Under Armour, Inc. (NYSE:UA)
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1 Year : From Jul 2018 to Jul 2019
By Alexandra Bruell
It isn't easy being a chief marketing officer these days. Not only are these executives responsible for reaching an increasingly advertising-averse and elusive consumer, but many also are battling image problems and brand crises, from product flaws to sexual-harassment allegations to political controversy.
In 2019, we'll be watching a handful of new CMOs who face steep climbs ahead at brands that have faced challenges.
1. Antonio Lucio, Facebook
When he was CMO of HP Inc., Antonio Lucio dove head first into an industrywide issue by pushing for more diversity at the company's ad agencies. But the extent of any brand-specific crisis he may have had to face at the company doesn't come close to what Facebook Inc. has been through in the past year.
The social media giant announced the hiring of Mr. Lucio as its new CMO in August as a firestorm raged. The company was facing a number of reputational challenges, including scrutiny of its data-privacy practices, its ability to police offensive content and fake news, and controversy around Russian interference on its platform during the 2016 presidential election.
Early this year, Facebook aired a television ad committing to addressing fake news and data-privacy issues and acknowledging the need to refocus on connecting people. Mr. Lucio said he will continue to work to regain the public's trust in part by focusing on what Facebook does right.
"I joined this team because I believe in the positive impact that the Facebook family of apps have on people around the world," said Mr. Lucio in an emailed statement. "We know we've got work to do to regain people's trust, including to continue to work on ensuring the integrity of elections around the world, reducing misinformation, and protecting people's privacy and data. I am looking forward to working with the team to address these increasingly complex challenges and shine a light on the many ways that people are using Facebook as a force for good."
2. Rebecca Messina, Uber
Booze businesses have their issues, but not "Uber" issues.
Rebecca Messina left Beam Suntory Inc. to join Uber Technologies Inc. a few months ago, following a complete leadership overhaul and a series of reputational crises from allegations of driver mistreatment, sexual harassment and discrimination at the ride-hailing company. The upheavals led to the resignation of the company's co-founder and chief executive, Travis Kalanick, in mid-2017, though he remains on the board.
Ms. Messina, previously a longtime Coca-Cola Co. marketing executive, is operating under a new regime at Uber eager to get its brand back on track, especially as it prepares for its initial public offering.
Like Facebook, Uber already aired apology ads earlier in the year. Now it is up to Ms. Messina to win back riders who, at least in certain markets, also are opting for rides with rivals like Lyft Inc. and Via Transportation Inc.
"Uber is an iconic company that touches the lives of millions of people around the world every day," said Ms. Messina in an emailed statement. "Going forward, we'll look to tell the human stories of our customers and partners, and the opportunities our products can help set in motion. And as Uber moves beyond ride sharing into new areas like food, freight and more, we'll work to expand the meaning of our brand alongside our expanding business."
3. Tim Ellis, NFL
The National Football League announced it hired Activision Blizzard Inc.'s Tim Ellis as CMO in August, following a season of falling ratings and controversies over player protests during the national anthem at NFL games. The protests had drawn criticism not only from President Trump, but also from high-profile executives like Papa John's International Inc.'s founder and then-chief executive John Schnatter, who blamed the chain's own disappointing sales on the NFL's inability to resolve the issue.
The protest controversy has since tapered and ratings are much better, thanks in part to a number of exciting games and, perhaps, league marketing trained on its entertainment value.
Mr. Ellis said he plans to continue to "modernize and freshen" the NFL's overall marketing approach.
"We will strengthen our focus and efforts on a new generation of younger fans by tapping into their passion points such as gaming, music and fashion," he said in an emailed statement. He cited a recent partnership with videogame streaming service Twitch Interactive Inc. and Epic Games Inc.'s popular videogame "Fortnite," and said the league will place more emphasis on working with influencers.
"This will help us connect to an elusive audience that is difficult to reach through traditional channels," Mr. Ellis said.
4. Chris Brandt, Chipotle
As one of the first fast-casual chains to offer nonprocessed ingredients, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. appealed to modern health-conscious consumers looking for a good deal. But in recent years, the company has suffered reputational and financial blows from repeated food-safety problems.
Chris Brandt, who joined the chain in April as part of a broader leadership change, is attempting to rehabilitate the brand one ad campaign (and edible holiday window) at a time.
The fast-casual restaurant chain in September began its biggest ad campaign ever in terms of spending within a quarter, part of a bid to transform Chipotle into a lifestyle brand like Toms.com LLC or Apple Inc., Mr. Brandt said at the time.
In early 2019, the company will start an ad campaign meant to "give consumers greater visibility into what we stand for," said Mr. Brandt in a statement. "We will also be rewarding our fans in new ways and have plans for a number of other exciting initiatives as we make Chipotle a more culturally relevant and purpose-driven lifestyle brand."
5. Alessandro de Pestel, Under Armour
Under Armour Inc. in September tapped Alessandro de Pestel as chief marketing officer, on the heels of a long cost-cutting and financial restructuring operation.
But the reputational troubles surfaced after he joined. In November, The Wall Street Journal reported that the company this year banned employees from expensing trips to strip clubs and described allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women. The story added to the continuing #MeToo movement as businesses come under pressure to weed out discrimination and bad behavior.
Founder and CEO Kevin Plank weeks later said that the sports-apparel company would take steps to improve its culture.
As consumers pay closer attention to the practices and values of the companies that make their products, Mr. de Pestel, who hails from fashion brands like Tommy Hilfiger and , will seek to convince them that Under Armour measures up.
--Christian Dior Parfums
An Under Armour spokeswoman said Mr. de Pestel wasn't available to comment for this article.
Write to Alexandra Bruell at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 24, 2018 13:08 ET (18:08 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.