Alumna Scores on the Business Side of Sports

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ANGELA MANFREDI ’09, Senior Merchandising Manager, Nike NBHD

In 2015, LeBron James debuted the KITH LeBron, his eponymous shoe line, at New York Fashion Week.

It wasn’t the first time sneakers had landed on the runway, but “it was a first for a Nike Basketball Signature athlete,” says Angela Manfredi, then a footwear developer at the company. “It was a bridge, showing the ever-growing importance of sneakers and street-wear culture in fashion.”

The KITH LeBron was the most popular shoe in her portfolio at Nike. Manfredi was charged with bringing design concepts into physical form, which included building product specifications such as materials, color and performance/ testing standards. She worked with marketing, design and the athletes themselves.

“It is extremely collaborative,” says Manfredi. “Teamwork and communication are crucial throughout the creative process. “Being from the Cleveland area, I grew up with LeBron. I’ve watched him since he was 15,” adds the native of Burton, Ohio. “Working on that product was a dream come true for a small-town kid.”

Testing a shoe like the KITH LeBron is a rigorous exercise. “It needs to perform at the highest level and contain the 6-foot-8-inch, 260-pound force of an elite NBA player,” she explains, noting that products are put through their paces by athletes and in labs with “state-of-the-art equipment that can test anything and everything you can imagine when it comes to a sneaker.”

SHOOTING FROM OUTSIDE HER COMFORT ZONE

Earlier this year, Manfredi transitioned into a different role at Nike: merchandising for the Brand Jordan line. She’s working in another part of the organization to “understand business metrics and how the company operates downstream. It’s critical to have different roles at a company that allows you to do so, given its size.”

She credits Bentley for “giving me a leg up to make that jump from product to merchandising.”

Of particular note: four years playing Falcon basketball under the school’s legendary head coach. “The campus was beautiful, the education was incredible and Barbara Stevens is enough to convince anyone to go to Bentley,” remembers Manfredi, who serves on the Women’s Basketball Advisory Board.

On the court and in numerous small-group projects for academic courses, she developed a “team over self” mindset that has served her well.

“Sports are woven into this place,” she says of Nike. “It’s such a blessing to be supported in your workplace to watch sports and talk about sports.”

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