Charlotte Jones Anderson is the undisputed queen of American football.
As the Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer, Anderson is responsible for every detail of the Cowboys brand and has helped her father transform the club from a $140 million enterprise to a $4 billion mega-empire, officially the most valuable franchise in international sports.
From the now legendary Thanksgiving halftime show — which Anderson took from being a small event to being a nationally televised spectacle raising billions for The Salvation Army — to the merchandise, stadium design, fan and sponsor engagement and community relations, nothing escapes the watchful eye of the Cowboys’ grand dame.
Originally from Little Rock, Anderson follows closely behind business moguls Johnelle Hunt and Alice Walton in being one of the most powerful women to ever come out of Arkansas. And it is no small coincidence that plucky Southern determination and unfaltering grace are trademarks of all three women.
At just 23, Anderson, newly graduated from Stanford, was working in her first job in the office of U.S. Representative Arkansas Democrat Tommy F. Robinson when her father, Jerry Jones, came to D.C. to visit Anderson and enlist support from her to purchase the Cowboys. He was well aware that the team was losing $75,000 a day and over $1 million a month, but his passion for the team saw past the financial problems. His message to Anderson was urgent and unmistakable. She needed to help him stop the losses and fast. After some persuasion, Anderson agreed and was hired by her father as an executive at the club in 1990. She has since become the most powerful woman in football.
After joining the Cowboys, Anderson immediately set to work using what has proven to be one of her greatest skills, her ability to build partnerships. One of the earliest examples of this was addressing the club’s largest outgoing at the time: laundry costs for the relentless washing of uniforms and practice gear. Anderson came up with a perfect solution by offering the laundry company a promotional sign on the practice field announcing them as the official laundry partner of the Cowboys in return for laundering the uniforms for free. Little by little this enormous overhead was eradicated.
Six years later Anderson learned during a conversation with the chairman of Frito-Lay that The Salvation Army was his favorite charity, as they helped more children than any other. Impressed by what she heard, Anderson determined to help this charity, and her means of doing so would be to create the now famous halftime show during the Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day national game — something that had never been done before outside of the Super Bowl.
After calling in a favor from her father to get a meeting with the president of NBC Sports, Dick Ebersol, and securing friend and country star Reba McEntire to perform, Anderson managed to talk Ebersol into giving her an unheard of $10 million worth of free airtime for the proposed event. His terms were very clear though: Anderson had to go to the league and get an extension on halftime, like they do at the Super Bowl, and she had to produce a show that was worthy of network television or he would waste no time in cutting away and going to commercials. As Anderson and her father left Ebersol’s office, her father stopped her and said, “You just got over $10 million worth of exposure for The Salvation Army. Now, do you know what you’re doing??”
Of course the Thanksgiving Day show was a huge success and has now become a national institution, but this is not through coincidence or sheer good fortune. Anderson has the kind of eye for opportunity and insistence on perfection that makes failure impossible. When she was hired by her father, Anderson was given only one rule, “Whatever you do, don’t tarnish The Star,” and making that star shine even brighter has become a rasison d’être for her.
In 2010 Anderson was appointed Chairman of The Salvation Army’s National Advisory Board, the first woman to ever serve in that role. In 2012 she became the first woman to be named Chairman of the NFL Foundation, which entails being responsible for spearheading the NFL efforts in youth football participation, health and safety, and community outreach. She is also the first woman to represent club ownership as leader of a major professional sports league foundation. Furthermore, in 2014 she was appointed to the first NFL Conduct Committee, which endorses and enhances the new personal conduct policy for all NFL players and employees.
Anderson has broken every glass ceiling that is possible to break. And now, in her 26th year with the Cowboys, she has reached new heights with the unveiling of their latest brainchild, The Star.
The Star is the Cowboys’ brand new $1 billion headquarters and training facility in Frisco, Texas, and represents an opportunity for fans and aspiring athletes to get even closer to their beloved team. In a venture that marks the first ever partnership between an NFL team and a city and school district, Frisco-area students are now able to play on the center’s indoor field and is something Anderson hopes will inspire and help a new generation of athletes.
The enormous complex also features a 12,000 seat-arena, the Ford Center (Ford is the official truck partner of the cowboys — with Anderson there is an official partner for everything), 200,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space — with all beverage outlets featuring PepsiCo products of course, an Omni hotel, and a sports medical facility. It is an enormous endeavor and unlike anything any other team has built.
How does one woman achieve all this? We manage to find a rare 10 minutes in Anderson’s packed schedule to pick her brain on being a self-made wonder woman.
Have you always been a football fan or did you have to learn to love the game?
Football is the fabric of our family. Growing up with two brothers and a father who loved and played football, my passion for the game began at an early age. With a husband who coached our boys from an early age and a daughter who cheered, our days have been with filled with youth practices during the week, Friday Night Lights, Saturdays cheering for the Hogs and the Stanford Cardinal and of course, the Cowboys. Football is who we are.
How do you feel about the representation of women in sports and what would you say to women wanting to get there?
In my 26 years of working in the NFL, I have seen the number of women involved in our game increase. Given that almost 45% of our fan base is female, our voice is not only important, it’s powerful. With the Cowboys, 43% of our employees are women. My advice to them is to be willing to go the extra mile, do whatever it takes, even when it’s not in your job description, and be confident and open-minded. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake or fail — this is where you learn and come back at it stronger and more determined, just like the game of football.
