GapKids will unleash its back-to-school campaign Tuesday featuring “The Dope Educator,” David Jamison, a Memphis, Tenn., teacher.
The campaign, which breaks Tuesday and runs through Aug. 22, captures the bond between Jamison and his fifth grade students from Hickory Ridge Elementary School who represent Individuals, Gap’s collective of changemakers across generations.
Jamison caught Gap’s attention after he made national news in 2019 for the personalized handshakes he performs with his students each morning. While adapted to be nontouch in 2020, the excitement and hype remain the same. Over the course of his career, he has memorized over 200 distinct handshakes, reinforcing students as important “Individuals.”
Jamison decided to become an educator after his own experience without any Black male educators taught him that representation at school matters.
“When I was a kid, I was always in trouble at school,” said Jamison. “I realized that part of the reason why is because I didn’t have teachers who looked like me; I didn’t have someone I could relate to. When I decided to become a teacher, I not only felt called to help change representation in education, but to be a role model kids need. Experiences in early childhood education shape who we are the rest of our lives. I am honored to play a role in the lives of my students and our handshakes are just a small piece of the change I hope to create. It’s our job as a community to nurture all children so they can flourish and reach their greatest potential.”
Mary Alderete, global head of Gap marketing, said, “Jamison’s approach to teaching and commitment to his students as individuals is inspirational and heartwarming. He is equal parts champion and role model, more meaningful when many students are returning to the physical classroom for the first time in over a year. One of his students told us she loves being in his class because she can be herself and that is the essence of GapKids — being an individual who is true to yourself, encouraging others, instilling empathy and optimism, and being the change this world needs.”
For the campaign, Jamison selected 20 students to represent the school. Parents gave permission and they shot the campaign at the Hickory Ridge Elementary School over a weekend at the end of May. The students were compensated for their participation. They adhered to all the COVID-19 protocols such as testing on-site every day, everyone wore masks, and the kids only took their masks off when they were on camera. The kids got to see how the hair and makeup and camera people worked and were soaking it all in, said Alderete.
The campaign was photographed by biracial photographer Melodie McDaniel and filmed in collaboration with Gap Global creative director Len Peltier. The soundtrack is set to daily mantras from Jamison’s class. There are phrases like, “Who are we? We are the Rockets! The Rockets are respectful and responsible, optimistic, collegiate, knowledgeable, engage with enthusiasm, trustworthy, striving for success.”
GapKids will unveil an image featuring the campaign creative on school grounds today. The image will be unveiled with a pep rally and in-person photo opp with Jamison and his students. There will also be a billboard in Times Square from Tuesday until Aug. 19. The campaign will also be featured in store windows throughout the entire fleet of stores.
In addition, Gap has donated hundreds of school uniform pieces (and Gap logo hoodies) to support the students and families at Hickory Ridge Elementary. Launched through an ongoing partnership with Harlem’s Fashion Row, Gap is contributing $510,000 to Historically Black Colleges and Universities in a program called “Closing the Gap” to fund 21 students in their fashion departments. This is the largest donation to HBCUs by a major retailer. This funding will be distributed across 21 awards ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.
The GapKids campaign will run on Gap-owned, earned, traditional and social media channels spanning across TV, streaming video, social, mobile and billboards.
As for current GapKids business, Alderete called it “great” and said this is the most highly anticipated back-to-school ever. She said fleece and active are strong, and denim is starting to come back.
She noted that each student got to pick out their own outfits from the entire line for the campaign shoot, and they all styled it their own way. One boy chose a bucket hat and one girl chose camo shirt and pink leggings. “I was so impressed with the confidence they had in their own personal style. What you’ll see is a girl with a dress and a trucker jacket over it. You’ll see the way they put it together is a mix of all of our categories,” she said.
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