CTAM Summit: Kruse Gears Up For ESPN Marketing Job

Complete CTAM Summit 2010 Coverage

Carol Kruse will be jumping from one corporate media giant to another when she officially starts her new job as senior vice president of marketing for ESPN on Oct. 25.

A global brand marketing executive with more than 20 years of experience, Kruse has been with The Coca-Cola Company for nine years and led its global interactive marketing team as vice president for the past three.

In her new role, Kruse, succeeding Katie Lacey, will report to Sean Bratches, executive vice president, sales and marketing for ESPN at the company's New York office. There, she will be responsible for developing and managing all aspects of the ESPN brand, including domestic television, broadband, digital, mobile, radio and print media assets, as well as building upon the company's creative that includes its iconic "This Is SportsCenter" campaign. She will also provide a strategic marketing focus on ESPN's social networking strategies.

Kruse, in her first interview since accepting the job with ESPN, said she'll be "stewarding a great brand that consumers are really passionate about."

She said she didn't have an immediate task at hand: "We have a great team in place. I'll see some opportunities where I can help make a difference."

That's likely to fall in the advanced-media realm. "Both Sean [Bratches] and [ESPN chief] George [Bodenheimer] are excited about the digital and social experience," Kruse said. "We're going to be looking at additional opportunities there."

During the months ahead, she also will be facing such questions as "how are we going to keep [fans] attached and extend the products to new targets, whether that's to teens, women or with new properties."

While getting a lay of the land, Kruse will have some measure of continuity, working again with Weiden & Kennedy, ESPN's full-service agency that also listed Coke as a client. Kruse labeled the long-running 'This Is SportsCenter' campaign "brilliant. It's the perfect mix of sports authority and humor."

An avid Penn State football supporter, Kruse played soccer in high school and at Pomona College. She remains a big futbol fan, who kept abreast of the World Cup tournament across ESPN's TV, computer and mobile screens as she was traveling during FIFA's famed event. She anticipates playing a significant role with the 2011 Women's World Cup to which ESPN holds multimedia rights.

At Coca-Cola, Kruse helped pour the "My Coke Rewards" loyalty plan. Asked whether something similar would be in the cards for ESPN viewers/users, she replied: "Fan loyalty is obviously something I'm passionate about. I don't know yet if we're going to continue to communicate with fans as ESPN has been or just how we're going to build on that."