February 2022 AOTM: Qiana Martin, Eat Soccer

athlete of the month Feb 16, 2022

Welcome back to TWN’s Athlete of the Month! Each month we are highlighting athletes in our network to share what they have accomplished outside of sports, their contribution to the athletic community and more. 

Our February Athlete of the Month is Qiana Martin - professional soccer player and Founder of Eat Soccer! 

Qiana’s soccer journey transported her from playing street soccer with guys in parks to traveling the world participating in the sport and helping global brands connect with soccer fans.

Her unique path as an international athlete inspired Qiana to create Eat Soccer. Eat Soccer is a soccer lifestyle company that produces engaging content, legendary events and insightful data tools for a diverse community of avid soccer fans. 

To date, she has teamed up with brands such as Pizza Hut to produce a soccer-inspired clip for a Super Bowl Game Day commercial and Kellogg's NYC to create one-of-a-kind events like the Morning Match soccer bar during 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup. 

Most recently, Eat Soccer created the STEM animation, Don’t Let the Weather Stop the Match in collaboration with the National Weather Association Foundation. With a mission to use soccer as a vehicle for global citizenship, social responsibility and STEM learning, Eat Soccer aims to score many more goals in connecting brands and fans for the greater good.

Qiana is a great supporter of Tackle What's Next. She was on Episode 6 of our Timeout with TWN series. In the episode, Qiana shared with us her soccer experiences and how she was able to take life lessons she learned from sports to create unique opportunities off the field, like Eat Soccer.

“I was able to accomplish just as much outside of the game in the sport of soccer as I was on the field playing. So I told myself anyway you can stay plugged into the game of soccer, that’s going to help you not only off the field but also on the field.” 

Here's our full interview with Qiana Martin! 

Why did you create Eat Soccer?

I created Eat Soccer because my nontraditional journey in the sport allowed me to see areas where new perspectives were needed, new voices needed to be heard and new approaches implemented to be more inclusive of the different fan segments in this country.

What did being an athlete teach you about the work you are doing now?

My ability to create opportunities on the field to score is something that I do every day with Eat Soccer, except with less grass and turf pellets in my shoes. I create opportunities for Eat Soccer to work with global brands and causes. I spend a great deal of time observing the field, attending experiential events, tech panels and pop-ups to learn from consumers and cultivate new ideas. I pitch ideas and stories to score more clients, brand awareness and opportunities for Eat Soccer.

From there, I respond to the feedback. Sometimes, this is the form of new partnerships. Other times, it entails answering requests. Oftentimes, it involves adjusting to new insights. So my athletic skill set of creating, observing, responding and taking shots prepared me for doing the same, but on a different playing field.

What is the most important thing you did for yourself to start planning for life outside of sports?

The most important thing that I did for myself was to create a vision of my ideal self as an athletic brand while I was starting my athletic journey. I looked at several world class athletes (both male and female), and thought to myself, “How can I create my own take on the type of brand that they have built?”

I started right where I was-creating my athlete brand story and looking for opportunities to land commercial opportunities. I thought about ways that my unique experiences would benefit the community. I developed products and content. What I realized is that being a world class athlete is a business so I took small steps to build my athletic business brand. It led to opportunities that built the foundation for what I do now.

For example, my focus on commercial opportunities was two-fold: build my brand and show diverse representation due to so many interesting assumptions people would make about me when they learned that I played soccer. My Pizza Hut Big Game Feature and Fila ad campaign were the beginning blocks for this, and this effort continues to expand. Last year, I produced ads for two more global brands.

This would’ve never happened had I listened to a guy who told me, “What do you need to be a model for? You’re an athlete!” 

How did you know you were ready to shift into that mindset of life outside of sports?

Since I’ve been intentional in making my soccer endeavors off the field an extension of my athletic participation on the field, I think for me it continues to be more of I’m playing on this field today and tomorrow I have the option to keep in this direction or shift back more to my athletic pursuits (because I still have things I want to accomplish).

I think this is why I’m an advocate for fellow athletes, both current and former, to have a more all-encompassing approach to their personal sports brands. I think it helps with transitioning away from the athletic participation portion to another area that resonates with your passions if you want to continue to have a career in your sport’s industry.

What advice do you have for athletes about moving on from sports to their next chapter?

As an athlete, you are always observing the field to create opportunities to help yourself (and your team) win. Those transferable skills can help you to ascend to the highest levels of any industry that you have a passion in.

Thank you Qiana for your incredible impact on the world of sports! It has been a pleasure to highlight Qiana throughout the month of February. Be sure to check out Eat Soccer and support her work!