The Story of JE11: How a Player and Company Grew Together
Photo Credit: JE11
The start of Julian Edelman’s clothing company, JE11, and its climb to success was a long, but unsurprising ascend to those involved.
“There’s a funny thing that Julian’s dad [Frank] said to me after Julian won Super Bowl MVP; after I told him I couldn’t believe it,” Edelman’s business partner Assaf Swissa told Prime Time Sports Talk. “[Frank said to me], ‘You can’t believe it, but you’re not surprised’ and that is the truth of the entirety of our work together.”
The beginning of Edelman’s clothing line mirrored the wide receiver’s early years as a professional football player. It was a bumpy road, and a struggle for him and his JE11 team to stick out over teammates that had established brands.
“He had some opportunity, but there were a lot of big-name guys doing big-name things and Julian was at that point not a core part of the team as he is now,” Swissa said. “So when we started, there was limited expectation.”
While expectation was low, creativity ran high.
“Without the expectation, we got to play offense and we just got to throw things against the wall and not worry about anything else,” Swissa said. “It allowed for the creativity and the speed to be on top and so that is what kind of got us off the ground.”
In 2012, fans started to get a heavy dose of Edelman. On Week 11 and Thanksgiving Day (five days apart), the receiver recorded two punt returns for touchdowns and reached the end zone twice more making him the first receiver since the AFL-NFL merger with both receiving and return touchdowns in consecutive games.
As the reign of Wes Welker as quarterback Tom Brady’s bread and butter came to an end, the former Kent State quarterback was thrust into the spotlight in the team’s massive wide receiver overhaul of 2013.
Edelman took advantage of the departures of Welker, Deion Branch, and Brandon Lloyd, recording a career-high 105 receptions for 1,056 yards and six scores. The success made him both dependable to his quarterback and a household name to his fans.
“We were putting out great content, t-shirts, things were just really rocking and rolling and it all just worked out,” Swissa said. “In a way that I didn’t expect, but I was not surprised.”
Past and present Patriots have their brands. Whether it be Brady with TB12, James White with Sweet Feet, or Asante Samuel with Eighties Nation. What makes JE11 so special, however?
“Football comes first but behind that, we are content makers,” Swissa said. “Julian’s football is, ‘Platform A’ but his, ‘Platform A2’ if you will, is digital. So we have always had a sense of having a pretty killer social media presence. We are going to be creative, we are going to be thoughtful, and most importantly our biggest mantra around here, which is speed.”
Like the curls, slants, and post patterns Edelman runs on the field, Swissa and JE11 take pride in the efficiency in which the company is run.
“I always said in our company meetings. We’re not the smartest or most creative, but we are going to be the fastest and the best looking,” Swissa said. “That’s sort of the attitude around here. We are the fastest gun in the West so to speak.”
JE11 has numerous partnerships with companies, including Bose and Joe’s Jeans. But one that has unleashed the inner kid in the wide receiver, is the one with Nerf.
“Nerf as a partner has been something that Julian and I have wanted for years,” Swissa said. “We put out a killer piece of content with, ‘Nerf House’ and it’s cool to see Julian evolve.”
When filming the video, Edelman takes his competitiveness and leadership from the field to the camera.
“People don’t give Julian enough credit for his creativeness,” Swissa said. “He does not have the training of one, but he has raw talent. It’s funny to see him on set and he’s leading the other guys (Christian McCaffrey, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jamal Adams, Joe Burrow.) Sort of like setting them up to be successful and helps guide them so it’s pretty cool.”
JE11 hosts numerous pop-up shops in the New England area with fans flocking to see one of the team’s biggest stars and buy his gear. This puts a twinkle in the eye of Swissa and gives the receiver’s business partner tremendous satisfaction.
“It’s truly unbelievable to see, the fans are incredible,” Swissa said. “I’ve been around a little bit and the people of New England are different than any other people in my esteem. And I think the big differentiator is that no matter what walk of life you come from in New England, there’s a certain degree of humility that is built into your lifestyle.”
JE11’s content is designed to reach all Patriots fans regardless of where you come from and what your social status is.
“When I see all of these folks come out, it makes me feel like I did something right,” Swissa said. “Because we’re trying to be humble and accessible just as the people have been.”