believe that there were people out there that really cared, that really resonated with our mission.
If we could mobilize all these people - people that love the sport the same way that we love it - imagine what we could create.
Imagine what we could do.
2020 has been a difficult and challenging year for all of us. Do you have a message for our community during these testing times?
S.D: It has been a challenging year; and it doesn’t seem to be ending or getting any easier. But as a community we can get through this if we consider what community really means.
There are those that exist on the fringes of society - people in camps, locked away on islands - that are truly vulnerable. These ostracised communities need us, and that is something we have been focusing on with our work at PARK.
Frame your challenges with perspective and consider those around you - who could use your support, now more than ever? There is always someone in need, and one small act of kindness can go a long way.
Together, we can ensure that we leave a positive mark on 2020.