Longtime marketing veteran Bozoma Saint John, who will be speaking at next week’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity on the topic of taking risks, has made another big leap of her own by leaving a top job at Uber to become CMO of Endeavor.
In the role, she will oversee marketing efforts for the entirety of the holding group formed by entertainment executives Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell in late 2017. Endeavor currently includes a wide range of entities from WME to The Miss Universe Organization, the Professional Bull Riders, the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Adweek’s 2016 U.S. Agency of the Year, Droga5.
“I won’t just focus on one brand anymore; I can cover lots of other brands,” Saint John told Adweek about her new job. “Maybe it would scare somebody else, but for me, I run toward this sort of thing.”
Emanuel praised her “strong creative vision” in a statement that echoed that sentiment, adding, “We’re excited for what it means when her vision comes face-to-face with our client roster and portfolio of brands who are shaping the cultural conversation around the world every day.” The incoming CMO will work closely with Ed Horne, president of Endeavor Global Marketing (which is an agency within the larger Endeavor group) to promote such brands as AB InBev, Visa, Under Armour and DirecTV.
Saint John sees many opportunities for Endeavor to evolve, with the ultimate goal of empowering brands to have a greater impact on pop culture. “How can, I as chief storyteller for Endeavor, use this moment to tell stories in a way that will change the way we interact with each other? I’m almost overwhelmed by it—almost, but not quite,” she said.
Her departure also marks a significant loss for Uber, which recently ran a big-budget campaign focused on CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s promise that “it’s time to move in a new direction.”
“I want to thank Boz for her contributions over the last year,” read a statement from the chief. “Boz joined Uber at a time when the company was hurting—but her energy, optimism and creativity have been a key part of our ongoing turnaround. Endeavor is lucky to have her, and I’m excited to watch her work in her new role.”
In 2017, The New York Times asked whether Saint John could be “the woman who will save Uber.” And as recently as last week’s ColorComm conference in Maui, she discussed an eight-hour conversation she had with former CEO Travis Kalanick that followed an intro from Arianna Huffington and eventually led to her taking the chief brand officer role. As she told the crowd of marketing and communications professionals gathered to hear her speak, “I’m the best at this job. Who else were they gonna call, Ghostbusters?”
When discussing her decision to leave the ride share giant, she told Adweek, “They’re still going through so much change [and] I didn’t feel I could do all I wanted to do there. That’s not a negative, it’s just the reality of having to focus on what matters to the company. It’s important for [Uber] to show the change rather than just talking about it.”
The newly-minted CMO, who started her career working at agencies like Arnold and DDB before moving to PepsiCo, said she also plans to use her increasing influence to speak out on issues of diversity, gender equality and the #MeToo movement that has shaken the entertainment and ad industries this year.
“I’ve long said that I didn’t happen upon the diversity and inclusion issue yesterday,” said Saint John when asked about this year’s Cannes Lions Festival and its increased focus on those very topics. “I’ve been a black woman literally my entire life. Now, in leadership positions, I am much more enabled to make real change. That might not be my job, per se … but I have much more weight to comment on these things.”
Pop culture, and the brands that help define it, should be recognized for their ability to help make change happen, she noted, rather than dismissed as “superficial.”
“Harassment [and] D&I feel like buzzwords right now,” she said, “but they are serious issues that are going to change us forever—and that’s a good thing.”