NFL names Activision exec Tim Ellis as its new CMO

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Tim Elllis.
Tim Elllis. Credit: NFL

Tim Ellis, the chief marketing officer at Activision for the past seven years, is jumping from the video game giant to the National Football League, where he is taking over as CMO. He succeeds Dawn Hudson, who stepped down earlier this year.

Ellis joins the NFL as the league confronts declining TV ratings and a constant barrage of attacks from President Donald Trump, who has criticized players who don't kneel during the national anthem to protest police violence and social inequities. The NFL remains a rating behemoth, accounting for 37 of the year's top 50 broadcasts last season. But it lost 9 percent of its TV audience last season from the year prior.

Hudson's approach recently was to use the league's marketing budget to focus on the action between the lines, and less so on the controversies outside of the game. "We have to do everything we can to make sure that we fulfill what that broad fan base is looking for, and not inadvertently become politicized one side or another," she told Ad Age last year. "I respect what [the players] are doing. I [also] respect those that are upset about it," she said. "I have to make sure we are concentrating on the game on the field, the action that [the fans] love."

The league and its players are still trying to come to terms on a national anthem policy for this season, which begins Sept. 6. Trump has attempted to keep the anthem issue in the spotlight at his political rallies by criticizing TV networks for not broadcasting the anthem, even though that has not been a usual practice.

Ellis previously held marketing executive positions at Volkswagen of America and Volvo. Activision, whose titles include "Call of Duty," "Destiny" and "Skylanders," is part of Activision Blizzard.

At the NFL, Ellis will assume oversight over the entire marketing organization, including research, content development, consumer engagement, advertising, promotions, marketing operations and branding.

"Tim's marketing innovation experience with reaching new audiences via emerging platforms, and driving engagement using creative storytelling will further strengthen the NFL brand," said Maryann Turcke, the NFL's chief operating officer, to whom Ellis will report. He starts Sept. 17.

The NFL's lead creative agency is Grey, which is behind a campaign for the new season that is expected to debut after Labor Day.

"Tim has made many contributions over the years as an innovative marketing leader for Activision," Activision said in a statement. "He has been the driving force behind some of our most groundbreaking, global campaigns." A representative did not immediately provide an answer when asked about his replacement as CMO.

Activision in July renewed its relationship with 72andSunny after a review.

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