Athleta names interim CMO | Marketing Dive

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • Athleta has named a new interim chief marketing officer, Tom Herbst, former CMO of the North Face, Gap confirmed to Retail Dive in an email. Herbst held the role at the North Face for three years, exiting in 2019, according to LinkedIn. At Athleta, he will “lead the brand’s marketing team and continue to drive strategies, programming and creative while we look to permanently fill the role,” the company said.
  • Herbst succeeds Sheila Shekar Pollak, who left the company in July after more than nine years in various roles at Athleta, and almost two as CMO. She was at Gap, Inc. for 16 years. Pollak is now the senior vice president and CMO of Biossance, according to LinkedIn
  • The news comes after the CMO of the Gap brand departed in January. At the time, the company said it would be “redefining” the role of the CMO. Gap confirmed to Retail Dive Wednesday that Mary Alderete is currently serving as CMO of Gap, and took over that role in February from her previous position as CMO of Banana Republic. “Mary is a creative and strategic leader with more than 20 years of marketing, advertising, brand management and amazing denim experience from various apparel brands,” the company said in a statement.

Dive Insight:

During Pollak’s time at Athleta, the Gap-owned athletics brand embraced its place as a women-focused brand, emphasizing empowerment through marketing campaigns like Power of She and Stay in the Game.

Pollak was with Athleta when Gap introduced Hill City, its men’s athleisure brand, in October 2018. Hill City was built on many of the same tenets as Athleta and sold product at some Athleta stores when it launched, but it was kept intentionally separate from Athleta from the start.

In talking to Retail Dive last year about the evolving sportswear market, Pollak noted that Athleta wanted to keep its place as a company that “uniquely delivers for women and girls,” which is why Hill City was launched as a separate brand. In June, Gap announced it would shutter Hill City over the course of this year, as the pandemic took its toll.

“We are living in unprecedented times with unprecedented consequences, forcing us all to make and face tough calls,” the company said in a blog post at the time.

Shuffling in the marketing department comes at a tumultuous time for Gap, which ousted its CEO in November and then announced the departure of the former CMO of Gap, Alegra O’Hare, two months later. While O’Hare’s spot has been filled internally by Alderete, the company is now also in search of a new Banana Republic CMO. In the meantime, the company said it has internal talent in the form of Mike Janover serving as the interim head of marketing. He joined from ModCloth last year, and has “20+ years of experience in strategic market planning, brand platform development and consumer engagement.”

Herbst, Pollak’s successor at Athleta, was named on Forbes’ 2018 list of the world’s most influential CMOs for two diversity and inclusion campaigns released while at the North Face, and also has experience at Diageo.

“I am super excited to announce my next engagement as the interim CMO at Athleta,” Herbst said in a LinkedIn post. “They are a phenomenal group of people with a great brand and a business that is on fire. As a father of two daughters, a husband, son and human being I am excited to help them activate the Power of She and drive some real cultural change.”

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