During an otherwise routine preseason meeting with new players, Doug Vosik had a flash of inspiration. The Philadelphia Union's vice president of marketing was chatting with new signees, when he rolled up his sleeve to show off some of his tattoos. That's when defender Giliano Wijnaldum, a recent arrival from the Netherlands, did the same.
Suddenly, the two of them had something to bond over despite a language barrier. But when Vosik asked Wijnaldum and others about where they might go to get their next tattoo, they naturally had no idea. So not long after, Vosik hatched a plan: Why not essentially hire a resident tattoo artist for Union players and staff?
“I talked to the players and said, ‘Here’s a crazy idea for you, what do you guys think?’” he says. “At least 10 guys were like, ‘That’s amazing. Sign me up.’”
This past Monday, then, the club announced a region-wide search for a Chief Tattoo Officer (CTO), complete with an official job listing. It's a position they claim has never before been offered by a professional sports organization, garnering global publicity. And, Vosik admits, there have been some curious responses.
Yes, he says, it's a scheme developed in part to revitalize the club’s brand among its younger fan base. But he also wants to make sure that people understand it’s real.
“To me, one of the most important things is this is not a stunt,” Vosik says. “This is a legit partner we’re bringing on board to take care of our players and do some really fun things with fans eventually, once we have a shop.”
Already, he's started to climb through several qualified applicants. He’s even enlisted the help of some players to look at submissions, adding that it might be a few weeks before the Union makes the hire. (If you or anyone you know is interested, by the way, interested artists can still apply for the CTO position by visiting the online application or emailing portfolio images to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
When the club does finally hire their CTO, Vosik equates it to “any other staff position, like a doctor or a trainer” — except for the fact that they’ll still have their own business and won’t necessarily need to work on site in Chester. “So we’ll just be, let’s call it, a high-profile client,” he adds. “We can send our players to their shop, or if they’re comfortable in our own environment, we’ll bring the artist over.”
Not all of the Union players, coaches and staff members, of course, have or even like tattoos. But working with their own trusted person could lead to some of them making the plunge together. Vosik even said there’s a tattoo-less member of the coaching staff who’s “intrigued” by the idea. “I’d say about 10 more guys rose their hands and said, ‘You know what? I’d go for my first. This feels right to me,’” says Vosik, who joined the Union last July.
He also hopes to service Philly fans, many of whom he’s seen already have Sons of Ben logos or the Union’s snake logo inked onto them. As “a believer in sanitary conditions,” he emphasizes he wouldn’t endorse any kind of ad-hoc tattoo setup outside the stadium before games. But having fans go together to a shop for a club-sponsored event is certainly in the cards.
Following the final hire, Vosik says he'll be the first to sit down for a session. “You never let go of what team you are a fan of — it stays with you through your life,” he says. “And, for most of us, tattoos stay on our bodies for life.”