Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 2
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Forty Under 40

Photo by: LISA GREEN
As president and global chief marketing officer for sports nutrition at Gatorade, Sarah Robb O’Hagan has spent the past year reshaping the company into more than just a sports beverage brand.

For O’Hagan, the key to Gatorade’s growth lies not only in increasing its share of the sports drink market, but also in steering the company into a sports nutrition brand while pushing new products into additional international markets.

“In the past year, the focus has been consolidating our brand positioning into being all about sports nutrition with our ‘Win From Within’ campaign,” said O’Hagan, who this year is a SportsBusiness Journal Forty Under 40 Hall of Famer. “The second thing has been our push beyond the U.S. in launching our ‘G’ series.”

After a stormy period at the company and the launch of its “G” series products, O’Hagan said that Gatorade is making up for lost market share with consistent growth over the past eight quarters while the push into sports nutritional products such as shakes and energy bars gains traction.

To date, Gatorade has introduced its new products beyond the U.S. into Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and the United Kingdom, with more markets to come.

“We are excited about moving beyond beverages,” O’Hagan said. “The new products have been an interesting journey. They are small in relation to the hydration business. We feel we are at the point where we have reinvented every building block of the business.”

The rebranding effort has not come without upheaval.

Parent company PepsiCo recently announced a restructuring that included layoffs at Gatorade, with other changes made at the top, including the announced retirement of O’Hagan’s boss, Massimo d’Amore, former CEO of PepsiCo Americas Beverages. O’Hagan now reports to Al Carey, new CEO of PepsiCo Americas Beverages, and though she has a new boss, her role won’t change.

“At the time when she took over we were trying to serve too many masters and we had lost our way,” Carey said. “Sarah immediately returned to the roots of the brand, which is nutrition for athletes. She has focused on that rather than trying to be the lowest-priced product in the market.”

Carey said that since O’Hagan was named president of Gatorade’s North American division in January 2011, the company has seen double-digit growth in sales, with continued increases expected in 2012.

“We really crashed in 2008 and 2009, but now we are sitting pretty good,” Carey said. “[Sarah] is an exceptional leader with a lot of potential in the company and she has shown us a new way to manage the brand.”

Other new initiatives to be led by O’Hagan this year include broadening the reach of the company’s vaunted sports sciences institute where an athlete’s fitness and nutritional levels can be measured. In years past, the sports science institute was limited to elite athletes signed by the brand. But Gatorade is now making its sports-performance testing more readily available to amateur athletes and other consumers through an online digital application and through various summer camps.

The company already has opened a satellite testing facility on the campus of the IMG Academy in Florida, with more access planned by the middle of this year.

“We realize that it is a big opportunity and we want to bring it to everyday consumers,” O’Hagan said. “We are going to open it up to a very broad audience.”

It’s a strategy that reflects O’Hagan’s creative marketing approach in reinventing Gatorade.

“Sarah’s style is very much outside the box,” Carey said. “She is totally focused on understanding the consumer and she lives the brand and the experience. It is a refreshing change.”

Age: 39
Title: President and global chief marketing officer for sports nutrition, Gatorade
Education: Bachelor of Commerce, University of Auckland
Family: Husband, Liam; children Sam (7), Joe (5) and Gabby (3)
Career: Travel (Air New Zealand and Virgin), gaming (Atari) and sports (Nike and Gatorade)
First job: Mini-bar stocker at the Park Royal Hotel, Christchurch, New Zealand
Last vacation: Breckenridge, Colo., at Christmas time
what's on your ipod? Madonna (getting ready for the tour!), Adele, Bruno Mars, Cee Lo Green, Kanye West, Queen
guilty pleasure: “Sex and the City” reruns on the TV at the gym
best stress release: Running
pet peeve: Airplanes that don’t have wireless on them
fantasy job: Being Princess Catherine … oh my God, the clothes!
what keeps you awake at night? Anything that has upset my kids
business advice: Well-behaved women rarely make history.