- The Walt Disney Company has named its first chief brand officer in Asad Ayaz, according to a news release. The newly created role will report directly to CEO Bob Iger.
- As chief brand officer, Ayaz will spearhead marketing for the holistic Disney brand, including setting franchise priorities and overseeing a global consumer research and analytics unit. An early effort under the executive’s purview is the “Disney100” campaign celebrating the company’s 100th anniversary this year.
- Ayaz is also keeping his title as president of marketing for The Walt Disney Studios, which he has held since 2018. Adding the chief brand officer appointment comes as Iger reorganizes Disney during a high-pressure period for the entertainment giant.
Introducing a chief brand officer could bring more cohesion to Disney’s marketing across a wide-ranging media ecosystem. The entertainment marketer’s priorities have shifted to put greater emphasis on areas like streaming, which has weighed on the bottom line and resulted in some executive shuffling. Ayaz, an 18-year company veteran, is tasked with promoting the Disney brand at the global level, along with guiding partnerships, a research and analytics function and strategy for channels including digital and social media.
One of Ayaz’s first big tasks is stewarding a “Disney100” campaign around the company’s centennial in the fall, making the timing of his promotion “noteworthy and consequential,” Iger said in a press statement. Ayaz previously led the development of a special look spot for the anniversary that ran during the Super Bowl in February. The executive also worked on a logo refresh around Disney100 that now appears at the start of all Disney-branded movies.
As president of marketing for Disney’s studios division — a role he continues to hold — Ayaz has a broad mandate marketing films and TV series from Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm and 20th Century Studios. Recently, he has taken over marketing leadership for Disney+ globally.
Ayaz has executed campaigns for some of Disney’s largest releases during his nearly two-decade tenure at the company, including “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” and last winter’s box office smash, “Avatar: The Way of Water.” The announcement said he has had a hand in campaigns for 13 of the top 15 biggest box office debuts of all time.
Under the chief brand officer mantle, Ayaz will have a direct line to CEO Iger in picking which franchises and partnerships to prioritize. A streamlining for marketing leadership is just one of several moves Iger has made since rejoining the company in November. This week, Disney also named Joe Earley as president of its direct-to-consumer segment that oversees Disney+ and Hulu.
Iger’s return shocked many industry watchers but came as Disney underperformed in both its media and parks businesses under prior CEO Bob Chapek, who was hand-picked by Iger. Disney+ has been a focus point for the company in recent years and took even more of the spotlight when the pandemic shuttered theaters. But the streaming bet has proved expensive, while executives have warned that subscriber growth could taper off amid a fiercely competitive market. Disney+ launched an ad-supported tier late last year to generate more revenue.
Disney has also gotten into political spats with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over policies like his so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill. Disney's brand in a broader sense has become a frequent target of right-wing critics who view its approach as overly progressive.
Iger’s restructuring since again taking the reins is expected to save the company $5.5 billion, according to Bloomberg. The strategy recently included a round of layoffs that affected about 7,000 employees and eliminated Disney’s experimental metaverse division.