PepsiCo has named Brett O'Brien to lead Gatorade as senior VP-general manager.
In selecting Mr. O'Brien, the company is entrusting its sports-nutrition behemoth to a seasoned marketer who has had tremendous success in positioning Mtn Dew as a digital innovator and favorite of millennials.
"Brett is a tremendous leader whose efforts have led to incredible results for our business -- particularly on Mountain Dew, the number one flavored CSD [carbonated soft drink] in the United States," wrote Debra Crew, president PepsiCo Americas Beverages, in an internal memo obtained by Ad Age . "Under Brett's guidance, the Dew team has taken the brand's legacy of fan engagement to new levels and partnered with athletes in groundbreaking ways."
Most recently, Mr. O'Brien served as VP-marketing for Mtn Dew, Flavors and Amp Energy. He fills the role vacated by Sarah Robb O'Hagan, who had been credited with turning around the brand's sales in recent years. She left in August to become president of Equinox, the fitness club chain.
Mr. O'Brien's work on the Mtn Dew brand, specifically the innovative Dewmocracy program, led to a nod on Ad Age 's Digital A-List in 2010. For that program, Mr. O'Brien shifted almost entirely online a marketing budget representing more than $100 million in sales. Over the course of more than a year, the brand tapped its own consumers to build line extensions from the flavor up and delved deep into online channels to spread the word.
That digital know-how and millennial expertise will come in handy in working on the Gatorade brand, which has doubled down on teen athletes in recent years. The brand has positioned itself as an innovator in the sports-nutrition space, declaring that what athletes put into their bodies is just as important as what they put on them.
Mr. O'Brien will be one of few male leaders at the sports brand. For most of the last quarter of a century, the branding of the sports drink of choice for hulking linebackers and towering centers has been handled by women. Today, 10 of the key leaders for the PepsiCo brand are women, with their responsibilities ranging from sales and communications to finance and research and development.
Mr. O'Brien joined PepsiCo in 2000 and has held a variety of roles in the Pepsi marketing organization. Prior to joining the beverage and snack giant, he spent four years with Advantage International Sports Marketing, now Octagon Sports. He earned his MBA from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and his B.A. from Georgetown. According to the memo, he's a snowboarder, skateboarder and has completed the New York City Marathon. He will be relocating with his family to Chicago, where Gatorade is headquartered.