Going the distance

Emily Favret ’09 walked away from an athletic scholarship to chart her own course at Elon, a decision that paved the way for a dream opportunity at Nike.

A lifelong athlete, Emily Favret ’09 went into her senior year of high school knowing she was going to play soccer at Elon. She had traveled to campus to meet the team and followed a strict Division I strength and conditioning program. But about a week before high school graduation, something clicked. She woke up one morning feeling an unmistakable desire to do something completely different. She wanted a more varied experience at Elon, one that primarily took place off the soccer field.

“Once I realized that true flexibility was available with my courses, studying abroad, interning and in general an amazing campus life, something was pulling me in that direction,” says Favret, who is now a director of consumer creation communications at Nike. “I’m pretty sure my life would be completely different if I didn’t do that from day one at Elon.”

With this newfound realization, an 18-year-old Favret braced herself and walked into the kitchen to confront her parents — she didn’t want to play soccer anymore. “We had missed financial aid deadlines; that ship had sailed,” Favret says. “My parents made massive sacrifices for me to go to Elon. While I walked away from an athletic scholarship, they made it work. And I’m forever indebted that they did.”

Emily Favret ’09 crossing the finish line at Ironman Austria in 2016.

Favret grew up in a small town in Maryland surrounded by athletics. Her dad was a competitive marathon runner and both of her parents played in different sports leagues. She grew up attending their events and engaging in a variety of sports herself — soccer, volleyball, basketball and track, including in boys-only leagues because they were the most competitive. But soccer was always her primary focus, and she thought she would pursue it in college and beyond. She attended Catholic schools and planned to go to a Catholic university as well. But when she met a coach from Elon at a recruitment camp, she quickly scheduled a visit to campus.

“When I got to campus, I told my mom, ‘I don’t care if I play soccer here or not; this is where I see myself going to school,’” she recalls. “I hadn’t realized it before then, but when I dreamt about college, this is what it looked like.”

Favret eagerly committed to the soccer program and fell more and more in love with Elon’s overall energy as she got to know the university better during the next year. She attended Fellows Weekend and learned more about study abroad and the wealth of other experiences Elon offers outside the classroom. She was always involved in a host of extracurricular activities beyond athletics — she was even voted “most actively involved” in high school — so participating in a breadth of opportunities in college was important to her.

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“As soon as I started looking at all the opportunities at Elon, it broadened my aperture of what could be out there,” Favret says. “I could study abroad multiple times. I always thought I wanted to go into something related to communications, but I never really saw the depth of what that could be. All the opportunities to be involved with campus life from day one completely blew my mind.”

True to her vision, Favret made the most of her Elon experience. Before she even started classes, she participated in the First- Year Summer Experience program, which ignited a love for the outdoors that continues to this day. She met some of her closest friends in the Leadership Fellows program and transferred the skills she gained there to other roles on campus, including as an orientation leader and admissions tour guide (“The skill of walking backwards continues to benefit me in life,” she says.). And she stayed connected to her athletic roots, playing on the Club Soccer team and many intramural teams.

A strategic communications major, Favret immersed herself in her courses and cultivated a passion for telling brands’ stories. She credits Professor of Journalism Janna Anderson as one of her greatest mentors, facilitating connections between the classroom and the professional communications field. “She pushed us, inspired us, challenged us in unique and different ways, and just had such a pulse on how coursework applied to the real world,” Favret says. “There was always a relation to what this looks like in reality.”

Emily Favret ’09 has completed five marathons, seven long-distance triathlons & an ultramarathon, among many other events.

Anderson still vividly remembers an encounter with Favret during her sophomore year that exemplifies her work ethic. After Anderson urged her Media Writing students to seek internships as early as possible, she walked into her classroom at 7:30 a.m. one day to find Favret feverishly completing a screening exam for an internship application for Ketchum, a global strategic communications company.

“She was writing a press release as part of a timed test, competing against juniors and seniors,” Anderson says. “Of course, the ever-determined, focused and hard-working Emily landed the internship, and she worked on several accounts for the Ketchum office in Washington, D.C., before her junior year. … She left Elon ready to perform at the highest level in her field.”

