Berlin Communications’ downtown office, located across the street from Rogers Place, is a welcoming space within 104 Street’s Mercer Warehouse. Pop art is displayed on the walls of the main room and the offices and, in the office of Berlin’s co-founder Justin Archer, a maroon Free Footie soccer jersey hangs proudly and prominently on the coat hanger.
“I went and gave these jerseys to the kids,” says Archer, “and their eyes were the size of saucers. Like, ‘that’s for me?’”
“Anything you can do to get kids on the field and allow all children to have those experiences of fun, of teamwork, of laughter, smiles. It’s an easy thing to do.”
Berlin is a Edmonton-based public relations, advertising, and communications agency with a history with the downtown area, having been located on 104th Street for their entire existence, originally being based out of the McKenney Building on 102 Avenue.
“There’s a place called Unit B down in the basement, and I was involved in starting that thing up years ago, too.... It was just myself and some friends who needed an office. So, we started one of the first co-working spaces, which is still going strong over there.”
Berlin has since moved out of Unit B, establishing itself at the Mercer Warehouse over the last five years. “We also have a very special culture here,” says Archer. “I sometimes joke that this place is like a bit of a tree fort. It’s a very relaxed culture where the staff can dress how they want, put on music and do what they like, but we also have a very high-performance culture, we expect a lot, and the clients expect a lot of us. In consulting work, you can only disappoint a client once in this business.”
Archer’s enthusiasm for his work extends to Berlin’s work with the community, including sponsoring Free Footie, which Berlin began sponsoring this year. “I was aware of it, and [Free Footie founder Tim Adams] put out a Tweet saying “we’re looking for sponsors.” My partner, Michael, and I thought “we gotta do this.”
“Since I’ve had kids, I’ve really thought a lot about inequality, particularly as it applies to children. Every kid’s the same, they want you to pay attention to them, they want you to get down on their level and be interested in what they’re interested in, and they love to get excited. The kids that don’t have those opportunities, I just really think they deserve it... To me, it’s bordering on a moral issue.”
Archer has been active in his efforts to recruit more Free Footie sponsors, recently hosting a “$1000-a-plate” fundraiser that essentially sponsored one Free Footie team’s season per guest. It resulted in $13,000 raised- 13 teams whose fall seasons will be funded.
“$1000 is a lot of money, I’m not trying to minimize that, but a small business can generally afford $1000… $1000 gets them their whole season.”
“You can’t fix everything that’s wrong with the world, no one can, but for me, this is a small thing that’s making a tangible difference. Free Footie is special. I’d sponsor the whole thing if I could.”
Written by: Stefan Salegio