Brenden Aaronson’s Philadelphia Union debut officially didn’t happen until March 2019 in Atlanta, but 14 months earlier he was doing his first video shoot for the team in 12-degree weather in the stadium now known as Subaru Park.
Far from ideal weather for short sleeves, the chilly shoot was oddly appropriate considering he was wearing the word Fearless on the name tag on the back of the new “Doop Hoops” jersey he was wearing, which he was revealing ahead of a 2018 season he would spend earning a first team contract playing for the Bethlehem Steel.
The video was released on January 25, 2018 and sparked the kind of debate new jerseys typically create among fans that anxiously anticipate jersey releases but rarely ever hold back on opinions. Some hated it and some loved it while others were withholding opinions until seeing it in person.
Most weighing in that day probably didn’t recognize or know the player featured in the video who would later be affectionately nicknamed Medford Messi. But two years after serving its intended purpose to reveal the launch of a new jersey, the video directed by Philadelphia Union video production manager Tyler Beaumont deserves to be revisited simply because of how well it foreshadows the rise of a teen from Medford, N.J. to MLS starter and full U.S. international.
“This was a time when our pathway to the pros system was really starting to come together,” Beaumont said in a recent interview discussing the video. “So we wanted to come up with a story and a reveal that showed how our first team is developing kids from the Philadelphia area and we were just trying to find a way to portray that with our jersey.”
Enlisting both Brenden and his younger brother Paxten to play the same “fearless” character, the promo showed Paxten going from the city to YSC Sports where the academy trains and then transitions into Brenden going to the stadium in Chester with a nod of approval on the training fields from his now fellow homegrowns Mark McKenzie and Anthony Fontana and former Union homegrown defender Auston Trusty.
“I had heard about the Aaronson brothers and how they were making noise at the academy level,” said Beaumont, who coincidentally grew up in Medford Lakes, N.J. “We were hoping at the time that there would be a future for them and obviously it has turned out great for Brenden so far.”
While Brenden’s profile has exploded in the past 12 months — he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting and earned his first senior national team cap — Paxten has continued to put in work forging his way through the Union’s development system as a promising playmaker in his own right now with the Union’s U17 team.
The jersey Brenden revealed — via a Wizard of Oz-esque transition from black and white to color — is no longer in game day circulation but did mark a pretty significant departure for the team’s look at the time. The center gold panel that had become a staple of Union jerseys since the team’s first season in 2010 was no longer there.
Doug Vosik, the Union’s chief marketing officer, said the change came out of focus group research and data collected during his first two years with the club in 2016 and 2017.
“Research was showing me that everyone was tired of the same jersey design, which was the center gold panel,” Vosik said. “That was loud and clear in all the data, let alone the point of sale data on jersey sales.”
To launch the new center panel-less jersey, the campaign started with a photo being shared of academy players Nyk Sessock, Kristopher Shakes and AJ Cousins seeing the jersey for the first time at YSC Sports and continued with reveals by Josh Yaro and Keegan Rosenberry to Union employees and David Accam wearing the jersey under his jacket when fans greeted his arrival at the airport.
The payoff was the final video released in late January.
The two jersey launches since — for last year’s secondary and this year’s MLS 25th season-inspired primary — haven’t lent themselves to storytelling in video format the way the 2018 launch did, but the annual jersey reveals and the expectation from fans that they will be done with some creative flare present an opportunity for the team to reintroduce itself to fans every winter.
“I think it’s a pretty special part of global football that we have this moment in time every year to kind of celebrate the game, celebrate the creativity of the game, and bring fans together that the other sports don’t really have,” Vosik said of the annual jersey launch. “The kit launch is really the first moment in the offseason to reengage the fan base.”
There isn’t any soccer right now to celebrate — and we still haven’t had a chance to see the current primary jerseys worn by Brenden or any of his teammates — but what better way to cap off our week of celebrating jerseys than a rewatch of the 2018 reveal.
The story, after all, still has hopefully plenty more chapters left to be written for both Fearless No. 18s.