Kiwi marketing high-flyer brings fizz to resort

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Two weeks ago, Kiwi Sarah Robb O’Hagan was soaking up Super Bowl atmosphere with victorious Giants quarterback Eli Manning. 

This week the PepsiCo Gatorade president for North America and global chief marketing officer flew to Queenstown, where she speaks at the Entrepren­­­eurs’ Organisation Queens­­town University conference tomorrow. 

On any given day, the 39-year-old marketing super­star rubs shoulders with Gatorade-sponsored athletes like Manning, or the world’s fastest man Usain Boult. 

“When you spend time with an athlete and understand their mind and how they think and what it takes to win, you can apply a lot of lessons to business,” she explains. 

Robb O’Hagan is one of the prestigious guest speakers at the sold-out, four-day conference, which draws 400 influential businesspeople from around the world to Queenstown’s Heritage Hotel till Saturday. 

The daughter of All Black John Buxton plans to talk about how consumer business has changed globally in the past 10 years – and how big brands have had to adapt. 

“We’re a really interesting example of a big $7 billion global trademark that’s really had to reinvent itself over the past few years and think much more entrepreneurially in order to do it.” 

She likens the approach to another of Gatorade’s athletes – tennis champion Serena Williams. 

“Three or four years ago she went through a pretty tough time in her career – she got to about 140th in the world before regrouping and coming back,” Robb O’Hagan explains. 

“It was a similar time when our business was going through some challenges because of the macro-economic environment, and she was an awesome source of inspiration for me personally, but also for the team – she helped us believe we could be winners, because we were. 

“The heart of a champion is always there, and it’s just about believing you can win again.” 

Robb O’Hagan began her winning career with Air New Zealand after graduating in marketing from Auckland University. 

In her twenties, she moved to the United States to work for Sir Richard Branson’s airline Virgin Atlantic Airways, before then heading to video-game brand Atari and later Nike. 

She met and married former Queenstowner Liam Robb O’Hagan, a Route-burn track guide, and they have three children. 

In 2009 she was named among Forbes magazine’s Most Powerful Women In Sports and has been twice named in the top 40 Under-40 lists by the Sports Business Journal. 

Robb O’Hagan’s grateful for the opportunities and experience that have led to her success and loves being able to give back at conferences such as EO. 

“For me, the opportunity to be able to help be part of that agenda is a pretty special one.”