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Raheem Sterling is having a big year. His Manchester City team just won the Premier League title for the third time in four years, and the season saw him become just the third player to tally 100 goals under club manager Pep Guardiola. He’s also just made official a longtime-in-the-making boot deal with New Balance

The endorsement will see the Jamaican-born English star wear the brand’s Furon V6+ boot, but the plans go beyond the field. Sterling is set to receive signature editions of both performance and lifestyle gear, and the partnership doesn’t end at product. It will emphasize community efforts in London, Manchester, Kingston, and other areas globally, making it a natural pairing with Sterling’s history in charity efforts. 

The partnership’s philanthropic connection is apparent from the get go, as the striker’s debut “Done Just Talking” campaign helped educate teenagers through mentoring charity ReachOut UK. The teens worked alongside the production crew, learning tricks of the trade like directing, editing, and styling, and they were also offered long-term access to mentorship. 

“Simply put, this relationship is much bigger than football,” New Balance chief marketing officer & senior vice president of merchandising Chris Davis said. “Raheem is undoubtedly recognized as one of world football’s most premier talents. However, his ambition to give back to the community will be a focal point of how we realize the unique nature of this collaboration.”

Fresh off of Manchester City’s title win and ahead of his New Balance deal’s official announcement, we spoke with Sterling to find out who inspired both his playing and sartorial style, why he’s selective about his charity work, and what to expect from the collaboration. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, appears below. 

What can you tell me about the deal? I understand there was something of a bidding war going into it. It seems like a lot of brands were interested in signing you.
In the very first conversations with different brands, there was a lot of interest. I think during my next stage of my career, I wanted to really go with a brand I felt like I can have a bit of collaboration with. New Balance gave an offer in terms of boots, my own line, [my own] clothing, and they matched my expectations off the field as well as what I want to do on the field. Since speaking to them, it’s been something that I’ve been really excited about, to be honest with you.

Raheem Sterling
Image via New Balance

That kind of answers a question I had later on, but it sounds like we can expect some lifestyle apparel as well as on-the-pitch stuff?
Yeah, for sure. I’ll be hopefully designing some stuff as well, and have some lifestyle apparel. Some nice, trendy, cool things for people to talk about and buy.

Nice. So tell me about your personal style growing up a little bit. Did you have any favorite brands or any particular figures that you looked up to?
I’d say growing up, of course, if you grew up in England, your idol for sure was David Beckham, because he’s on your telly every two seconds. So a lot of things that he used to do on the football field I tend to do. Like your socks, and how he used to wear his socks, and stuff like that. He was a big influence for me on the field, but massive off the field, and just to see how he’s transitioned himself to be such a remarkable person is a real inspiration.

As for New Balance specifically, did you wear any of their stuff growing up?
To be fair, no, I’d never had a lot of New Balance growing up, to be honest. No, I didn’t have a lot growing up.

Sort of a new thing for you.
Yes. For sure. Now, everywhere I look now, that’s what I’m seeing. Literally. Everywhere I looked, I was like, “Oh, wow. There’s some New Balance trainers.” You can definitely see within the UK that the trend is really catching on.

Yeah. They’re making a lot of strides in the US as well. I want to talk to you about [what you’re wearing] on the pitch. Can you tell me what you think about the Furon V6+, a little bit about that boot and your feelings on it?
Yeah, of course. [I hadn’t] really seen a lot of New Balance’s football boots. I didn’t know what to really expect when I got them, but when I got the Furons, they were really nice. Very comfortable to put your foot in it. I even said to [New Balance] that as soon as you slip your foot in it...I felt like with previous boots, with previous brands that I’ve been with, I felt like I needed to train like a day or two in these boots to kind of wear it in. But, as soon as I put these on, I literally can put a boot on and go straight to the game, because it literally feels that the material is comfy, not too hard, or as I said, with previous boots you’ve got to wear it in to loosen it up a bit. It literally feels like you’re good to go. So, yeah, they’re really, really nice.

I know throughout your career, philanthropy has been a big part of everything you do, and it’s even part of your debut campaign with New Balance, with the ReachOut UK connection. Can we expect to see more of that sort of stuff through your collaboration?
Yeah, for sure. That’s who I am, in a sense. I’m not a person that tries to milk that sort of stuff. But I think, when it’s necessary, and for sure, with the right topics and right stuff, me and New Balance, we’ll definitely be doing a lot of work on that subject.

I like that. You don’t want it to seem forced. You want it to be a natural sort of thing.
Yeah. I want it to be, I’m the sort of person, I’m not doing something to do it so people look at me and say, “Oh my God. Yeah, he’s doing that.” I want it to be something that’s meaningful to me, and at the same time, I’m really enjoying it as well, and really enjoying seeing results from it.

Absolutely. I know you had a footwear collaboration in the past tied into your Jamaican roots. Can we expect to see any sort of that stuff on your New Balance collaboration?
Yeah, for sure. There is even a boot that I’ve been sent, that I think that a few of my Jamaican people will like it as well. There’s loads of cool collabs that they’ve kind of shown me already. I’m excited, to be honest with you.

Raheem Sterling New Balance 327
Image via New Balance

Not necessarily style-related, but were there any players that you looked up to growing up? Strikers, or anyone?
Yeah. Football players. My first football idol was Ronaldinho, for sure. Just as simple as how he played the game. It was just so effortless. It was like he was playing with his friends in his garden. He was a pure joy to watch. Growing up, that was my first idol.

Was there anything that you wanted to add just about the partnership with New Balance, and your thoughts and feelings on what’s coming up?
Yeah. Me, as a person, when somebody meets you halfway, I’m that person that gives my all. So, to collaborate with New Balance, how things have gone behind the scenes, how they approach the situation to get the deal over the line—it’s a collab and a relationship that I can’t wait to get on the road. Some of the biggest [matches] in world football, I want to showcase their boots there. That’s the first and foremost, the main thing from this, is to put their boots on some of the big stage. And they have been, already, but that’s one of the things that I want to keep on doing.  Keep making the people behind the scenes that have put all the time and effort at New Balance to make this happen, really happy. That’s it.