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Volume 21 No. 1
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Forty Under 40

Brett O’Brien comes across as an understated and laid-back executive, but beneath that veneer is a bold marketer willing to take big chances.

Never was that more evident than in 2011, when Mountain Dew sat down to renegotiate its title sponsorship of the Dew Tour. O’Brien, then Mountain Dew’s vice president of marketing, and PepsiCo’s sports team wanted to make fundamental changes to the event designed to increase participation of top skaters and BMX riders. He pushed for overhauling the seven-event series and turning it into a three-event series that featured new contests and better TV production.

The resulting tour, which debuted last year in Ocean City, Md., San Francisco, and Breckenridge, Colo., generated record video streams, more athlete participation, and the most cohesive and interactive sponsor village in Dew Tour history. It was heralded as a success by marketers at PepsiCo and athletes alike.

“He wasn’t afraid of changing the total number of events,” said Wade Martin, the former president of the Alliance of Action Sports, which runs the Dew Tour. “He just wanted to create a great experience. He’s a bold thinker, and he isn’t afraid to go with his gut and listen to people around him.”

It’s those traits that have defined O’Brien’s entire career. He started in sports marketing at Advantage International (now Octagon) 18 years ago and spent four years activating golf events and consulting for Northwest Airlines. After earning a degree at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, he joined PepsiCo, where he worked in the company’s multicultural marketing group, trying to get brands involved in everything from fashion and car culture to hip hop and the And1 street basketball movement. He joined Amp in 2001 and later shifted to Mountain Dew, where he recently spearheaded the brand’s bold marketing partnership with Lil Wayne and its DEWeezy ad campaign, which has helped the brand boost sales in urban markets.

Late last year, PepsiCo tapped him to become the senior vice president and general manager of Gatorade.

— Tripp Mickle

Age: 39
Title: Senior vice president, general manager
COMPANY: Gatorade
Education: Education: B.A., Georgetown University, MBA, Northwestern University
FAMILY: Wife, Jessica; son, Trafton (7); daughter, Josephine (4)
CAREER: Advantage International, Pepsi-Cola N.A.

WORST ADVICE RECEIVED: Dress like your boss

IPOD PLAYLIST: Biggie, Weezy, Nas, Prince, Dropkick Murphys, UGK
FAVORITE IPAD APPS: ESPN Boston, Casual Hoya, Grantland
PERSONALITY, IN A TWEET: “Its all good in the hood!”
REACTION TO FORTY UNDER 40 SELECTION: “Are you sure they mean me? Sweet!”
FANTASY JOB: Long snapper for the Patriots
FAVORITE MOVIE LINE: “It ain’t cool being no jive turkey so close to Thanksgiving.” (“Trading Places”)