When you think of Texas, the blue-and-white iconography of the Dallas Cowboys is probably one of the first things that comes to mind. Charlotte Jones is a big reason for that. As the executive vice president and chief brand officer of the iconic team, Jones spends her days in a field-view office dealing with every aspect of the iconic sports brand, from its partnership with the Salvation Army to the cheerleaders, players, and fans who grace its field each weekend.
Jones talks with PaperCity about everything from her favorite Peloton instructors to the best piece of advice she’s ever been given, courtesy of her dad Jerry.
PaperCity: How did you first get started working with The Cowboys?
Charlotte Jones: I left Stanford just a year before my father decided to buy the team, and I was working in Washington, D.C. at the time. He came up to see my brother and me, and told us what he was about to do and wanted our blessing. He said, “If I do this, it might just change our lives a little.” I had no idea what was about to be in store.
While I was in D.C., he called me twice. The first time was about Chad Hennings, who was serving in the Air Force. The Cowboys under Landry had drafted his rights, so he wanted me to get the Air Force to release him of his commitment. I was like, that is never going to happen. The second time, I picked up my phone and he said, “Charlotte, do you know what hot pants are? I have a line of women outside my office that think I am going to change the iconic cheerleader uniform from hot pants to biker shorts. I have no idea what those are. Can you come down and help me?”
So it turned out that it was a rumor, like many other things brewing at that time—he came in with a whole lot of controversy in those early years—and while I was there, he asked me to stay. I told him I didn’t know anything about running a professional sports franchise, and he looked at me dead serious and said, “Neither do I. I just need someone around me that I can trust. Someone that I know won’t be afraid of a challenge, and who will get in here and fail and get up and go again.”
With that, I moved to Dallas around 1990. I went to the office, found myself a little broom closet, and went to my dad and said, “What do I do?” He gave me two directions: “First, find a way to stop losing money. And whatever you do, don’t tarnish the Star.”
And, that was it. Not how to do it, just that. And off he went.
PC: What has your journey with the Cowboys looked like?
CJ: Through the course of my experience, my growth and wheelhouse have been about taking an incredible brand like the Dallas Cowboys, one that’s so deep-seated in tradition and history, and trying to get it going in a better direction without offending that and messing it up. And, in the meantime, [how to go about] finding partners that continue to help you grow and elevate your brand and experience for everybody.
In the early ’90s, we had just come off winning several Super Bowls and one of our players made a really unfortunate decision off the field. Overnight, the conversation shifted. At the time my father told me, “People are going to be as interested in what we do on the field as off the field, so we need to use this as an opportunity to find a partner in the community and attach ourselves to them. We can help them with their awareness and really have a purpose to what we do.”
It was at that time where I met the Salvation Army, and I happened to be at a board meeting with my father where Steve Reinemund, the then-chairman of the Salvation Army National Advisory Board. He told me that the Salvation Army’s biggest asset, their humility, was also their greatest challenge, and they needed someone who could toot their horn and talk about how great they were. And that was us!
We have this incredible platform, all these eyeballs, and visibility, and if we can spread a great message and help the Salvation Army help the world, there’s no nobler cause. We created this halftime, the Red Kettle Kickoff, on Thanksgiving, and we are now in our 25th year and will have raised 3 billion dollars. That’s associating yourself with an incredible brand, elevating your own brand, and making a powerful impact.
PC: What does your day-to-day look like with the Cowboys?
CJ: My day-to-day looks absolutely so different every day, and I think that’s the greatest thing about my job. It doesn’t feel like a job, and every single day there is something new. The field is my view, and every day I get to sit here and watch all these guys go out there and give everything they can every day to make themselves better, and that is my daily aspiration. [It’s always asking], what am I doing today to make myself better? Spiritually, mentally, in the workplace.
When I come to work, my days are full of a lot of chaos and challenge, but in all of those challenges, there is usually an incredible opportunity if we can just set aside the fire, understand why things are happening, and create something bigger and better. So maybe one day it’ll be something happening on the field, or something with the season, or Covid protocol, or cheerleaders, or the National Medal of Honor, or the Salvation Army. Every email I open hits a different spot, and that’s the beauty of it. There’s this incredible thread of bringing my best self to everything I do every day.
PC: How do you prioritize your own mental and physical health as a business owner?
CJ: We all search for this balance, especially if you have a family and are trying to do something that is beyond yourself. We all struggle with what that balance looks like and means, and that kind of swings. Sometimes you’re really good at it, sometimes really terrible, and it moves in and out. What we’ve all learned through Covid is how we can slow that treadmill down and realize the things we value the most, because if we don’t watch out, we’ll blink and not take notice. The journey is every day, and we need to maximize every moment within our days so we have no regrets. We’ll look back and see that every day had its own challenge and we were the best version we could be in that moment, and tomorrow we’ll get up and try it again.
What I’ve appreciated the most about the last year and a half is everyone’s willingness to address their own mental health, how they feel, and the things they are going through, because as it turns out, we all have challenges — everybody does. And when we talk about it and make it a common vernacular, it makes it easier for us to deal with.
PC: What advice would you give to Dallas women?
CJ: This is something my father told me a long time ago that I think is even more applicable today: you need to have a high tolerance for ambiguity. I think that so many of us want the predictability, to know exactly what our schedule will look like. Then, Covid taught us we have no control. If we can settle our own selves down so we can navigate through the ambiguity, that anxiety rests within us and not in the exterior. If we can figure out how to have a tolerance for that unknown, then we can focus on the things that are the most important.
OK, let’s have a little fun…
PC: What’s your Dallas-area coffee order?
CJ: I am pretty true to who I am, so I am usually a big caffe latte with 3 raw sugars. If I’m in my neighborhood, I love Drip Coffee — and if I’m out of my neighborhood, Ascension.
PC: The best Dallas meal you’ve ever eaten?
CJ: I had a pretty amazing meal recently at Dee Lincoln Prime steakhouse, and it was phenomenal. The people that work there and wait on you create this vision and anticipation in how they describe what’s on the menu.
PC: Your preferred wellness fix?
CJ: I wish I had more time to have self-care, but in terms of complete wellness I am a religious figure at the Cooper Clinic. I started doing that years ago. In terms of actual fitness, I have a gym at my house and that is what I love. I hop on my Peloton (I love Tunde and Ally), walk around my neighborhood, or even carry my bags to work — those are my ways.
PC: Your hidden Dallas gem?
CJ: The Georgie’s bar. A lot of people think about having dinner at Georgie’s, but that moment at the bar is so chic and cool, and I love that. I love the vibe and feel like you’re transplanting yourself out of your day.