Chief Marketing Officers take Centre Stage Across the Global Sports Industry

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Once upon a time, marketing budget and marketing talent was often high on the cut list when sports organisations faced tough times.  Marketing chiefs in the 2000s, often led by less measurable focus on brand and communications and with chunky agency budgets, might have been high up the CFOs ‘at risk’ list during a pandemic.

However, through the past decade the Chief Marketing Officer has become increasingly influential to an organisation’s executive team.  We anticipate that post Covid-19, the modern day CMO is now one of, if not the, key offsider to the CEO.

The CMO role in sport has changed dramatically; fuelled by digital transformation, customer data and insight that affords tech savvy marketeers the key to organisational growth and fan / supporter engagement.

The gold-standard background and experience for ‘best-practice’ CMOs has also shifted.  The traditional global FMCG gold stamp pre-2000 is now less of a fast-track for ambitious marketers than it once was.

Today this ‘classic marketing training’, while merited, becomes significantly more empowered when coupled with experience in digitally focused roles and/or tech driven businesses highly focused on delivering lifetime customer value. The stereotyped rotational training backgrounds in Mars or Unilever instead replaced by a background in Tech and Data or FAANG companies.

In the past three months, SRI has spoken to dozens of CEOs and CMOs, as well as conducting CMO searches for leading organisations to develop our understanding of the core competencies that CMOs will need going forward.

We have identified 5 key priorities for sports CMOs: Customer, Digital, Innovation, Growth & Brand:

The Growth / Customer / Commercial /Technology Overlap

In addition to an elevation in profile, it is increasingly common for the Chief Marketing Officer to be retitled the Chief Growth Officer or Chief Customer Officer. Regardless of title the Chief Marketing / Growth / Customer Officer works hand in hand with the Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Technology Officer at the epicentre of any successful business.

Obviously no two roles or companies are the same and the marketing and tech mix are organisation and strategy dependent, but the themes and priorities around Customer, Digital, Innovation, Brand and Growth remain the same.

The modern day CMO is tech and data savvy, commercial in orientation and a key participant in digital transformation working with the CTO or CIO.

In the past, it was not uncommon to see a level of friction between the old-school ‘Commercial’ and ‘Marketing’ functions. However, in today’s uber connected world, any competitive tension between these departments will hamper organisational progress. In fact when this partnership is seamless, great things can happen.

SRI operates across the convergent world of Sport, Media, Entertainment, Technology and Content and has developed global insight into the technical and behavioural qualities that define those special individuals who move effortlessly from one industry to another, injecting dynamism and fresh perspectives.


Jonathan Harris

Managing Partner, ANZ
m: : +61 (0) 413 939 993