The perfect fit
As director of communications for Fruit of the Loom Inc., Lindsay Porter ’05 is as comfortable talking about briefs as she is budgets and sales projections.
By Philip Jones
It’s the naked truth: Most of us just don’t like to talk about our underwear. After all, they’re called “unmentionables” for a reason.
But Lindsay Porter doesn’t blush when it comes to briefs, bras and boxer shorts—at least not anymore. “You get really comfortable talking about these kinds of things the longer you’re in the business,” she says.
As director of corporate communications for all of Fruit of the Loom Inc., she does more than just talk about such topics. The role, which she assumed in June, sees her doing both internal and external communications across multiple platforms for the company’s family of brands, which includes Vanity Fair, Spalding and Russell Athletic—a perfect fit for the journalism and corporate communications double major who has risen steadily for the past decade.
“It’s been an adventure,” Porter says of her career thus far. “I don’t know if you would’ve asked me at Commencement Under the Oaks in 2005, ‘Where do you see yourself in 10 years?’ that I would’ve said ‘In the underwear business.’ But I am lucky to have been given the opportunity to have landed where I did and have learned so much in a relatively short time.”
A rising star
By the time Porter joined Fruit of the Loom Inc., in 2011, she had already amassed considerable experience. She worked in corporate communications and investor relations for Greensboro, N.C.,-based VF Corp—first as an intern while still at Elon and later as a full-time employee. By 2008 she was doing marketing for the Wrangler brand, a division of VF Jeanswear.
At Fruit of the Loom, she began working in advertising and brand communications for the Russell Athletic and Spalding brands, but quickly saw her roles grow and change. Last year she started focusing solely on Fruit of the Loom underwear and casualwear and the multimillion advertising budget she oversaw to market it. While the challenge of managing such a recognizable brand with so many moving parts may intimidate some, Porter saw it as an opportunity to grow.
“It’s important the brand is firing on all cylinders to make the work as effective as possible and ultimately drive sales,” she says. “Consumer consumption of media—advertising or otherwise—has changed so much in recent years. Every new job is a challenge in its own way and I love that. I’ve been very fortunate to have some really cool jobs and responsibilities over the years, and I don’t take that for granted.”
Porter’s success is no surprise to Janna Anderson, a professor in Elon’s School of Communications who encouraged her to pursue that first internship at VF Corp and still mentors her today. “Lindsay stood out immediately when she outperformed everyone in my highly demanding Media Writing course,” Anderson says. “I knew after knowing her for just a few years here at Elon that she would rise to the top no matter what career she took on or where she worked.”
Porter has enjoyed being on-site with pro athletes and celebrities on commercial shoots for the products she represents, including working on the team that helped Fruit of the Loom forge a unique marketing partnership with social networking website LinkedIn and even helping the famed Naked Cowboy in New York’s Times Square change his underwear.
About that last one …
When the company introduced a new line of no ride-up-leg boxer briefs earlier this year, it was looking for a fun way to help the product make a splash and generate buzz.
“We thought, ‘What better way to get attention for the brand than to also engage in a change moment with the Naked Cowboy, who for 16 years has been wearing—by his own choice—Fruit of the Loom briefs?’” Porter says. “We changed our underwear. Shouldn’t he?”
So during a campaign event, the company gave folks a chance to take pictures with the street performer in his new threads in the heart of Times Square, and then streamed the images in real time to the billboards over the iconic New York hotspot where the Naked Cowboy made a name for himself by wearing cowboy boots and a hat, and carrying a guitar in such a way it gives the impression he’s naked.
The campaign stirred up so much excitement that Porter even made a short appearance in a CNN story about all the hoopla. (Incidentally, Porter first learned of the Naked Cowboy as an Elon student during a conference in New York City with leaders from The Pendulum.)
“The news media really took to the idea. It was a neat moment for me, and for the brand,” she says. “It’s one of those things that, as a brand manager, it’s the best that you can hope for—that people will be as interested in your product as you are.”
It was also good for business. Headlines featuring the brand and the Naked Cowboy and the new product launch earned more than 500 million impressions.
All in a day’s work
If there is something that excites Porter about her job it’s the different opportunities it presents. “There’s something very special about the magic it takes to emotionally connect a consumer to a brand. And one like Fruit of the Loom is amazing from a brand manager standpoint because people hold such a fondness for it,” she says. “It’s very rare to see a brand that people have a visceral reaction to—it literally brings a smile to their faces when they talk about it. Fruit of the Loom is that kind of brand.”
Porter has plenty of genuine interest in Fruit of the Loom. You can hear the pride in her voice when she talks about the company being more than 160 years old, predating the patents of other household brands like Coca-Cola and Levi Strauss. “It’s a brand with a lot of rich history, a pioneering spirit and a sense of optimism. Plus, we never take ourselves too seriously,” she says. “I’m always learning new things in my job, and I have the privilege of working with not only very talented business people, but exceptional creative talent as well.”
Anderson expects Porter to meet with continued success. “Her amazing intellect is equally matched by her wonderful sense of humor and her people skills,” she says. “In a very short time she has risen to the top in an extremely competitive field. She deserves this level of success because she is worthy of it and she has done the hard work to earn it.”
Porter credits her Elon mentor, internships and connections for launching her down the road to an impactful career. And despite a work schedule that sees her travel around the country, she still makes it back to campus to pay it forward. “I was fortunate early on—through Elon connections nonetheless—to be exposed to executives at a very high level on a regular basis.
“I’ve never lost sight of how important that was on determining my career fate.”