Favret graduated with five internships under her belt, including one at Ketchum’s Madrid office during Winter Term immediately after studying abroad in Perugia, Italy, for a semester. While walking away from an athletic scholarship was a risk, she says the unique blend of experiences Elon afforded her was the catalyst for her current success. “The real-world skills I gained from internships, leadership positions on campus and truly immersive coursework shaped my applications to jobs after graduation,” she says.

Much like her attitude as a student, Favret left Elon with a willingness to try anything that would lay a solid foundation for her long-term career goals. Though she graduated in the middle of the Great Recession, she held out for a full-time job at a PR agency in New York City. Her first few clients were ultra-high-net-worth retirement funds and skincare companies, a far cry from the athletic brands she dreamed of working with, but she approached everything with the same curiosity and drive that defined her time at Elon. “It took me a while to get to the center of what I really wanted to do, but I knew that good experience was good experience,” Favret says.

“My Elon experience gave me the confidence that I could go after big things. I feel like 18-year-old Emily applying to Elon would be really stoked to know what was on the other side of that.”

After a few years in various agency positions, she landed a job in the sports division at Edelman, another global PR and marketing firm. In her first year at the agency, she worked on campaigns for the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the World Cup and more. Then she transferred to Edelman’s London office for three years, where she led various sports accounts including Heineken’s sport sponsorship portfolio in Champions League soccer, Formula 1 racing, Olympics and rugby.

In addition to leisure travel, she was able to travel extensively in this role — for week-long film shoots in Africa and Thailand and across Europe, and even an around-the-world journey with Heineken and Champions League that took her to six countries in four weeks. “Leading the work and being exposed to that amount of culture and travel in my job was both incredible and exhausting,” Favret says. In three years of working and living abroad, she filled three passports, traveled to 15 new countries and led teams and projects all over the world.

In the middle of her world tour, an opportunity arose for a new chapter in her career. A recruiter from Nike contacted her, and after a few phone interviews, she flew from Vietnam to Nike headquarters outside Portland, Oregon, for a day of in-person interviews. She secured the job on her 30th birthday. “As a storyteller and as a brand, I was always a fan of Nike,” Favret says. “I’ve always run and competed using their products since a young age and idolized the company and what the brand stands for, so it was pretty special.”

Favret started with the company in 2017 as a director of global employee communications, helping to oversee content that reached more than 70,000 people in Nike’s offices and retail stores around the world. She also shepherded employee experiences, from bringing Lebron James to Nike’s campus to play kickball with the staff to letting employees test new shoes before they hit the market. “Up until this point, my career had centered around media relations and external communications,” Favret says. “The opportunity to do employee communications at Nike was very intimidating and new to me, but I went in eager to learn as much as I could about this amazing company and its people.” Now, in her current role as director of consumer creation communications, Favret helps to lead both internal and external communications for driving Nike’s narrative with a sharper focus on running, Olympics and women’s sport initiatives.

Emily Favret ’09 & Paige Taylor ’09 at Mt. Rainier National Park.

Just this past year, Nike designed all-new uniforms for the 25th anniversary season of the WNBA, tailored specifically for the bodies of women athletes rather than simply being smaller versions of men’s uniforms. “As an athlete and lifelong fan of women’s sports, it was amazing to be a part of this landmark project that drove record-breaking visibility and awareness to these athletes, their sport and their unique needs as female athletes,” she says. “It was a huge body of work but so special to be a part of it.” The buzz created by the storytelling of the project helped to drive record sales of women’s basketball uniforms for the league and Nike, during a season that saw its highest ever TV viewership and social traction.

Looking back on her career so far, Favret says she might not be where she is today if she hadn’t changed the course of her Elon journey that summer before her first year in her family’s kitchen. It fostered her curiosity, her “say yes” attitude and her time management and problem-solving philosophies, skills that continue to shape her life and career.

“My Elon experience gave me the confidence that I could go after big things,” Favret says. “I feel like 18-year-old Emily applying to Elon would be really stoked to know what was on the other side of that.”