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BT is a rarity in that it is a FTSE100 company that has appointed a marketer as its chief executive. Former Procter & Gamble man Gavin Patterson was promoted to chief executive of BT in 2013, replacing the outgoing Ian Livingston, who left to become Minister of State for Trade and Investment.
Patterson’s tenure has already been extremely eventful. During it, BT has acquired mobile firm EE for £12.5bn and – so far – fought off a challenge to spin off BT Openreach.
Under Patterson the company has also poured huge investment into sport as it takes on Sky’s dominance of TV sport coverage. Recent ad campaigns have featured footballers Gareth Bale and Rio Ferdinand, comedy actress Rebel Wilson and Star Wars actor Ewan McGregor. Platoon and Spider-Man actor Willem Dafoe was brought on board in order to launch the BT Mobile proposition, which the company has introduced as part of a quad-play offer.
Patterson has insisted EE will remain as a standalone brand for the time being, but analysts are predicting it will eventually be subsumed into the BT brand.
For now, BT has restructured its business into six constituent parts, creating two consumer-facing units in the form of EE and BT Consumer. The acquisition of EE has given BT access to a vast retail network that it has not previously had, which will enable it to have much more face-to-face interaction with customers.
BT’s long-standing marketing and brand director Suzi Williams left the company last year after a decade in the role. During her time at BT, the firm’s brand value jumped from £4bn to £11bn and she also oversaw the sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Her replacement is Zaid Al-Qassab who, like Patterson, is a former P&G marketer and has taken on the new role of chief brand officer. Al-Qassab’s immediate focus will be promoting BT’s UEFA Champions League coverage and taking on Virgin and Sky.
BT will also be hoping to gain significant traction in the extremely lucrative mobile sector, having killed the goose that lays the golden egg in its past. The company spun off its BT Cellnet business in 2001 to alleviate debts and, once liberated from BT’s yoke, Cellnet rebranded as O2 and helped usher in the smartphone revolution in the UK by becoming the official launch partner of Apple’s iPhone.
O2 was sold to Telefónica in 2005 for £17bn, a price tag significantly higher than the one EE fetched in its sale to BT.
BT – formerly a publicly owned company – still has a reputation for a lack of innovation and worsening customer service record. Commentators believe its acquisition of EE can help it inject a bit of innovation into the firm. For too long, BT has been viewed as a monolith that owes its position to certain monopolies in the market. But this could all change as it once again jumps into the mobile market and invests heavily in football, the nation’s favourite sport.