The Rugby World Cup got off to a good start for David Neale last
Friday. Firstly, because as the marketing director for Reebok, the
company that sponsors the Welsh team (which won its opening game), he
got some great publicity for his brand. And, secondly, because Neale is
an avid rugby fan who also happens to be Welsh.
Rarely do you find a marketing director and his job to be so well
suited: Neale says he jumped at the chance when he learned of the
vacancy at Reebok. He joined the company in July 1997 after the former
marketing director, Robert Fallow, left to take up the group marketing
director role at Orange.
Neale’s brief when he arrived at Reebok was to bring some focus to the
brand, which had been trying to be all things to all men, associating
itself with too many sports. Now the focus is on rugby, football and
track and field events and a key part of this is sponsorship - Reebok
sponsors the UK athletics team as well as the Welsh rugby squad.
But advertising is also ranked very highly. Reebok has just launched a
pounds 250,000 print and poster campaign through its advertising agency,
Lowe Howard-Spink, to coincide with the start of the World Cup. Each
execution features an image embroidered on a national team’s rugby
shirt, representing the characteristics of a well-known player. For
example, Rob Howley, who plays for Wales, is represented by a whirlwind
embroidered on a red shirt. Neale says he liked the ads because they are
’sports authentic’ - they focus on the key players.
Jeremy Bowles, the deputy managing director of Lowes and account
director for Reebok, says: ’David understands the value of brands and he
loves sport - it’s the perfect combination. He’s also a big Chelsea
supporter, which makes him the perfect client.’
Neale began his career in marketing in 1986, when he gained a place on
the Mars management training scheme after graduating in business and
His first brand assignment was on Galaxy, but the project that he
remembers best from his time at Mars was handling the rebranding of
Marathon as Snickers.
’I think my proudest achievement was successfully managing the name
change transition,’ he says. ’We started by doing a lot of evaluation of
the likely consumer reaction to the change. It seemed that reactions
would be quite negative so we took that into account in the marketing.
The campaign took the gamble of poking fun at the new name and it paid
off - sales actually increased.’
Neale spent 11 years at Mars, moving up the ranks to become marketing
manager for Mars ice-cream. As to his ambitions now, he refuses to be
drawn: ’I’ve got a pretty open mind about the future - I think that’s
the only way you can be nowadays. After the pleasure of working on a
brand like Reebok, it’s going to take a lot to drag me away.’