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How Vans President Doug Palladini is helping to inspire creativity and entrepreneurship in young people across the world

Our purpose as a global brand is to enable creative expression through our cultural pillars of action sports, art, music and street culture

I had the pleasure to interview Doug Palladini, Vans Global Brand President. A veteran of the action sports industry with more than 25 years of leadership across marketing, sales and product, Doug was appointed to lead Vans as its Global Brand President in July 2016. In his role, Palladini oversees the strategic direction of Vans’ more than $3 billion global business, while enabling the regional teams to develop and deliver local strategies to drive continued worldwide growth. A long-time leader within the Vans brand, Palladini has held various roles within the company. From 2004 through 2014, he served as Vans’ global marketing leader. Palladini played an integral role in Vans’ transformation into a global icon of creative expression in youth culture, becoming the largest action sports footwear and apparel brand on the planet, available in more than 84 countries. In May 2013, Palladini was appointed as the Vice President General Manager of North America for Vans. There, Palladini was responsible for building Vans’ US, Mexico and Canada strategy leading wholesale sales, owned retail, product merchandising, and marketing for the brand’s largest region, representing more than $1.4 billion in annual business. Palladini’s long history and deep connection in Vans’ brand pillars of music, art, street culture and action sports have led to an industry-leading marketing program at Vans. A sampling of this success includes the development and launch of House of Vans, Vans’ global hub for creative expression with permanent locations and pop-up locations around the world, Vans’ social media community, which engenders more engagement through its fans that any other brand in the sector, and the creation of Vans’ digital video platforms that provide original web series content to a global audience of millions of viewers.

Thank you so much for joining us Doug. Can you share with us how Van’s is making a significant social impact?

Vans’ purpose as a global brand is to enable creative expression through our cultural pillars: action sports, art, music and street culture. It’s our reason for being and our guiding force as a brand since we were established in 1966. At Vans, we don’t just talk about creative expression, we actively enable it through our products, platforms and global brand activations. Everything we do is viewed through the lens of “does this enable creative self-expression?”

Can you tell me a story about someone who has inspired this mission?

Our founder, Paul Van Doren. He once said, “We’re a people company that just happens to make shoes.” This ethos has remained true throughout our 53 years of being and as we’ve grown from a Southern California skate brand to a $4 billion-plus global sport lifestyle brand. We know we aren’t the biggest brand in our space, but we are the most connected to youth culture. We focus on creating meaningful, emotional connections that build lifetime brand loyalty unlike anyone else.

Can you tell us about some of the exciting social impact projects you are working on now?

Last year, while attending the 2018 WORLDZ summit, I had the opportunity to see a documentary titled Caine’s Arcade by Nirvan Mullick. The documentary focused on how a young boy from East Los Angeles built a cardboard arcade at his dad’s used auto parts store that ultimately sparked a global movement through his own form of creative expression and helped found the non-profit, Imagination.org. Caine’s story expanded my point of view around the true power of creativity as there are endless possibilities to what young people can create and how they can express themselves, even in the simplest ways.

After watching Caine’s Arcade, I met with documentarian and Imagination.org founder Nirvan and his team. We were inspired by the organization’s purpose and mission and how closely they relate to our brand’s mission of enabling creative expression. I couldn’t help but imagine what we could create together by harnessing the everyday creativity that exists in our world to build a brighter and better future. So, with Imagination.org as our 2019 charity partner, we decided to launch the first-ever ‘Vans Checkerboard Day’ this coming November 21. As an annual event, Vans Checkerboard Day will champion and inspire creative expression globally and provide fans the opportunity to participate in creative activations, experience why creativity matters, and give back to organizations that support creative expression.

With the goal of fueling creativity, Vans will donate $1 million from global sales generated through the brand’s owned retail locations and Vans.com to Imagination.org, powered by Two Bit Circus Foundation. Leading up to November 21, fans will have the opportunity to participate in global Checkerboard Day activations, events, and brand touchpoints to connect local communities through unique and personal experiences and participate in Vans’ brand mission. As a global brand, Vans celebrates creative expression not only through our own events and activations but also through partnerships with like-minded organizations who share our purpose and passion.

Of all the causes you could focus on, why did you choose to focus on creativity and entrepreneurship in young people?

Vans Checkerboard Day is an opportunity for us to put a stake in the ground and rally our internal team, our extended Vans family and our fans around the world to come together to celebrate creative expression and make a difference in the lives of our youth. Imagination.org is the perfect partner to spark a global movement.

Through our $1 million donation of sales from Vans retail stores and our website on November 21, Imagination.org will be able to form 100 new Imagination.org chapters globally by October 2020 and further expand and strengthen the activities undertaken by its 150 current chapters active in 20 countries. The formation of an additional 100 new chapters will directly impact 10,000 young people globally.

Are there three things the community can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

I’m excited for November 21 as our Vans Family will come together on Checkerboard Day to help celebrate and drive awareness around the power of enabling creative expression. We’ll be announcing several activations and ways for Vans fans to participate leading up to November 21, so please keep an eye on vans.com/checkerboardday for more information.

What kind of social impact do you think you might focus on in the future?

Our global Vans Family is what makes our brand unique. Vans is an inclusive brand by nature, so we welcome you no matter where you’re from, who you are or what you believe in. As Vans continues to expand its global presence, our business is no longer about one state, one country or even one continent. We understand and continue to be focused on driving the brand with a global mindset to ensure we stay relevant to our loyalists while engaging with newcomers in key regions around the world.