After twenty years of outstanding service Syl Saller, chief marketing officer, has decided to retire from Diageo and chart her next decade in a portfolio career, focused on leadership development, executive coaching, alongside non-executive roles. Cristina Diezhandino, global category director Scotch and managing director for Reserve, Diageo’s luxury brands business, is promoted to chief marketing officer, effective 1st July 2020.
Syl has had a remarkable career in Diageo and leaves a legacy of transformation. Starting as the GB marketing director in 1999, she quickly made Diageo one of the most sought-after companies for talent by developing and attracting the very best people. Appointed chief marketing officer in 2013, her accomplishments are too many to list in full, but she has created an outstanding team that has significantly strengthened Diageo’s core brands, built a Reserve business that is unparalleled and ensured Innovation makes a strategic contribution to growth. Thanks to Syl’s leadership, Diageo is now world class in design, planning and beverage research and development.
As one of the World Federation of Advertising’s top five Global Marketers, Syl has been consistently recognised externally and was awarded a CBE in The Queen’s 2020 Honours list for services to business and equality. Syl is well known as a leading voice for greater diversity within the creative industries and as an active champion of progressive gender portrayal in advertising. She remains president of the marketing society and serves as an active board member and coach for the Marketing Academy.
Currently global category director for Scotch and managing director for Reserve, Cristina has extensive experience across marketing and general management with deep experience in both emerging and developed markets. Cristina has led Diageo’s work to fuel the consumer appeal of Scotch, including for iconic brands like Johnnie Walker and Buchanan’s. Under her leadership, Diageo’s Reserve brands division has risen from #3 in luxury market share to #1 and Johnnie Walker grew faster than international whiskey. Cristina has also overseen Diageo’s biggest single investment in Scotch Whisky tourism, including major work to create a state-of-the-art immersive Johnnie Walker visitor experience in Edinburgh, as well as the transformation of our visitor centres across Scotland’s four corners.
Prior to her Scotch and Reserve role, Cristina was the general manager for Diageo Central America and Caribbean, responsible for Diageo’s business in over 37 territories, successfully leading an extensive distributor network and commercial team. Cristina has also held key roles including as regional marketing and innovation director for Diageo Africa – where she was also a director on the East Africa Breweries (EABL) board – and as global brand director Whisky Portfolio and Gins and Johnnie Walker. Cristina will be based in London.
Ivan Menezes, chief executive, Diageo, commented: ‘I have had the privilege to work closely with Syl over many years and we have enjoyed an amazing partnership. Syl has always held herself and colleagues to the highest standards while showing great empathy for our people and their success. We are all hugely grateful for her leadership impact in delivering Diageo’s performance and building our reputation as a world class consumer marketing company.
‘Thanks to Syl, our pipeline of marketing talent has never been stronger, and I am delighted that Cristina will be our new CMO. Cristina has consistently shown herself to be a widely respected and resilient leader, able to build high performing teams across geographies and businesses and I look forward to continued brand growth under her leadership.’
Syl Saller commented: ‘Deciding to leave and embark on the next stage of my career is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. Diageo is the most incredible company, with people who are talented, committed, and passionate. My goal is to go out into the world and develop more of those people. I am very proud of what I’m leaving behind – a strong function that is committed to getting better by learning and growing themselves. I’m even more thrilled that Cristina has been appointed our new CMO – she is a remarkable leader, driven by both performance and creativity. Cristina has a deep understanding of brands, markets and operations and is widely respected, unflappable with deep compassion for others.’
Cristina Diezhandino commented: ‘I’m delighted to take on the role of CMO and continue to build on Syl’s tremendous legacy. Diageo’s purpose of “celebrating life every day, everywhere” is very meaningful to me. Our business celebrates the special moments we all relish, and the occasions, big or small. Our iconic brands are cherished across the world, and our Marketing community truly aims to be at the forefront of our industry. I look forward to building the future of our brands and our business with the rest of the very talented Diageo team.’view more - Hires, Wins & Business