Whether it is creating custom boots, viral content, or his own lifestyle apparel brand, Andrew McEwen’s ambition and creativity has led him to become one of social media’s fastest-rising stars. We sat down with the 20-year-old jack-of-all-trades to discuss his journey through football, creative process, and how he’s been able to make his mark around the world.
If you haven’t seen “Fruit vs. Cleats” on YouTube yet I’m not really sure what you’re doing — but you’re wrong.
Andrew McEwen, the video’s creator, is a rising junior at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He is a Computer Science major, a forward on the soccer team, and a social media star. With hundreds of thousands of followers amongst several platforms, McEwen is beginning to take the step from becoming a viral content producer to a successful entrepreneur through his brand, McEw Co.
All you need to get a better idea of who McEwen is as a person is a look through his online content. His most popular YouTube video, “How the Grinch Stole Upper 90”, has recently hit 3 million views, and while it is simple conceptually, it reflects a lot about what makes McEwen such an interesting young footballer and such a promising go-getter. Where other people might see a space that’s too big and too empty, he makes the barren fields feel like the place to be.
The video is filmed on what appears to be a gigantic soccer complex with seemingly endless turf and nobody else around. The only people on the turf for miles and miles are McEwen and his Santa friend in goal. It’s a form of “putting in work” or “staying after practice” that many old-school coaches might be perplexed by — with such a heavy emphasis on filming for social media — but at the very core of the video is McEwen showcasing creativity, skill, athleticism, and execution, all things you would want from a good teammate.
The traits that make up an effective forward can be applied outside of the lines as well. McEwen is taking the creativity he has honed on the pitch and applying it to creating soccer content on social media in the form of videos and photography. The end goal is to take the momentum from his online success and to infuse that into building his brand.
McEwen can be found on Instagram with three main pages that explain a lot about the layout of his simultaneous and connected projects. His personal account features shots of him training and rocking different gear, some plugs for new things that he’s released, and some demonstrations of his custom cleats. His football account focuses more on cleats and training videos, while his company account focuses more on the newest releases of gear from McEw Co. and promotes the brand mantra, “Strive.”
Under the McEw Co. label, McEwen has released a line of shirts, jackets, and most notably, his own shoe, the Kepler.
“Strive” serves as the foundation for the lifestyle McEwen is looking to promote because of its positive meaning and emphasis on hard work. To strive means to make great efforts to obtain or achieve and McEw takes that definition and turns it into a type of call to self to actualize and become the best person he can be.
I sat down for an interview with McEwen to learn about where he comes from and get a sneak peak at some new gear he was working on. I was pretty hungover from a late night before and was instantly embarrassed at how put-together and on top of everything this impressive young man was. I changed t-shirts to make myself feel better. It kind of worked.
Urban Pitch: Do you have a specific strategy for your social media posts or do you just do what feels right?
Andrew McEwen: The key for me is to have everything flow together. I first started off my soccer account back in 2014, just taking photos of cleats because I enjoyed it. I introduced a new way of featuring cleats, using a DSLR camera and shooting cleats at very low angles. Soccer.com hit me up within a month of creating my account and was like, “Hey, we’ll send you cleats. Just start producing content for us.” I started working with them and then they realized that they could create these photos themselves, so they just bought their own cameras and started doing it on their own. Pretty soon everyone else started doing it. So I thought, “Okay, well, everybody’s doing what I just did. How can I make myself different again?” And that’s when I got into custom cleats.
I want to have unique cleats on the field. It’s a very cool feeling to have, knowing that you have a cleat that’s just one of one in the world. Also, Instagram absolutely loved it. I would see my customs all over the explore page and it’s one of the most satisfying feelings. After that I was like, “Okay, how can I still keep improving?” Because that is my thing — strive — that’s what the brand is focused on. It’s also my mindset on life as well as social media. So each post should be better than the next — better, better, better.
Where did the “Strive” mantra come from?
It started back in high school. I wasn’t a fan of drinking or partying or anything, so I just started to do stuff like going to cool places, jumping off cliffs and things like that. I want to live life to the fullest. I’m always pushing myself past different boundaries. When I got to college, I continued the Strive thing through social media, and then eventually I was getting a lot of DM’s and emails from people saying things like, “You’ve been a huge inspiration to me. Thank you for all of this.” It wasn’t until I got an email from a mom, she basically said, “Andrew, you’ve really inspired my son. I just want to give a heartfelt note to say thank you.”
That’s when I realized I had an opportunity to do something cool and meaningful. I produced basic tee shirts with the word “Strive” on it. I looked at it like we weren’t really selling clothing, but we’re selling more of a message, a brand, a lifestyle. And eventually where we are today, producing more intricate designs like our Voyager jacket, these shirts. I mean we produce shoes with China. And then with these designs, I have no idea where these customs are going to go. We’re trying to do custom cleats as well as custom Keplers and build this association between the two to connect the McEw Co. brand with the soccer lifestyle because I think in terms of a market, I think it’s probably the best approach fitting into that soccer niche.
