An advisor asked me, when I shared my first Superhera pitch deck ever in Summer 2023, “What’s your marketing strategy?”

I’d gotten two degrees in marketing and knew what the textbook version of a marketing strategy was. But, I felt nervous to tell her, because the way I was and wanted to build Superhera was so much different than that. 

I said, “Umm, I sit in locker rooms and get to know female athletes. I learn about who they are, we joke about random things, we goof off, and I tell them our story. We talk about products. And ya, my plan is to build this in locker rooms.”

I looked naively up at her, like, is that right? It was so not what I had learned or seen working for brands. I didn’t bother learning about Facebook ads, or anything of that sort. It didn’t interest me, it was expensive, and I just knew that to reach our customer and have the approach we wanted to have, I had to follow my gut.

My gut said: Freshman year, Birkenstocks, remember you went to like 6 illegal websites to find them so you could be like your teammates. That’s your plan for building Superhera.

I soon named it, The Locker Room Effect, because that was exactly what it was. 

In August 2012, I walked into our Georgetown University Women’s Soccer locker room, and I saw our Team Captain, a junior, and probably the coolest person on the team wearing Birkenstocks. I was SoCal through and through, which meant I was a Rainbow sandals or Havaianas girl. There was no way I was ever wearing Birkenstocks, like no, not the vibe.

A month later, a couple other teammates had Birkenstocks. 2 months later, it seemed like half the team had Birkenstocks. Soon, I was scouring the internet trying to find Birkenstocks that I could buy with money I earned from my student brand ambassador job at Chipotle (a solid $500 a semester to throw burrito parties). 

I ended up with a dark rosy pink pair that I didn’t even really like the color of. But they were $23 on, which at the time, seemed like a sketchy website (well before it got acquired by Zappos). 

Did I even like Birkenstocks? I had no idea. But I did it because the coolest and best player on our team did it, and so did everyone else. It felt like our identifier — you were on the Women’s Soccer team if you wore Birks to and from practice. And yes, they smelled terrible if you wore them with your soccer socks.

This was my first introduction to the Locker Room Effect. In my terms, the female athlete Locker Room is the safe haven, where we, female athletes, can be 100% ourselves, and have zero outside distractions. It’s the one place that combines almost every emotion we experience as athletes: 

The inspiration of setting audacious, never-been-reached, program goals.
The chillness of being with your people and not having to prove anything, even if you feel like the weirdest person on the planet.
The sense of belonging when you have nowhere else to go and don’t want to be anywhere else.
The intensity before every practice and game.
The heartache of losing and deafening silence.
The incomparable joy of winning and wall-thumping music. 
… and the smell, especially of shin guards… truly nothing like it. 

“We literally walk into the locker room every day and check out what each other is wearing!!” — Gotham FC Athlete

My mom would send me a care package of Bath & Body Works at the start of every season, so I could deck out my locker with my favorite smells. My teammates thought that meant it was theirs, too. 

Little by little, my Brown Sugar & Fig and Warm Vanilla Sugar B&BW perfume spray would disappear. I’d yell out, “Who keeps stealing my spray?” My teammates would blame one another. Then, I’d say in my sassy tone, “I mean, you probably need it. You’re welcome,” pissed that my spray was gone but also feeling endeared that my teammates were my sisters. 

The locker room is the only dedicated space, where it’s just for female athletes. And that’s what makes it inherently unique. It’s the space where we get to know our teammates intimately, and let our guards down. 

It’s protected, and because of that, is a space I knew I wanted to build Superhera. 

Externally, there’s a hype around being the loudest, and going viral. It’s as if going viral and selling out becomes the goal, rather than nurturing deep relationships. 

The Locker Room is the opposite of this. It’s concentrated, focused, and shielded from the outside. It’s a room of 12-35 of the most niched-down version of our customer, in her element, and that we build products for.

We honor and respect the boundaries of the Locker Room. To capitalize on it, means to respect its sanctity, not expose it.

We use the Locker Room to first and foremost, build strong relationships with female athletes. And yes, the goal is to be the Locker Room conversation that inspires our innovation — updating current products, building new products, and elevating and adapting our brand to be the female athlete sportswear company these athletes deserve.

"Superhera is the locker room conversation this morning. Thought you would love to hear that." Henley Tippins, Georgetown Soccer Player

I believe in this notion that the tightest communities, if they truly believe in and feel involved in your company and product, have more power than numbers. Because true belief in and passion for, is the only way I’ve seen a team come back from a 0-2 deficit and beat a team with all the resources (numbers) in the world.

Our mission is to give female athletes the Freedom to Perform. This is just a phrase if it is not led by action. To enable our female athletes to have the Freedom to Perform, we have to turn inward and to them. 

Yes, the Locker Room Effect is a “marketing strategy”, but it’s so much more than that. Locker Room Effect is our way of meeting our customers where they are, garnering their trust, and co-building the sportswear brand they’ve always wanted. And it’s not just surveys. Because female athletes and women are so much more complex than that. But you’d have to have been and be there to know that.

We capture each of their uniqueness in our brand and our product. Through my research (Becoming a Superhero (2021), I know this leads to elevating their lives and the lives of others… because they feel the Freedom to Perform.

xx, Marina


Leave a comment