Innovation X Collaboration
Adam Zloto, Finance ’08
Senior Global Product Lead – Levis Sports & Entertainment
By Liz Warren-Pederson
Adam Zloto grew up in Scottsdale. “I was always a fan of the UA,” he said. “It was pretty much a done deal.” Entering college, he thought he wanted to be a plastic surgeon. “But after one semester of pre-med, I was over it.” He was also interested in real estate and gravitated toward finance. “I had two internships in New York,” he said. “And I thought that having a base in finance and economics would be a good foundation.”
After graduation, he wanted to travel. “My parents were open to it, so I spent three months traveling South America.” While in Peru, he got an email from the manager of a hostel he previously stayed at. “He was looking for a beach bar manager for the summer. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse!” Zloto spend three and a half months in Uruguay. “I lived in board shorts, shaking up cocktails and learning more Spanish.” When the season quieted down, he decided it was time to move on. He returned to Scottsdale and began thinking about his next steps. A friend was living in San Francisco, and Zloto decided to relocate.
“A family friend had an ad agency and I got an internship,” he said. “I spent a year and a half at the agency, eventually becoming an account lead, and then a contact of mine at Levis® told me how the company was bringing the global team to San Francisco. I joined as a merchandise assistant.”
“I’ve always felt compelled to learn new things,” he continued. While working at Levi’s, he and some friends founded Merriment Hardware, which produced reclaimed wood paddles for a Brazilian paddle ball game he’d seen in Copacabana. “We started getting some good attention in places like Monocle Magazine, but the company got too big to handle without a fulltime commitment and we had to let it go.”
That wasn’t the end of his entrepreneurial streak, though. “I am a person who likes to observe the scenario where I am, look for white space and entrepreneurial opportunity, an area in a company or on my own where something that should be done isn’t being done.”
For Zloto, at Levis®, that was fan apparel. “About three years ago, I was managing another part of the Levis® men’s line. As a sports fan, I wanted something other than the existing t-shirt, hoody, jersey etc.” He put together some product concepts for fan apparel through the Levis® lens and got a friend to help mock up the concepts after hours. “A director at the time caught wind of what I was working on,” Zloto said. “He pulled me aside, and I thought he was going to encourage me for thinking outside of the box, but instead I was told to stop wasting my time.”
It only fueled his motivation.
“Sometimes the best ideas are the ones no one agrees with at first,” he said. “They come out of left field and no one understands them.”
Meanwhile, Levis® had moved forward naming the San Francisco 49ers’ stadium. “I was able to make the case that the brand is saying that this stadium is a way for Levis® to be at the center of our culture, that sports is relevant to our brand,” he said. Levis® bought in to the concept and launched a 49ers collection. “Now we have lines across the NFL and Major League Baseball,” he said. “there are other collaboration in the works, too.”
Now he is exclusively focused on growing the sports platform. “It’s essentially a small business within a big company,” he said. “I’m most passionate about driving something from start to finish, and even at a large organization, you have to take it by the hand and lead it through. I’m proud that I’ve reached one of my career goals, but part of that entrepreneurial spirit is openness to criticism and change, so I’ll stay flexible, and I look forward to what’s ahead.”
Top photo courtesy Levis. Interior photo courtesy Adam Zloto.