CMO of the Week: Champion’s Rich Mcleod - Brand Innovators

CMO of the Week: Champion’s Rich Mcleod

Richard Mcleod joined HanesBrands’ Champion brand as vice president, chief marketing officer of global, in December and has been building Champion’s global brand strategy and cross channel positioning ever since.

The former college athlete was attractive to the brand because of its meaningful heritage and the opportunity to take the brand global.  

“To be able to amplify a brand with such rich history and commitment to innovation is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Mcleod. “The Champion What Moves You campaign is getting positive engagement from consumers around the world and I’m excited to take it to the next level.”

Prior to joining Champion, Mcleod was SVP of brand at Canada Goose. He has also held senior marketing roles at Foot Locker, Hennessy and Bacardi USA. Brand Innovators caught up with Mcleod to talk about the new role, pushing boundaries and brand values.

What attracted you to Champion?

On a personal level, I love the brand’s connection to sport. Champion’s legacy hits home for me. From my time playing college basketball, to my wife’s Youth Olympic silver medal (200m) to my kids playing several sports, my home is filled with competitors and champions. 

How do you think about innovation?

Our job is to push boundaries through innovation and meet the needs of the consumer. Innovation just to innovate isn’t going to move the needle. As marketers, we need to think through what we are solving for and how can our brand play a role in fulfilling the consumer’s need?

In December, Champion launched the “Eco Future” project stream — a product pipeline that prioritizes environmental and community impact. We kicked off the initiative launching the Eco Future Reverse Weave with CiCLO® technology, a patented and science-based solution that allows synthetic textiles to behave more like natural fibers when they enter the environment. There’s more to come as part of Eco Future in 2024.

What is your approach to storytelling?

Champion is a lifestyle brand born from sport. For me, effective storytelling involves crafting a narrative that resonates with your audience and is able to clearly highlight your brand’s values, mission and unique identity. Focusing on authenticity, emotions, and connecting with your audience through engaging experiences is essential for creating compelling storytelling. 

Champion’s story is filled with a century of expertise and evolution and I’m excited to focus on our next chapter. To me, this next chapter is defined by the Champion What Moves You platform — it’s about building a canvas for culture, creativity and impact. It’s not about what we make, it’s about what we do with it, and that will be the lens of my storytelling approach for Champion in 2024.

How do you think brands should show up in culture?

Brands can engage in culture in a positive way by staying authentic, being deliberate about understanding their audience and contributing meaningfully to social conversations. Champion is part of the fabric of culture, but the consumer’s needs evolve and the world changes so fast, so we have to remain agile and continue to build genuine connections that align with our consumers values to maintain our presence within culture.

What is your approach to leadership?

Having experienced so many different roles in the marketing space over the years, I approach leadership with humility.  As a leader, you have to remove obstacles, provide clear direction and empower the team to be great. There also has to be a clear balance between work and personal life and leaders need to encourage their teams to find that balance. I prefer to navigate alongside the experts on my team, facilitating their success rather than dictating their actions.

How does your background at brands like Foot Locker, Hennessy and Bacardi helped shape your perspective in this role?

The key to long-term sustainable growth, no matter what brand you are growing, is finding ways to connect the product to the consumer with continued learning, listening and action. I have been on a journey of continuous learning and that journey has landed me at Champion where my career wins, and even the losses, will play a part in shaping the strategy for the Champion brand going forward. 

What marketing trends do you expect to be popular this year?

We’ll see a surge in consumer experiences as brands look for ways to reconnect with their audience.  While we’re still somewhat evolving in this post-pandemic world, I see brands moving away from digital-only experiences to more interactive real-life experiences that connect digitally. I think there will also be an increased emphasis on personalized content and a continued push around sustainability. I’m also excited to see what the future of AI looks like in marketing strategies.