By Barry Janoff
September 22, 2014: The NFL, looking to fill its vacant CMO chair, has not strayed too far from the family.
The league has named Dawn Hudson to the position, a move that comes at a volatile time for the NFL and its marketing partners.
Hudson joins the NFL from The Parthenon Group, a Boston-based strategic consulting firm, where for the past five years she served as vice chairman.
Prior to that, she spent 11 years at NFL marketing partner PepsiCo, most recently as president and CEO for Pepsi-Cola North America. She also held other senior level positions, including lead marketer for Pepsi-Cola North America and Frito-Lay International. She parted with the company in late 2007 when PepsiCo was undertaking a significant internal reorganization.
Hudson fills a position previously held by Mark Waller, who in August shifted his focus to work exclusively on the growth of the NFL's international business. According to the league, Hudson will "oversee the development, direction and implementation of all marketing activities for the NFL."
The hiring of Hudson, who officially begins her duties in October, comes as the NFL and its marketing partners are at odds over the league's handling of domestic violence situations involving several players, most notably Ray Rice, and a charge of child abuse brought against Adrian Peterson.
Among those to speak out against the league and commissioner Roger Goodell was Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO for PepsiCo, who last week said in a statement, "As a mother, a wife and a passionate football fan, I am deeply disturbed that the repugnant behavior of a few players and the NFL's acknowledged mishandling of these issues, is casting a cloud over the integrity of the league and the reputations of the majority of players who've dedicated their lives to a career they love.
"There is no middle ground," Nooyi said. "The behaviors are disgusting, absolutely unacceptable and completely fly in the face of the values we at PepsiCo believe in and cherish.”
Anheuser-Busch, FedEx, Nike and Verizon were also among the NFL's partners to express their dismay at the situation. Procter & Gamble went so far as to severe its NFL involvement with a breast cancer awareness activation in October under its Crest banner, but said it would still proceed with the activation and make a planned $100,000 donation to the American Cancer Society.
PepsiCo's association with the league dates back to 1984, with a current deal that extends through the 2022 season under which Pepsi, Gatorade, Frito-Lay, Tropicana and Quaker Oats continue to be official brands with the league in their respective categories.
Pepsi, an official NFL brand since 2002, was title sponsor of the Super Bowl XLI Half Time Show in 2007 (headlined by Prince), then took over from Bridgestone for Super Bowl XLVII (2013) in a deal that currently runs through Super Bowl 50 in 2016 (to be played in Levi's Stadium).
Among other activations, Pepsi is title sponsor for the NFL's Rookie of the Week and Rookie of the Year platform.
"I am excited to join the NFL where I will be able to combine two of my passions — sports and marketing," Hudson said in a statement. "Sports have always played a big role in my life and in my career. While at Pepsi, I worked with numerous sports properties, including the NFL, and I also served as a LGPA board member."
Before joining PepsiCo, Hudson cut her marketing and advertising teeth at such agencies as DMB&B and Omnicom.
Waller, who was named NFL svp-marketing in 2006, became the league's first CMO in September 2009.
According to Goodell, "We are looking forward to working with Dawn, whose experience as a leader and marketer will help further connect the NFL with fans."
And marketing partners, as well.
In her statement last week, PepsiCo's Nooyi said she feels Goodell would "do the right thing for the league in light of the serious issues it is facing [to] effect positive change . . . How they handle these cases going forward can help shape how we, as a nation, as a society and as individuals treat domestic violence and child abuse."
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