CLOSE-UP: CLIENT OF THE WEEK - Neale ties Reebok with rugby/Reebok’s marketing chief is well suited to the sports brand, Claire Cozens says

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.

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

politics.



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.’



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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).