I do hope that the opportunities that have been afforded to me through the Cowboys and the NFL, as appointed by the Commissioner, will inspire others to reach for their dreams in the world of sports.
Did you feel when you were starting out that you had to work smarter and harder than the men to prove yourself?
I have ALWAYS felt like I had to work smarter and harder than the person sitting next to me, regardless of gender, whether that be in high school in Little Rock, college at Stanford, Washington D.C. or with the Cowboys. I knew I could not control if I was the smartest person in the room or the most talented, but I could control working harder than anyone else. I have been fortunate to have been raised by parents who never saw gender. My father always had more confidence in me than I ever had in myself. When he “drafted” me 26 years ago, he knew he was getting someone he could trust that would work as hard as he would to find ways to make the team successful. I have never taken this opportunity lightly, nor does anyone else in our family. We have been entrusted with a team that so many are passionate about, and our focus is on making those fans proud of the team we put on the field each week.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
There are so many things I love about what I do. My father has always said that you need to have a high tolerance for ambiguity. That is certainly the case! Every day my job is different, challenging and inspiring. Every day I am surrounded by the constant pursuit of excellence on the field, in the boardroom and in the sales center. As we put on the touchstone of The Star (our new training facility), “It is a privilege not a right to play, coach and work for the Dallas Cowboys.” And with that privilege comes a great responsibility. I love that every day I get to use the visibility and interest that surrounds our game and the magic that it creates to make a difference off the field, in the lives of others. My job is purposeful, and for that I will forever be grateful.
Who are your role models?
I am fortunate to call my parents my greatest mentors. If I got my passion from my father, I got my compassion from my mother. They raised me to find my purpose and passion in life. They taught by example, showing me the importance of family, hard work and determination. They continue to provide constant support, instill confidence and encourage me to set my goals high and dream big. Even in the midst of all the chaos and excitement, family is always first.
How does being a Southern girl influence the way you work?
One of my favorite quotes comes from Maya Angelou but has truly been a philosophy that I was raised with and have lived by my entire life: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” I am very much a people person, and I have always believed in treating people with respect and dignity regardless of who they are or where they came from. You can inspire your team and those around you far greater by respecting their worth, valuing their input and empowering their growth. Respect for others and grace, now that’s southern!
Why did you want to build The Star?
We set out to create a first-of-its-kind world headquarters and training facility where the Cowboys partner with the City of Frisco and the Frisco Independent School District in a way that’s unprecedented in the NFL and in sport. The idea of being inextricably linked to high school football by creating an indoor training facility for us that would serve as their indoor stadium was the physical goal. The intangible goal was to inspire the next generation of players and fans by uniquely engaging them where we live, work and play. While The Star is the heart of the Dallas Cowboys, we wanted it to be the soul of the community. We’re excited about this incredibly unique opportunity to be a part of the Frisco community at an intrinsic level. We’re hoping to inspire a lot of great kids, and adults, to do a lot of great things. The Star is not just about the Cowboys; it is about the future of amateur athletics. Not only is The Ford Center the home of Frisco high school football, but for all sports, engaging amateur athletes in soccer, lacrosse, basketball, cheer and more. With the partnership with Baylor, Scott and White (operators of the medical facility) and their commitment to sports treatment, injury prevention and the research center, it will be the safest place to play to sports and help guide the future of sports medicine.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
Both of my parents were strong enforcers of “to whom much is given, much is to be expected.” I know the blessings in my life come with a call to action to help those who are less fortunate. I strive every day to be a great example to my children, which in turn honors and pays respect to what my parents gave to me. I love the mission of The Salvation Army — “Doing the most good” — which summarizes my personal and professional aspiration.
You have achieved so many record-breaking things, but what are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my children. My oldest daughter graduated from U of A, my middle son is a junior at U of A, and my youngest son is in high school. By far my greatest achievement is being their mother and a wife to my supportive husband. I believe in the phrase “no other success can compensate for failure in the home.”
Is there anything that you’re still itching to achieve, personal or otherwise?
Would love to win another Super Bowl!
What is it that drew you to The Salvation Army?
Our family and the Dallas Cowboys began our partnership with The Salvation Army over twenty years ago. In the early ‘90s we realized that we had the opportunity to harness the excitement and visibility of our game and the magic that it creates to make an impact on the community around us. We recognized that we could partner with an organization that was truly making a difference in the lives of those who needed the most help and magnify their impact. But we also recognized that whoever we chose needed to have international reach, a strong brand awareness and be fundamentally based on integrity and service. That’s The Salvation Army. They are true stewards of other people’s generosity, doing the most good, day in and day out. We created and launched the first ever nationally televised Red Kettle Kickoff during the halftime of the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game. Over the past 20 years through the exposure on national television, the leveraging of our players, the game and brand, coupled with powerful entertainers, we have inspired people to donate to the red kettles to raise over $2.3 billion.
The Salvation Army lives their promise to do “the most good,” and they do so without discrimination. They are trustworthy and passionate about their cause. I know when I am making a donation to The Salvation Army that I can trust that every penny of my dollar will be used to help those who need it most. It’s the most important thing we do at the Dallas Cowboys.