Dallas Cowboys’ Charlotte Jones Anderson gets up close and personal in this Q&A

Charlotte Jones Anderson became part of the family business nearly three decades ago, without a job title, without an office and no experience. It wasn’t her idea but her father needed help. The team was losing. Texas Stadium was nearly empty. Jones had fired the Cowboys’ beloved coach, Tom Landry, and the staff was rising up against him. So, at 23 and with no experience, she went to work with her father and two brothers to rebuild America’s Team. While they stayed on the field, she worked to turn around a struggling $140 million enterprise. Armed with determination, perseverance and little else, she accomplished the seemingly impossible.

Today, with a net worth of $4.2 billion, the Dallas Cowboys are the most valuable sports team in the world.

We recently caught up with her during a morning latte break from training camp in California. She had just returned from a late-night party with Justin Timberlake celebrating her father’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Charlotte Jones Anderson, executive vice president and brand officer of the Dallas Cowboys
Charlotte Jones Anderson, executive vice president and brand officer of the Dallas CowboysRoss Hailey - rhailey@star-telegram.com

You’re one of 122 female top executives—30 percent of all management positions—in the National Football League (NFL). While these numbers have grown, historically the team and its fans, as well as the management behind the game, is predominantly male. How have you helped impact change when it comes to women and football, both behind the scenes and in the stands?

Women are impacting our sport and the business of our game. They are underrepresented not only in positions in the NFL, but how they are included in the marketing effort of the game. Forty-five percent of the Dallas Cowboys’ fans are female and being able to address that audience is something I’ve been harping on for years. We have a strong voice and a lot of buying power.

Why hasn’t the female’s status as an economic force been recognized, and how have you tried to change this?

Traditional marketing believes you can just ‘shrink it and pink it’ and it becomes a female product. We don’t want to wear our husbands’ jerseys. Recognizing our female fans is so significant to us, we put a Victoria’s Secret store in AT&T stadium. In that store, there’s unique and fun Dallas Cowboys’ branded merchandise tailored for women — reversible leggings, hoodies and mesh oversized jerseys, in blue and white with the star.

You also launched a website, 5 Points Blue, with content aimed at your female fans.

Exactly. It’s kind of like Today Show meets Sports Illustrated or ESPN. All of the content is written and designed by women in our organization. We have a significant amount of female brainpower in our company — 43 percent of our employees are women. The website 5 Points Blue includes stats and intense information. It’s just as intelligent as what you’ll find on the Dallas Cowboys’ site but in a shorter format. The difference is, if you want to find out what happened at training camp today — if we want to know why Dak Prescott is the man he is or what motivates him — it’s a little ‘under the helmet’ (dealing more with thoughts and emotions than stats). What’s interesting is we found out that men make up half of the audience for the site.

Challenges don’t hinder Charlotte Jones Anderson, who recognizes the opportunity not only to succeed but to make a difference.
Challenges don’t hinder Charlotte Jones Anderson, who recognizes the opportunity not only to succeed but to make a difference.Ross Hailey - rhailey@star-telegram.com

Why do you think football is still relevant today? Why does it appeal to women?

Football is very much a part of the American culture. You can be sitting beside someone who looks and thinks differently from you, yet you can both be cheering the same team. It cuts through our differences and brings people together and I think for women, when families come together to watch the game, it becomes more than just about the game.

You’re chairman of the National Football League (NFL) Foundation, the league’s non-profit which aims to make the sport safer for kids. As the mother of two boys, how much of an issue did the risk of injury associated with the sport impact your decision to let them play or not play football?

We know our game is aggressive and we are doing all we can to make it as safe as it can be. From a youth standpoint and mom standpoint, I know a lot about our game, the risk of injury, and the value of playing the game. I believe the benefit of my kids playing football outweigh the risks.

How so?

I’m the mom that drops her kid off at school and rolls down the window and says, ‘Be a great leader today! Make great choices! Go, go get ‘em!’ I am that mom. But when he goes into the gym and he’s out on the field with his teammates and coaches, all of the sudden they look the same. They’re in this huddle and having this accountability to each other. They all hate it. They all want to quit but they all keep going. They have this physical sacrifice that has brought them together and they’re now learning about perseverance and respect. All of those hard virtues (are what) you espouse as a parent. It’s not about winning the game. It’s about building young men.

