Kenny Annan-Jonathan, a fashion entrepreneur of Ghanaian descent, is leading the charge in emphasizing the importance of athletes expressing themselves through fashion. Annan-Jonathan who recently made history as the first-ever creative director for English Premier League soccer club, London-based Crystal Palace, is the founder of The Mailroom, a specialized sports marketing and management agency based in the United Kingdom. He is also the visionary behind TRNSMISSION, a production company and media outlet.
Born in Battersea, South London, Annan-Jonathan possesses a deep passion for the creative industry and has consistently demonstrated a keen interest in amplifying the human aspect of athletes. Within the last four years, he has successfully propelled athletes into unconventional realms, enabling them to establish connections with conventional and unconventional audiences.
“I knew I was into the creative arts but I didn’t know what space I wanted to go into. I started with graphic design which led into fashion. I don’t have any form of higher education because I left school at sixth form from Southfields Community College, and after that, I have been figuring out the world of business from the age of 18,” says Annan-Jonathan.
According to Annan-Jonathan, the learning process included creating a clothing line in the mid-2000s, which became a highly influential streetwear brand in London. As the clothing line gained momentum, Annan-Jonathan’s business garnered a substantial fan base and began receiving support from notable figures, including Wilfred Zaha, the former forward of Crystal Palace who currently plays for Turkish soccer powerhouse Galatasaray.
“We built a good friendship and after some time of purchasing our clothes, he wanted to create his own brand and they asked me if I could help him build his own brand, which led me to create a new brand that we would become co-owners in, called Long Live [Studio].”
Gradually, their friendship flourished into a business alliance when Annan-Jonathan identified a void in Zaha’s brand.
“I would go with him to his business meetings to leverage the clothing brand that we had. I realized there weren’t a lot of people around at the time that were helping him within the business space and he was going in on his own. I advised him during those meetings and I earned his trust, and he became my first client,” recalls Annan-Jonathan.
After an extensive collaboration with Zaha, news began to circulate rapidly, resulting in Annan-Jonathan being overwhelmed with much work, and he realized the need for a structured framework to aid him in managing the escalating demand. This realization led to the establishment of The Mailroom in 2017, with its primary objective being the enhancement of brand and talent visibility in sports through innovative collaborations and organic partnerships.
Annan-Jonathan firmly believes that athletes transcend their roles as mere sportsmen, as they possess the potential to become influential brands that drive business. However, he observed that conventional agents solely focus on negotiating sports contracts, typically spanning from one to four years. Consequently, athletes often find themselves lacking crucial support in terms of mentorship, financial literacy, and guidance in navigating various aspects of life beyond sports. It is precisely in this domain that The Mailroom stepped in to bridge the gap and provide the necessary assistance.
“Naturally that is where The Mailroom came in. We are a boutique agency that works with people to understand the value that we bring for them and also understand how we can help them to navigate things the right way.”
Annan-Jonathan advocates the importance for sports brands to adopt a creative approach to effectively engage with broader audiences and establish their brand presence. While collaborating with Zaha, Annan-Jonathan identified a promising opportunity, which he subsequently presented to the proprietor of Crystal Palace.
“Before I became the creative director for Crystal Palace, I had emails that were sent to the owner of Crystal Palace saying, I believe there was a space for a creative director here and this is before anyone started thinking about it,” says Annan-Jonathan.
When discussing fashion, Annan-Jonathan asserts that it is crucial to identify the appropriate category. Additionally, when engaging in a conversation about athletes, fashion inevitably becomes a significant aspect as it serves as a means for them to express their individuality.ñ
“So, I just said if these two things [sports and fashion] are colliding, in the future, you can naturally see a road map to see that fashion is going to be incorporated into sports a lot more,” says Annan-Jonathan.
Ever since the launch of The Mailroom, his career has remained on an upward trajectory, building a sports and lifestyle culture that transcends the game of scoeer. His dedication to fostering enduring connections between Athletes, brands, and culture remains unwavering. His recent appointment at Crystal Palace has further strengthened the reciprocal influence between fashion and soccer. In addition to collaborating with Crystal Palace, The MailRoom has undertaken various ventures with esteemed entities such as Heineken, Meta, WhatsApp, Adidas, Puma, Nike, Sky Sports, and BT. Moreover, apart from successfully managing partnerships for renowned athletes like Wilfried Zaha, The MailRoom has also achieved remarkable success working with other exceptional sports personalities. These include the likes of Michail Antonio, Olympic Bronze medalist boxer Joshua Buatsi, and Daryll Neita, a prominent female sprinter representing Team GB.