Syl Saller steps down as Diageo’s chief marketing officer

One of the UK’s highest profile marketers, known for her commitment to diversity and inclusion, Syl Saller has is retiring from the her role as chief marketing officer at Diageo, where she has worked since 1999.

Saller started out at the drinks company as GB marketing director, and was appointed global CMO in 2013. Her biggest contributions have been to build its Reserve luxury brands business, and to keep up momentum on innovation.

The new CMO at Diageo is Cristina Diezhandino, global category director for scotch and managing director for Reserve. When she takes over in July, London-based Diezhandino will face some very big challenges. Home drinking might be on the up due to coronavirus, but revenues from pubs and clubs are already decimated — Diageo was already warning of a £200 million profit hit back in February when the European impact of Covid-19 was unclear.

Under Diezhandino’s leadership, Diageo’s Reserve brands division, which includes Johnnie Walker, Tanqueray gin, and Ciroc vodka, has risen from number three in luxury market share to number 1. She has also overseen Diageo’s investment in Scotch Whisky tourism, including an immersive Johnnie Walker visitor experience in Edinburgh.

Diezhandino was previously the general manager for Diageo Central America & Caribbean, responsible for the business in more than 37 territories, and was also regional marketing and innovation director for Diageo Africa.

Saller said: ‘Deciding to leave and embark on the next stage of my career is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. Diageo is the most incredible company, with people who are talented, committed, and passionate. My goal is to go out into the world and develop more of those people. I am very proud of what I’m leaving behind – a strong function that is committed to getting better by learning and growing themselves. I’m even more thrilled that Cristina has been appointed our new CMO – she is a remarkable leader, driven by both performance and creativity. Cristina has a deep understanding of brands, markets and operations and is widely respected, unflappable with deep compassion for others.’

Diezhandino said: ‘I’m delighted to take on the role of CMO and continue to build on Syl’s tremendous legacy. Diageo’s purpose of ‘celebrating life every day, everywhere’ is very meaningful to me.”

Ivan Menezes, Diageo CEO, said: ‘I have had the privilege to work closely with Syl over many years and we have enjoyed an amazing partnership. Syl has always held herself and colleagues to the highest standards while showing great empathy for our people and their success.Thanks to Syl, our pipeline of marketing talent has never been stronger. Cristina has consistently shown herself to be a widely respected and resilient leader, able to build high performing teams across geographies and businesses and I look forward to continued brand growth under her leadership.’

Saller was awarded a CBE in The Queen’s 2020 Honours list for services to business and equality, and remains president of the Marketing Society and serves as an active board member and coach for the Marketing Academy.

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