‘Ten years ago while I was working as Creative Director at Apple, Steve Jobs called me into a meeting and asked me to explore how Apple, “can do well by doing good”,’ begins Sam Davy. ‘This was the first time I’d contemplated the idea of connecting social awareness with the bottom line. I was fascinated!’
Originally from Yorkshire in the UK, Sam lived in London and San Francisco before making Melbourne his home in 2008. Over the years he worked as Brand Director at Crumpler and Director of Tennis at Tennis Australia, but always kept coming back to that idea that Steve Jobs had planted in his mind.
By October 2015, Sam had ‘eventually connected the dots’, co-founding the socially conscious PARK Social Soccer Co. ‘My son and I were standing, staring blankly at a sea of bland soccer balls in a sports store, looking for a gift for his friend, when he said, “These balls don’t mean anything, my mate’s not into all these global players or teams”,’ recalls Sam. He was struck by the fact that the humble soccer ball appeared to have been hijacked by global brands and turned into meaningless merch.
Later that day as the 41-year-old was looking out into his own backyard dotted with discarded balls, it really hit home that there are kids all over the world who love soccer, but who don’t have the opportunities to play. ‘The idea was born to start a brand that competes on quality and design, and helps our kids understand the imbalance of opportunity, whilst helping those kids that really need it,’ Sam explains.
Through it’s one-sale-for-one-donation model, PARK has currently passed 1,270 balls to disadvantaged children via grassroots charities, individuals and organisations, including Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne, Creating Chances in Sydney, The Dreams Alive Foundation in Kenya, Streetsoccer USA, and international initiatives Their Beautiful Game and Orphfund.org. ‘Our partners use the balls in a number of different ways, but all are focussed on using soccer to reach kids and youth, keep them focussed in a positive direction, help teach them life and leadership skills to overcome the everyday hurdles they face,’ says Sam. ‘We focus on supporting refugees and people seeking asylum, equal opportunities for girls (check-out Equal Playing Field), at-risk youth, and abandoned children.’
Breaking into a traditional sporting goods market dominated by the big global brands has been tricky, as has changing peoples’ perceptions of what a soccer ball is and what it can do. The graphic designer currently creates all the artwork for the balls in his home studio in Elwood, and there are some exciting collaborations with amazing artists in the pipeline. For creatives wanting to launch a passion project or social enterprise, Sam advises keeping your idea quite fluid in the early stages, getting lots of advice from those who are doing similar work, but also talking with people from seemingly unrelated fields, as a ‘wild card element’.
Thinking back on the impact this initiative has made, a young boy called John, living in an Orphfund.org supported children’s home in rural Uganda often comes to Sam’s mind. Passionate about the sport, John would try to make ‘soccer balls’ from discarded plastic bags. ‘John arrived at the home with only a small amount of belongings, so when he was given his own new, real soccer ball, it became his prized possession. He is now doing really well at school and is playing soccer in the local team,’ tells Sam. ‘For him to know that a kid on the other side of the world thought about him, and passed him a ball, is a beautiful thing!’
You can support PARK Social Soccer Co. by buying balls from their online store, here, or from the awesome stockists listed on their website. And in case you were wondering, Sam verifies that the positive vibes from a PARK ball WILL inspire you to play your best game!