The first time Hasbro sent Sophie Jamison a box of Nerf freebies, she hailed that day as “the absolute coolest.”
“I remember running down the street, telling my neighbors that this brand knew who I was,” Jamison said.
Four years later, and now a business management student at the University of Southern Maine, she’s on the brand’s payroll.
Hasbro has hired Jamison as Nerf’s Chief TikTok officer.
It’s a three-month-long role that comes with a $10,000-per-month salary and intangible benefits, such as mentorship by TikTok’s head of global marketing. And for Jamison — known to her 1.8 million TikTok followers as “Sophie Lightning” — it’s a chance to spread her own brand and social networks even further. She wants to celebrate Nerf and the way the products make her feel.
“The whole point of the channel isn’t really about Nerf,” she said. “It’s actually about being yourself and being authentic and following your passion.”
She developed her passion in all things Nerf when she was a high school freshman. A bleeding disorder forced her to quit contact sports and she found herself embracing the soft, playful products, particularly that gun-like blasters and bullet-like darts.
“They make everybody like a child again, having a lot of fun,” she said. “I always say, ‘We don't have enough fun in our lives.’”
In 2015, she created her YouTube channel, Nerfers101, and adopted the “Sophie Lightning” nickname she’d been given on the soccer field. Instagram and a podcast would follow. With her stature growing as a social influencer, Nerf started sending her their products. They twice flew her to Los Angeles.
But TikTok was where her message blew up. There, she has all those followers along with 38.1 million likes. She now sells merch: t-shirts, stickers, face masks and hoodies. And she has reinvested her income from TikTok into building her brand, recently traveling to Hawaii for meet-and-greets with fans.
“I get recognized, I think, about 25 percent of the time I leave the house,” said Jamison, who lives in Saco, Maine. “It’s always the coolest, most humbling experience.”
In modest ways, the work has also found its way into her USM business classes. She has woven an example or two into her school work. A junior, she is due to complete her degree in the summer of 2022.
As for her other plans, she hopes to parlay this new opportunity into a permanent job with Nerf. She hopes to go to graduate school for business and see what’s next for her brand.
“I am just trying to leave the door open as far as possible for what comes,” she said.