Life After Lax: Brandon Pierce, A Deeper Journey

This article appears in the December edition of US Lacrosse Magazine, available exclusively to US Lacrosse members. Join or renew today! Thank you for your support.

As an award-winning copywriter and creative director, Brandon Drew Jordan Pierce has made a living telling stories for brands like Nike, Samsung, ESPN and Hershey. He has worked with LeBron, KD and Kobe. He spent three months filming a Ciroc campaign with Puff Daddy in Miami.

But when it came to creating a storyboard for his own life, Pierce never drafted it this way. He was a Yorktown kid. Growing up in the New York City suburb meant starring for its storied high school lacrosse team, playing in college and winning championships. That plan changed the summer before his freshman year. Pierce’s grandmother fell ill and his family moved to Durham, N.C. The city and school, Jordan High School, were very diverse. For the first time in his life, he was not the token Black kid.

Pierce always kept lacrosse close. He walked on at North Carolina, coached in Atlanta and continues to play in men’s leagues. It just wasn’t his sole purpose anymore. Now the vice president and executive creative director at Hulu and a budding independent filmmaker living in Los Angeles, Pierce, 39, has started working on a documentary on Black lacrosse history and culture that combines his passions for the sport, creative media and social responsibility.

What was your lacrosse journey?

Yorktown was the hotbed of lacrosse. All the older kids in my neighborhood played the game. My best friend and I decided we wanted to play. We convinced our parents to get our sticks. I remember going to Sports Barn to get my first stick and picking a black STX Turbo.

I had this trajectory that every kid in Yorktown had. You start early, play with the same kids your whole life and then go off to play in college somewhere.

But the summer before my freshman year of high school, my mom’s mom got sick. She lived in North Carolina. My parents let me know we were leaving Yorktown. It was a shock to my system. The thing I thought most about was lacrosse. I remember my dad asking if I wanted to stay in Yorktown with family friends and finish high school because he knew how important the game was to me.

We moved from a lacrosse hotbed to a lacrosse desert in Durham. At the end of my senior year, my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. Not staying in Yorktown in hindsight was a huge decision. I may have missed out on the last four years of having him in my life.

How did you wind up at UNC?

I got into a bunch of other schools but decided I was going to walk on to UNC — shoot my shot, as they say. I had a relationship with the coach at the time, Dave Klarmann. I had gone to his camps and he had given me good feedback. I moved into my dorm room, walked into his office and told him I wanted to be on the team. He said, “I’ll give you a shot.” I showed up at fall ball, worked out with the team for about a week, walked backed into the office and the coaching staff said, “You’re on the squad.” Sometimes you just have to manifest your own destiny.

How did you break into advertising industry?

I moved to Atlanta to go to a grad school for advertising copywriting called The Creative Circus. Basically for two years you make fake ads. You have a portfolio, show it to creative directors and that’s how you get your first job at an ad agency. Shortly after that I had an opportunity to work at an agency in Portland, Oregon — Wieden+Kennedy — that’s famous for creating “Just Do It.” They were Nike’s first agency and still do the majority of Nike work you see out there.

Did you do any lacrosse campaigns?

One of the first assignments to come across my desk was to launch Nike Lacrosse. I don’t know if there’s a magnet inside me or something, but lacrosse is always staying with me in some capacity. I was able to launch the first Nike Lacrosse campaign working with Kyle Harrison and Ryan Powell. We also convinced Nike and Wieden+Kennedy to let us go on this tour of the country interviewing lacrosse influencers, getting data and stories to help influence the work. We ended up going to New York outside Syracuse and spent time on the Onondaga reservation. We got to see sticks being made and hear stories of some amazing games played on that reservation back in the day, like when Jim Brown would show up and play with the Natives.

Tell us about the film you’re working on.

This past January, Chazz Woodson put together a group of guys through Sankofa to scrimmage Hampton. I wanted to capture this beautiful moment where every player on the field is a Black lacrosse player. That sparked this idea of a way bigger story that needs to be told. Seeing the imagery of what Black lacrosse players look like when properly documented in film, this is also a way to inspire a generation of players that have never seen themselves represented or captured in a heroic way.

One of the thesis statements for this film is, “Why aren’t more of the best athletes in America playing the fastest-growing sport in America?” Hopefully in 20 years, we can look back and say 2020 was the year that lacrosse woke up.

What’s the timing?

The project is still in the pre-production phase. We’re working on financing the vision, pitching it to distribution partners and galvanizing the lacrosse community. When we hit go, we’ll be flying around the country for a bunch of sit-down interviews ala “The Last Dance.” It will be a multimedia piece, a combination of animation, reenactments, sit-down interviews and archival footage. Some of these players you never got to see on ESPN were badasses back in the day.

Growing up in Yorktown, you thought the path was you play lacrosse here, you go play Division I, you become an All-American, win a national championship and that’s your legacy. I’m realizing that wasn’t my path. But because of those experiences, maybe my path is helping to tell this story and create other legacies. US

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