The faces of Polo Ralph Lauren’s new ad campaign are young people from Philly.
They hail from Work to Ride, the nonprofit that teaches youth from underserved communities equestrian sports and pre-college skills. The program is based on the West Philly side of Fairmount Park, in the Chamounix Equestrian Center, welcoming students ages 7 to 19. The park’s open field and cherry blossoms set the scene for the campaign, where students and alumni posed and played polo in dapper ensembles. In addition to the shoot, Ralph Lauren published a feature on the nonprofit.
“People think polo is a sport for the privileged,” Kareem Rosser, 26-year-old alum and executive director of Friends of Work to Ride, says in an ad posted to Instagram, “but I’m living proof that a champion can come from anywhere.”
The campaign also features fellow alum Shariah Harris, the first black woman to play top-tier polo, according to the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame in Lake Worth, Fla. Harris is currently a junior at Cornell University. Work to Ride fielded the first black team to win the United States Polo Association (USPA) National Interscholastic Championship in 2011, according to an Inquirer report.
“In the beginning, people sort of looked sideways at us,” said Rosser, who earned the title “No. 1 all-star" at that 2011 tournament. The looks, he said, changed over time. “Our game sort of talked for itself.”
The fashion brand announced that it was creating a scholarship fund for Work to Ride students. Rosser said the campaign photo shoot was a great experience but that he was more pleased that Ralph Lauren is highlighting their story.
“To be able to accomplish what we did with no resources,” he said, “it’s a testament to our hard work and [Work to Ride founder] Lezlie Hiner believing in us.”