- Syl Saller is stepping down as Diageo CMO after more than 20 years with the world's largest spirits company, according to news shared with Marketing Dive. Saller has held the chief marketer title since 2013.
- Saller is retiring to focus on leadership development and executive coaching. Cristina Diezhandino, global category director of scotch and managing director for Diageo's luxury Reserve line, will take over the CMO appointment effective July 1, 2020.
- Saller frequently won industry praise as steward of a brand portfolio that includes Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker and Guinness, particularly for her work around gender equality. She is one of the World Federation of Advertiser's top five global marketers and was recently awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire in The Queen's 2020 Honours list for services to business and equality.
Across two decades at Diageo and seven years as its CMO, Saller helped put the organization at the forefront of important discussions in the industry, including those around gender equality and marketers' ability to drive change. Saller's purpose-led work not only affected consumer-facing campaigns for an extensive list of brands, but also a company culture that in recent years ranked highly on the Thomson Reuters Diversity & Inclusion Index and Working Mother magazine's 100 Best Companies list.
In 2018, Diageo also committed to a Free the Bid initiative that calls on ad agencies and content producers to feature at least one female director as part of their bidding process to win its business.
"As advertisers we have the power to normalise gender equality by what we choose to show in our ads, and who we choose to produce them," Saller said in a statement around the Free the Bid pledge. "The advertising industry is moving in the right direction to achieving greater gender diversity, but it must move quicker."
On the product end, Saller built up Diageo's luxury Reserve offering and was called out in the announcement for significantly strengthening the group's core brands. She has also championed striking a better balance between data and creativity at a time when much of marketing is steering toward the analytical side.
Newly promoted CMO Diezhandino previously spearheaded Diageo's biggest investment in Scotch whisky tourism and has a deep background in emerging and developed markets. Saller for her part now looks to help guide the next generation of marketing talent through leadership development and executive coaching, alongside non-executive roles, the announcement said.
"Diageo is the most incredible company, with people who are talented, committed, and passionate," Saller said in a statement. "My goal is to go out into the world and develop more of those people."
Her retirement adds to a string of notable CMO departures in the past year that includes Unilever's Keith Weed, another U.K. marketing veteran well-regarded for his work on the purpose front. Saller is leaving during a particularly uncertain time for the global economy as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt a number of industries.
Diageo earlier this week said it would give roughly half a million gallons of 96% alcoholic grain-neutral spirit to hand sanitizer manufacturers at no cost as part of its efforts to combat the outbreak, according to Adweek.