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Nothing brings out our StoryMakers’ competitive sides quite like the FIFA World Cup. With 12 Men’s and Women’s World Cups under our belt, the start of a new tournament feels like an appropriate time to check in with GMR’s global football experts to start stirring the pot, so to speak.


Over the next month, you’ll hear from many of these individuals on our LinkedIn page and website, discussing topics like the digitization of the guest experience, sustainability, blockchain in global sport, and the evolution of the FIFA World Cup fan experience. However, we’re kicking things off on a more personal note, introducing you to the StoryMakers behind the expert opinions and sharing some of their favorite football memories. Because that’s why we’re all here.

With that, here are our contributing experts:

  • Alexa Sunderland // Vice President, 10 years of football experience
  • Andy Black // Account Supervisor, 13 years of football experience
  • Brian Pettit // Group Executive Creative Director, 10 years of football experience
  • Jessie Giordano // Executive Vice President, 16 years of football experience
  • Ludo Pouilly // Senior Account Director, 16 years of football experience
  • Mat Johnson // Chief Product Officer, 26 years of football experience
  • Mirella Barton-Steiner // Account Director, 11 years of football experience

Team you’re cheering for…

  • Brian: USA – because we have amazing, young, and diverse talent.
  • Alexa: Canada—my home country. It’s been a while since they were in a World Cup.
  • Ludo: France.
  • Andy: It would be great to see Messi win it in an epic final against Brazil.
  • Mat: Cheering the team that is favored to make the last 4 and will win this year…ENGLAND!
  • Jessie: USA, of course! I also have my Brazil jersey ready to go. I’ve always been a fan of the creativity the Brazilians bring.

Where you’re watching from?

  • Alexa & Andy: On the ground in Qatar.
  • Brian: Nomad World Pub in Milwaukee.
  • Jessie: Early stages at home with my soccer-crazed kids, then headed to Qatar for the Round of 16 and the Quarterfinals.
  • Mat: Watching England’s first match against USA at an airport, then my sofa with no interruptions until quarters, then Qatar for last week of the tournament!
  • Mirella: Most of it at home with family. But if the Swiss make it to Quarter-Finals, we’ll cut my son’s birthday party short and head to the public screenings.

What is your favorite football memory?

  • Alexa: Core Memory – it was my first season working with Manchester United FC, and I got to walk through the tunnel at Old Trafford for the first time.
  • Andy: I'm from Chile, and watching our national team play at Maracanã Stadium in 2014, against reigning champions Spain, and win 2-0 was unforgettable.
  • Brian: Experiencing complete rock-and-roll mayhem as my son and I watched Atlético de Madrid play Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League round of 16 at the old Vicente Calderón Stadium in Madrid. After 120 minutes it went to a shoot-out and the home team prevailed on the 5th by Fernando Torres. It also happened to be my birthday and I was there for Generation Adidas – so that helped.
  • Jessie: Favorite World Cup = South Africa 2010.  I had the opportunity to spend 61 days in Capetown leading the local staff for one of our client programs. Beyond the play on the field, the beauty of seeing our local staff from such different backgrounds come together, work as a team and be a catalyst for change was one of the most powerful professional experiences in my career. Not to mention, I met my husband on Day 1 of 61 and the rest is history!
  • Ludo: I have two based on French team victories. The win in 1998 when I was 17 years old gave me the idea to work in sports marketing. And in 2018 when the French team succeeded in Russia. As football director at Nike, I had the chance to push the button on the lighting of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, showcasing the faces of the 23 national heroes on the monument on the Champs Elysees, celebrating the success and the World Cup title.
  • Mat: South Africa 2010—in the lead up to the tournament I worked in-market producing Nike’s delivery of a Football Training Centre in Soweto, which was then gifted to the city after the tournament. It was a beautiful project and showed the life spirit of the nation and how football brings communities together.
  • Mirella: While I have loads of amazing Champions League experiences, like standing in the tunnel at Chelsea FC with the likes of Messi, Fernando Torres and Frank Lampard, or guiding a film crew to the trophy celebration from Real Madrid at the Champions League Final in 2017, my most memorable personal football experience was actually in front of the television at my flat with friends. We watched a Swiss team qualifying game for 2006 World Cup. Switzerland qualified, despite losing 4-2 in a titanic battle against Turkey. The whole town went absolutely crazy after that!

Check back throughout the tournament for more from GMR’s experts or head to GMR’s LinkedIn for live updates from our StoryMakers on the ground in Qatar. Reach out if you want to know how your brand can cut through the clutter and turn a global stage like the World Cup into an opportunity to create brand affinity.