As executive vice president and chief brand officer of the Dallas Cowboys, Anderson oversees all aspects of the team's image.
As executive vice president and chief brand officer of the Dallas Cowboys, Anderson oversees all aspects of the team’s image.Ross Hailey - rhailey@star-telegram.com

There’s been a lot in the press in the last few years about the frequency of chronic brain disease associated with the sport. Just a month ago, a new study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that after examining the brains of 202 deceased former football players, nearly 88 percent of them had evidence of chronic, traumatic encephalopathy.

There is so much to learn about brain disease. The health and safety of not only our players, but those who play the game at every level is our utmost concern. The NFL remains committed to being active participants in the ongoing efforts to advance science around brain health by working hand in hand with experts in the medical and research community. Through our Play Safe Play Smart initiative, the NFL has committed $100 million in support for independent research and engineering advancements, in addition to the $100 million that we and our partners have already committed to medical and neuroscience research.

Because of the unique visibility of our game and the impact we have in our community, we have an incredible opportunity to not only raise awareness of cultural and societal issues, but our role in advancing brain health might be the single most important legacy of our game.

Charlotte Jones Anderson, executive vice president and brand officer of the Dallas Cowboys
Charlotte Jones Anderson, executive vice president and brand officer of the Dallas CowboysRoss Hailey - rhailey@star-telegram.com

You grew up in Little Rock, going to private school, but left in high school and enrolled in Little Rock Central, the public school on the other side of town. This is the school that made national headlines during desegregation in the late 1950s when the National Guard was brought in to prevent rioting. When you made your decision to go to school there, the African-American population was 80 percent. You were in the minority. Why did you decide to do this?

Because I needed to do something different. My view of the world was a little too small and too selective. I felt I needed to jump (in) and see what the world was about, and could learn more from the environment than I was learning from my books.

Fast forward a few years. You graduate top of your high school class as valedictorian. Then it’s on to Stanford, where you graduate with a degree in human biology. You scrap pre-med and end up in Washington, working as chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Tommy Robinson, R-Ark. It’s 1989 and your dad just bought the Dallas Cowboys.

Why buy the Cowboys? It’s crazy, right? But he had such a passion for the game. He had success in oil and gas and happened to read the Cowboys were for sale. He was in Mexico and called (then owner) Bum Bright. He flew in and they worked out the terms of the deal. Everyone — his attorney, his advisors — said don’t do it. The team was in crisis, or it wouldn’t have been for sale. The stadium was only half-full and the team was losing. There was a big outcry to fire the coach and it was not a pretty picture. It didn’t look good. But what are you going to do, tell your father he made a bad business decision?

So how did he convince you to come and work for him?

When he first called, it was for a specific problem. He said, “Do you have any idea what hot pants are? There’s a line of women outside the door angry because I’m going to change the uniform from hot pants to biker shorts, and I don’t even know the difference between them!” It was another one of those rumors that hit the airwaves. Suzanne Mitchell was president of the cheerleaders and Tex Schramm was president of the Cowboys. All of the employees filed a lawsuit against my father. Tex was fired and there was an internal battle with the staff. He had nobody he could trust. When the thing came out about cheerleaders, he said, “Come down and tell me what’s going on.” So I did. Then he said, “Why don’t you just stay?” I said, “I don’t know anything about running a football team.” He said, “Neither do I!”

So you stayed. Shortly after the hot pants debate cooled, you suggested moving training camp from Thousand Oaks, California, where it had been held for 26 years, to Austin. You put the team up in college dorms instead of hotels. Then you found sponsors to wash their socks and uniforms in exchange for signage on the field. The odds were stacked against you. Yet, over time, you helped get the team out of the red. What drives you to take these sorts of risks?

Why leave a private, cushy school and go to public school? Why come here? It was a disaster. I’m not afraid of a challenge. Maybe I thrive in it. I don’t know. I’ve not been able to pinpoint it. I know it’s maybe atypical to choose the rougher path when you don’t have to. I don’t have to be here at work, but I want to. I want it to be successful. I feel a responsibility to it. I’ve always valued hard work and appreciated the struggle and the climb. I want to make a difference. I’ve always wanted to make an impact somehow, and I’ve always looked for how I can do it. I think each time I’ve taken a step, it’s empowered me to take a harder one.

