In April 2018, director Dex Deboree debuted the documentary Unbanned: The Legend of AJ1 at the Tribeca Film Festival. What makes the film unique is how it manages to straddle both social and brand history while also delving into the product design story of the legendary Air Jordan 1 sneakers. It featured a long list of celebrities, artists, athletes, and executives, from Phil Knight to Spike Lee to NBA commissioner Adam Silver to Nike design head Tinker Hatfield, all waxing philosophical on why the shoe, its story, and design have endured.
While not commissioned by Nike or Jordan Brand, it was arguably the perfect piece of branded content, celebrating the emotional and cultural connection a brand and product had–and continues to have–with people around the world.
Now Deboree is launching a new creative content agency called Falkon, based on that very principle.
“Because the product and the brand [are] so iconic and so much about a cultural moment, it really is just a piece of entertainment,” says Deboree. “Over the course of making that movie, I just looked up and realized there was no line between brands and entertainment anymore. It was one for me, and I realized that the future could very much look like that, and knew that I had to create something that was focused on that.”
It’s an interesting choice for Deboree, given that he cofounded the creative studio Los York with partner Seth Epstein in 2014, a shop that has excelled at making content for brands that’s actually cool and fun to watch, including projects for Jordan Brand, Nike, Fitbit, The North Face, and Sonos. He’s leaving that company on good terms, and Falkon will initially even share an office with Los York.
Deboree says it was just a matter of having two different outlooks on the future of the company and how each partner wanted to approach it. “I want to do strategy, conceptual development, and execution work in marketing and advertising for brands, and equal parts doing movies and TV shows,” he says. “It seemed to make more sense just to take our own paths, wish each other well and stay friends, but let each other do what we really do best and want to do.”
Branded content or entertainment is not a new concept, and both ad agencies and brands have long tried to find the right formula, with plenty of hits and misses along the way. Deboree and Falkon, though, sit in the unique position of having a proven track record of success, not only in creating work people actually want to watch, but also navigating the ins and outs of project-based partnerships with global brands.
The most recognizable commercial work Deboree has done is in the realm of basketball and sports culture. Desmond Marzette, senior director of advertising and content for Jordan Brand, says Deboree pushes the status quo, instigates new thinking, and always looks to provoke emotion in his work. “From strategy to disruptive creative concepts, Dex knows how to identify your story, and help you tell it in an incredibly compelling way,” says Marzette.
NBA star Carmelo Anthony has worked with Deboree a number of times over the years, and became a producer on Unbanned based on his experiences. “What makes Dex unique is the fact that he really treats you like a partner,” Anthony says. “He doesn’t just say it, he backs it up with action. It is refreshing to have people like him in the marketplace who really treat content with the respect the subject matter deserves. Looking forward to what Falkon will create next.”
Falkon is launching with upcoming brand work, yet to be announced, but is also working with NHL star PK Subban (as an executive producer) on a TV series set in the world of hockey about a young African-American high school kid. But true to Falkon’s founding ethos, it’s working with the NHL on a marketing partnership around the show. “It’s unique and another interesting way to approach the brand and entertainment model,” says Deboree.