Nationwide’s Sara Bennison named bravest leader by Marketing Society

Bennison, who has spoken out against online hate, won from shortlist of seven.

Bennison: joined Nationwide after eight years at Barclays
Bennison: joined Nationwide after eight years at Barclays

The Marketing Society has named Sara Bennison, chief product and marketing officer at Nationwide, as its 2020 Bravest Marketing Leader of the Year.

In an online ceremony yesterday evening (Wednesday), Bennison, who joined the building society in 2016 from Barclays, emerged victorious against six other shortlisted marketers

  • Katie Evans, Burger King

  • Chris Pitt, HSBC

  • Hannah Squirrell, Greggs

  • Ellie Norman, Formula One

  • Ruth Rowan, NTT

  • Rufus Radcliffe, ITV

Bennison was chosen as the winner by a panel of judges led by Marketing Society president Syl Saller, chief marketing officer at Diageo until her retirement from the company earlier this month.

Bennison wrote in Campaign in 2017 about her fears that marketers were turning a blind eye to hatred and abuse in online environments. Since then, the issue has rapidly climbed up the social and business agenda, culminating in an advertiser boycott of Facebook involving many leading brands over the platform’s alleged tolerance of hate speech.

Commenting on the judges’ choice, Sophie Devonshire, chief executive of The Marketing Society, said: “Sara is a marketing leader who genuinely wants to make a difference. Along with her team at Nationwide, her brave approach to tackling online hate has been inspirational and she has proved that being inclusive helps the bottom line, too, with Nationwide membership levels ever increasing.

“Her track record speaks for itself – there have been so many memorable and excellent campaigns under her watch. She continues to inspire everyone around her to be brave, take risks and push boundaries, with the aim of making a real impact on business and in society. I’m delighted that she is our Bravest Marketing Leader of 2020.”

Other winners at The Marketing Society’s Brave Awards include Sebastian Kroth, brand director, western Europe, at Coca-Cola, who was named One to Watch; and Guinness, which took the Grand Prix (Brand Communication) for the “Guinness clear” campaign, created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. The rest of the winners can be found here.

Past winners of the marketing leader award – the word "Brave" was added to its name last year, in line with The Marketing Society's positioning – include Mars' Mitch Oliver, Direct Line's Mark Evans, Just Eat's Barnaby Dawe and McDonald's Alistair Macrow.

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