Where does your artistic inspiration for McEw Co. come from?
I just try to keep it looking very simple and sharp. I look at Apple’s advertisement, it is literally so sexy and I mimic that. Then I also look at like other brands like Nike, adidas, and Puma. I look at what they’re doing well and what they’re doing bad. And then I think, “How do I distance myself from them?” I don’t want to look like Nike, I don’t want to look like adidas. So how do I make my brand not look like it? That’s what I’m going through now. It’s kind of difficult but slowly I’m getting an understanding of what it is.
How do you manufacture all of these different products?
It’s just really all over. I have somebody I work with in Columbus that I work on certain products for. Then if I really want to make something intricate I have to locate some sort of manufacturer in China and then go through a whole entire prototyping process and that takes a while. We have a whole scattering of manufacturers or printers. I don’t want to say too much because it’s kind of a secret.
What about the most recent Keplers? How were those made?
We had somebody different make the shoes, somebody different make the insoles, and somebody different make the boxes. I was very specific on what I wanted.
Can you talk about your background in football?
I initially wanted to play American football because everybody loves American football, but my parents wouldn’t let me, so I played soccer. There was still that stereotype of soccer players being “grass fairies,” I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that before. Everybody looked down upon soccer. They don’t understand that this is a hard game man!
My freshman year of high school I got asked to play in the Netherlands for awhile, so I was there. I played in Belgium and a little bit in Germany as well. When I got there, just the lifestyle, it was freaking insane. Soccer was their passion there. I was thinking, “How can I incorporate this in America?” Because my parents wouldn’t want me to play in Europe. So then that sort of helped with me starting the Instagram account. I just wanted to show America that soccer is cool.
How did you get the opportunity to play overseas? What was the competition like?
It was through a Dutch camp that happened in the States, I guess I played well at it and then one of the coaches asked me to come over. I was 15. I’d never flew on a plane. I was going to go over there alone, which is pretty risky too — my parents hardly knew this guy. The club was called Willem II and was in Tilburg, Netherlands.
I was there for a month. It wasn’t too long because I had to get back to school. The competition really depended on who we played. The English people were so good at possession. I remember that. They definitely practice a whole lot more and the practices made a lot more sense than the dumb American ones. One of the most interesting things was sitting in the locker room. I couldn’t understand a word they were saying but the moment we got onto the pitch it was just like — I realized soccer is sort of a language, you know? The way the ball moves, the way the whole entire team is flowing, it’s pretty cool.
What’s college like for you if you don’t imbibe? Can you go more into that?
I feel like alcohol kills my creativity and I would say I have a creative mind. I have a very childish mind. When you start to rely on alcohol, that’s how you have fun, and I would rather want to be straight edge and figure out how to have fun sober. I’ve also seen what’s happened in relationships with alcohol and aging with alcohol. I really don’t see that many benefits with it. I’ll have a glass of red wine every now and then because I heard it’s good for you. But, other than that, I’m not a big fan. Same with the party scene at school. I don’t even party. What I actually do is I go to the club and I film videos for the clubs and get paid for it.
I see all this shit as it goes down. Everybody’s wasted, guys trying to get girls, girls playing their games. The most annoying thing is mostly 70 percent of the time they’re just sitting there on their phones. But the moment that the flash goes on everyone’s smiling, dancing and having a good time. Then that’s posted on social media and people are sitting there watching, like “Damn, they’re having so much fun! My life feels like shit.” But in reality, man, it’s just a facade.
How does your style on the field compare to what you do off the field?
When I’m playing I try to see the game differently than everybody else. And I guess the same goes for how I approach all my business opportunities or my entrepreneurial mindset. It’s like, “How do I approach these situations differently?”
What do you think about the term “lifestyle brand,” and the large amount of people that are building their own?
Lifestyle brands are becoming so big right now and everybody’s trying to build their own brands. People are figuring out how to differentiate themselves and how to build their clout. For me it’s just focusing on my message of striving and showing others they can too. I’m in this to produce money because I need it to keep this company going and evolving. But in the end, I care more about inspiring others and seeing this thing grow into something amazing.
It’s important for brands to mean and represent something to be successful and McEwen is taking responsibility for that personally. While most of his peers are doing the college routine of going out and getting obliterated and spending money they don’t have, McEwen is focused on building and creating. This summer his job is doing just that and that’s a much cooler summer job than a lot of college kids will have. He’s making videos, promoting new gear, designing custom products, and staying in shape for the upcoming season. Overall, it seems like he’s “doing things the right way.”
Talking to McEw made me feel like an old washed up drunk, but he was also such a nice and warm personality that our hour-long conversation flew by. It’s satisfying to see younger people stay so positive and understand their power to emanate that throughout the world. While most of us spent (or will spend) a majority of our undergraduate years skipping class because we were too hungover to go, it’s nice to know that there’s people out there taking full advantage of their opportunities and stubbornly forging their own path. They ain’t wrong.