Interview: Erin Ashley Simon launches RKDO gaming apparel with PUMA
Global sportswear brand PUMA has announced the launch of RKDO, a gaming and esports apparel collection with game industry personality and XSET Co-owner Erin Ashley Simon.
The unisex collection debuts July 29th on PUMA.com and select retailers. RKDO consists of jerseys, hoodies, track pants, shorts, leggings, and a camper, ranging from $35 (~£25) to $100 (~£72). Simon will model the collection in her first campaign for the brand.
Pictured: Erin Ashley Simon modelling the new RKDO hoodie and leggings. Image credit: PUMA
Simon is best known as a host and speaker throughout the video game and esports industry, appearing on Cheddar Esports, VENN, Call of Duty Esports, ESPN Esports, and more. In November, she became part-owner of North American esports organisation XSET.
Esports Insider sat down with Simon to discuss the partnership and why it was important for her to associate with a brand that shares her values.
“Growing up, and playing soccer all my life, PUMA was definitely a brand that always had an influential impact on my life,” Simon said. “As I got into the esports industry as a broadcaster, I saw a lot of what PUMA was doing not only from a merchandise perspective but also the positive impact.
“I saw how people like Matt Shaw [PUMA Team Head Digital Marketing & Gaming] and Angela Wong [PUMA Manager, Esports and Marketing Innovation] were, themselves, very big advocates of diversity and inclusion. That’s something near and dear to my heart.”
Simon initiated a connection with PUMA through her agents at CAA and met with the team. She goes on to state that all parties were ‘aligned on a lot of different things’, especially diversity, gender equality and inclusion initiatives.
“It was such an amazing moment for me to have a company that really believes in the same things I do,” said Simon.
Image credit: PUMA
The relationship grew from there, with Simon becoming an official brand ambassador and collaborating on the RKDO collection. She has also joined PUMA’s women’s platform called ‘She Moves Us’ that celebrates female role models within culture and sports.
“I have a close relationship with the team,” Simon added. “The one thing I really appreciated was that they whole-heartedly told me to be myself 110 percent. I’m very vocal about so many important initiatives within the esports and gaming space. I always joke that I was raised by a New Yorker, so I can be very blunt and brash sometimes! But PUMA appreciated that. That means the world to me.”
Once starting the collaboration, Simon experienced a side of esports partnerships she had never seen before as a broadcaster. Reporting on such partnerships offers a limited view of talent involvement, but Simon found herself fully engulfed in the RKDO collection, from the initial design to launch.
Simon uses her ethnicity (Black and Latina) as well as her LGBTQIA identity to be the role model she wishes she had growing up.
“I didn’t see too many people like myself in this space when it comes to broadcasting,” she said. “To have a company that says to own who you are just solidified my heart when it came to this partnership. That just fuels my passion for what we are trying to do.”
Esports Insider says: In a world of influencers, it’s nice to see when a brand aligns with an ambassador who shares its values. Based on our conversation, Simon is really passionate about PUMA and will use the brand affinity to be a role model — not just a fashion model — for youth, women, and members of the LGBTQIA community.