 

FIVE THINGS YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT CHARLOTTE JONES ANDERSON

Three things that are always in your carry-on?

My phone charger. My glasses. I can’t go anywhere without my glasses. And my mom said, “Never go out in public without your lipstick.” Sometimes I’m too busy and I forget to put it on. But I always carry two — Indian Rose by Tom Ford in the fall and Laura Mercier’s Rosewood in the summer.

Room service or restaurant?

Last night it was totally room service. Generally I love restaurants because I love to people watch. I am the expert on who has the best coffee latte. Last night, I had tortilla soup and a beet Cobb salad.

How do you stay in shape?

I have a Peleton and it’s connected to a wireless monitor so you can live stream classes. I do this mostly when I’m at home, really early in the morning or late at night. I need the loud music. I need something to take me away.

What do people not know about you?

I have a fear of public speaking and have to do it so much. But, if you don’t get anxious or nervous before any performance, I think you’re not on your A game. I think you always have to be a little uncomfortable.

Dad or Daddy?

Daddy.

Anderson’s cost-cutting measures early on, in addition to her savvy marketing skills, are one reason the Dallas Cowboys franchise is the most valuable sports team in the world.
Anderson’s cost-cutting measures early on, in addition to her savvy marketing skills, are one reason the Dallas Cowboys franchise is the most valuable sports team in the world.Ross Hailey - rhailey@star-telegram.com

STAT BOX

Charlotte Jones Anderson, daughter of Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys

Height: 5’10”

Hometown: Little Rock, Arkansas

Current city: Highland Park

What she does: Charlotte Jones Anderson oversees all aspects of the Dallas Cowboys that involves the team’s image and how the organization interacts with the community.

Her official title: Executive vice president and brand officer of the Dallas Cowboys

What that means: Anderson oversees all activities that relate to marketing — from producing the annual halftime show at Thanksgiving, to approving all designs for team-licensed apparel. (The Dallas Cowboys is the only team in the league that has complete control of its merchandising rights.)

That’s not all: She’s in charge of all things philanthropic, from the initial halftime show and partnership with the Salvation Army that raised more than $2 billion, to her role as president of the non-profit Gene and Jerry Jones Family Foundation and the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Arlington Youth Foundation.

Brick & mortar: She helped develop the design, presentation, and sponsorship of AT&T stadium as well as the team’s new headquarters in Frisco. Working with architects, she helped to curate the 74-piece contemporary art collection that’s divided between the two locations.

Hot Pants are here to stay: She’s also president of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

 

CHARLOTTE JONES COLLECTION

Proving yet again there’s always an opportunity for a brand partnership, the Omni Frisco Hotel features a jewel box of a boutique filled with some of Charlotte Jones Anderson’s favorite things. Located adjacent to The Star (the team headquarters), a 600-square-foot shop offers Dallas Cowboys merchandise and other goods emblazoned with the five-pointed star or at least in the proper team colors.

Here are some of our top picks.

Boxed In: Edie Parker’s retro signature box clutches snap to open and close and have a mirror inside for quick touch-ups (not touchdowns). Essentials only. These are like tiny music boxes that come in silver, two different shades of blue, and, for the fun of it, magenta.

Stack It: Alexis Bittar’s chunky enamel bracelets can be stacked or worn solo and come in a rich, deep green and gold. Matching earrings look like tiny handbags that drop and dangle. Not for wallflowers, certainly.

Really Blue Jeans: PAIGE Denim designed a Dallas Cowboys-inspired blue custom denim wash and called it the “Dallas wash.” It’s available only at this boutique in women’s and men’s skinny to the ankle jeans.

On the Cuff: For guys who’d rather not wear large ponies on their shirts or splashy logos, Peter Millar designed a line of woven, button-down shirts with the star on the sleeve’s cuff. Oh, so subtle! Also in the line, a custom, silk Dallas Cowboys-branded tie, pocket square and woman’s scarf.

So Transparent: NFL rules say “handbags must be see-through” but that doesn’t mean they can’t be stylish. Policy handbags aren’t just “not awful,” they’re so chic we might just carry them all the time. No more fumbling around for that lipstick, girls. Trimmed in silver and navy, naturally.

 

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