Robert Willey on Cheribundi and the Power of All-Natural Recovery
Robert Willey serves as operating partner at Emil Capital Partners and CMO of several portfolio companies, where he leads all strategic and growth marketing functions. Currently, Robert serves as an executive on Plantisch and Cheribundi, the sports wellness and performance brand.
Over the past 20 years, he has been a senior marketing and ecommerce executive for numerous high-profile consumer startups including Taskrabbit (acquired by Ikea, 2016), Spring (acquired by ShopRunner, 2018) and Method.
Rob graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with an MBA from Columbia University. We spoke to Rob for our Time-Out series, where we chat with folks in the sports world about their favorite athletes, teams, sports movies and shows, and their love of sports generally.
Rob, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up in Portland, Oregon, and now split my time between NYC and Portland.
Your earliest or favorite sports memory.
I was fortunate to see Michael Jordan and the '90s Bulls play the Blazers as a kid. To this day never have I felt that type of energy from one person entering the arena.
Your favorite teams/athletes.
Born and raised a Blazer fan, I grew up with Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter. Those teams brought the city together and made us believe. It's exactly why some day soon I want to buy the team and use them for social good to breathe life back into this city.
Your favorite sports show or podcast.
Easiest question of the day—Formula 1: Drive to Survive on Netflix. Before this show America had no idea how epic Formula 1 racing was on a weekly basis. The drama of races and politics between teams is a must-watch.
Your favorite sports movie.
Covid introduced many things to our lives that were undesirable but one thing it gave us is The Last Dance. What a perfect storm of being trapped in our homes, tired of the news and launching the greatest 10-episode docuseries of all time.
What's special about the Cheribundi brand, and how you've approached its marketing lately?
There is something powerful about products that naturally do what they promise to do. I'm most proud of our roster of 400+ teams and numerous athlete investors who not only believe in the power of tart cherry juice but help us bring this superfruit mainstream.
A recent project you're proud of.
Over happy hour beers not long ago, a few of us had the idea of running the Hood to Coast—the longest relay race in America—and fast forward to today we are less than two months away. We run together, recover as a team, and most of all I'm proud of our willingness to try hard things as a company. Stay tuned to see how it goes.
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
I know it sounds cliché but Nike's "Never Settle, Never Done" UEFA Euro 2022 anthem is everything. Supporting women's athletics, celebrating soccer and doing it in a way that is a full expression of youth culture in full color. Making branded content that people want to watch is hard, and I'm envious.
What sports can do that nothing else can.
In a time where America feels so divided, I can watch live sports next to complete strangers, enjoy their company and realize we have far more in common than we think. Only in sports does that happen.