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Jordan Brand Is Determined to Empower Black Women. Sarah Mensah’s Appointment as President Is the Perfect Next Step

Sarah Mensah Nike Jordan Brand
Sarah Mensah, who has been named president of Jordan Brand, at the 2022 FN CEO Summit at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.
Kreg Holt/Footwear News via Getty Images

Jordan Brand has made its women consumers a major priority in recent years — and along with it has made significant investments internally to ensure its culture has a strong female focus. The brand’s latest woman-empowering move is the appointment of Nike Inc. veteran Sarah Mensah to the role of president.

Yesterday, the athletic giant made several senior leadership changes, which included appointing Mensah to the helm of Jordan Brand, a significant move that marks her return to the brand. (She served as VP and GM for three years before taking a VP role at the Swoosh in 2018.) Current Jordan Brand president Craig Williams will become president of geographies and marketplace at Nike, Inc.

Mensah is no stranger to the C-suite. Prior to joining Nike Inc. in 2013, she was the EVP and COO of the Portland Trail Blazers. While at Nike Inc., Mensah made history at the Swoosh, becoming the first Black woman to hold the VP and GM of Nike North America role in March 2021.

“It’s important to me personally and to our athletes, our employees, our consumers. We talk a lot about listening to them, and the best way to listen is to reflect them,” Mensah said of the role in May 2022. “I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility because Nike means so much to the Black community. To be the first Black women leading this geography is an incredible mandate.”

She doubled-down on those sentiments in August 2022 at the FN CEO Summit in New York City.

“It is very personal. I grew up in Beaverton, [Ore.], not even a mile from where Nike is located. As a girl growing up, I used to run on a track about a mile away and I watched Nike grow. And then I understood that Nike really was a brand that celebrated the beautifulness of Black people and Black athletes at a time where ‘see it, be it’ was not really a buzzword,” Mensah said at the event. “For me, as a young girl who wanted to play sports, I saw the brand as one of the most aspirational brands to inspire me and to see what was possible. I feel a mandate to continue the role that Nike played for me for others and to expand the aspirational nature of the brand.”

Mensah’s appointment is Jordan Brand’s latest move that places women at the forefront. Its most recent women’s-focused initiative occurred in March when the company announced its North America Jordan Women’s Collective class for 2023. This ongoing effort amplifies Jordan Brand’s commitment to fueling the momentum women have in driving both basketball and sneaker culture, all while cultivating an ecosystem of women supporting women. This year’s group features 11 women from New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and members were selected based on nominations from its 2022 class.

Weeks earlier, Jordan Brand revealed its latest name, image and likeness (NIL) signing, high school basketball phenom Kiyomi McMiller. The hooper was the brand’s second NIL signing, having added UCLA star Kiki Rice to its roster in October 2022.

“We know the guys are going to get bags — everybody’s going to go after [high school stars] DJ Wagner and Bronny [James]. Our approach to NIL has been focused on women,” Jasmine Jordan, basketball field rep for women’s sport marketing at Jordan Brand, told FN during her March cover shoot.

These recent headline-grabbing moves are just the latest in a series of investments that have put women in the spotlight at Jordan Brand. One of its most impactful moments took place in June 2021 when NBA icon Michael Jordan posed alongside the brand’s sponsored WNBA athletes in a series of images captured by Ming Smith. The series was part of the “Here for a Reason” exhibition in NYC, which was displayed at the Nicola Vassell Gallery.

“They’re promoting us in a way where younger girls are going to see us in Jordan Brand stuff. When I was growing up, I would watch the WNBA players and what they wore, and it does make a difference,” WNBA star Aerial Powers told FN during her February 2022 cover shoot. In addition to Powers, the cover also featured another prominent woman, Jordan Brand collaborator Aleali May.

These ongoing efforts to keep women at the forefront are one of the reasons Jordan Brand earned the 2022 FNAA Brand of the Year honor — and these efforts have proven beneficial. A June 2022 earnings call for parent company Nike Inc. revealed that Jordan Brand’s women’s business has tripled since fiscal 2020.

Nike Inc. EVP and CFO Matthew Friend (whose responsibilities expanded to include procurement, global places & services and demand and supply management with yesterday’s announced reorganization) said in March during the company’s third quarter for fiscal 2023 earnings call that Jordan Brand started the year with strong double-digit growth and incredible momentum with women consumers.

Nike made another high profile women in power move at Jordan Brand last year.

Before the move, Jones was the head of SNKRS and NBHD Marketplace. During her time at Nike Inc., Jones has held several roles at Jordan Brand, including GM of Asia Pacific Latin America from October 2019 to November 2020.

“I’m thrilled about the opportunity to continue defining equity for women within sneaker culture. Plus, it’s a special treat to be a part of the Jordan family again. I’m honored to work with this talented team at Jordan Brand and keep our strong momentum going,” Jones told FN in October 2022.
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Sarah Mensah's Appointment as Jordan Brand President Is a Power Move
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