- Buffalo Wild Wings has named Rita Patel as chief marketing officer, a press release announced.
- Currently a vice president at Target leading brand management, Patel will move into the role overseeing Buffalo Wild Wings’ advertising, digital innovation, menu development and brand experience on Sept. 14. The marketer has worked at several other consumer-facing brands, including Wrigley, MillerCoors and Jim Beam owner Beam Suntory.
- Patel will report directly to Buffalo Wild Wings President Lyle Tick. The CMO post at the largest sports bar brand in the U.S. has been vacant since June, when its previous holder, Seth Freeman, stepped down, with no reason given for his departure.
Patel joins Buffalo Wild Wings at a complicated time for the restaurant business, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend operations and steer consumers toward delivery and takeout options versus the dine-in experience that the sports bar is known for. Sports themselves are up in the air at both the professional and collegiate level, meaning typical lock-in sponsorship opportunities that arrive around the fall season are on shaky footing as well.
With the new CMO appointment, it’s possible that Buffalo Wild Wings is aiming to tackle these disruptions head-on through marketing and brand innovation. Under Freeman’s nearly two-year tenure in the role, Buffalo Wild Wings enacted a more aggressive approach to social media and digital marketing, which helped spur a creative revival for the chain. Freeman joined Buffalo Wild Wings just six months after it was acquired by Inspire Brands in 2018, a deal that also opened more flexibility when it came to running promotions like buy-one, get-one free deals.
Patel coming over from Target could key into areas where Buffalo Wild Wings is looking to ramp up its focus in the months ahead. Like other retailers, Target has prioritized e-commerce to meet surging demand from locked-down consumers during the pandemic. As COVID-19 caseloads continue to climb, many restaurants have had to reset their strategy and re-close locations, meaning channels like delivery and digital ordering are likely to receive priority over the long term. Buffalo Wild Wings in May started testing “GO” store concepts that are designed around accommodating takeout and delivery orders.
The news adds to a string of CMO appointments and turnover in recent months, as the C-suite role’s notorious volatility has not appeared to cool amid the health crisis. In the restaurant category, Domino’s Pizza earlier this month promoted Art D’Elia to executive vice president and chief marketing officer, looking to build on momentum from a delivery business that’s paid off in a big way during the pandemic. In June, McDonald’s named a new global CMO, Alistair Macrow, after the position sat empty for nearly a year.
While average CMO tenure has continued to drop year-on-year, the role has evolved in other ways. At the 100 most-advertised brands, 43% were women last year, up from 36% in 2018 and 28% in 2017, according to research firm Spencer Stuart. Female marketing executives last year additionally reported receiving higher pay than male marketing executives, a separate study by the CMO Council found.