National Fashion Brand Express Names First Two College Athlete Style Ambassadors

Last Updated on April 23, 2022

Express, Inc., a national fashion apparel retailer, is taking advantage of new name, image and likeness rules to sign the brand’s first-ever collegiate athlete style ambassadors. Ohio State football players CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba will serve as the first two ambassadors in the program.

“The announcement of our partnership with CJ and Jaxon signifies the growth of what we call the Express Styling Community, a community connected by the confidence people find through personal style. Our portfolio includes our Community Commerce Style Editors, associates, influencers, brand ambassadors, and now collegiate athletes,” said Sara Tervo, executive vice president and CMO at Express.

“As we build and engage our styling community, we look for partners who embody our brand purpose to create confidence and inspire self-expression. We chose CJ and Jaxon—two outstanding collegiate athletes from our corporate hometown of Columbus—because they live our brand values and exude confidence and style both on and off the field.”

Tervo says the brand heard Stroud was already a fan of Express and had been shopping with the brand even before they reached out about a partnership.

“We love identifying brand relationships where someone already has an affinity for the brand.”

Stroud says he and Smith-Njigba had actually been shopping together at Express shortly before they heard from the brand.

“I’ve been a fan of Express for as long as I can remember,” said Stroud. “The clothes have always just made me feel good—like a boss. Jaxon and I were actually shopping for suits at our local Express store last winter and shortly after, the brand reached out about an opportunity to join their styling community—it feels like it was meant to be.”

Express says they activate with each of their partners in a way that feels authentic to their everyday lives.

“When putting together campaigns with styling community partners, we lean into each individual’s voice, personal style and influence to speak to our customer in ways that will break through. With CJ and Jaxon, we’ll explore what it means as an athlete to have style as an outlet of self-expression and how they approach dressing for off-the-field occasions.”

Stroud is excited to share his style through this new partnership.

“I’m really looking forward to sharing my personal style with the Express community. The slim fit suits are clean and I’m going to create some cool content that shows how I style myself off the field. It was a really awesome experience to participate in my first fashion shoot alongside my teammate and friend Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

“Ultimately, I hope that people will feel inspired to lean into style as an outlet of self-expression.”

He says clothes are a big part of how he expresses himself.

“I have always believed that what you wear can make you feel like your best, most confident self and I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with a brand that believes the same. Whether I’m dressing up for game day or hanging out with friends, my clothes reflect how I’m feeling that day. Express always comes through with different fits for all the occasions in my life.”

CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba for Express in NIL deal
CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba for Express (Photo credit: Express)

In terms of measuring the success of the campaign, Tervo said they’re looking for customer engagement and new customer acquisition.

“Our partnership with CJ and Jaxon reflects our commitment to generating brand awareness among the collegiate and men’s audiences as we continue to drive new customer acquisition and relevancy. These are important KPIs along with strong customer engagement across brand channels.”

Asked if Express plans to expand their campaign beyond these initial two ambassadors, Tervo is optimistic.

“We know many of our customers are passionate about sports and that fueled our decision to make our debut in the world of NIL. We’re confident our partnerships with CJ and Jaxon will resonate, and we will continue to tap into new partners to keep engaging with our community.”

Stroud and Smith-Njigba will each be sharing content on their own social channels and the brand’s channels. The campaign will focus on how they turn to fashion to look and feel their most confident selves. Over the next year, Stroud will connect with Express customers through his participation in future campaigns and will make in-store and digital appearances.

This piece originally appeared on Forbes


  • Kristi Dosh

    Kristi A. Dosh is the founder of and has served as a sports business analyst and contributor for outlets such as Forbes, ESPN, SportsBusiness Journal, Bleacher Report, SB Nation and more. She is also the author of a book on the business of college football, Saturday Millionaires. Kristi is a sought-after consultant and speaker on topics related to the business of college sports and a former practicing attorney. Click to learn more

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