The Star's first CMO creates all-new marketing team

The Star Entertainment Group overhauls its marketing structure and recruits four senior marketing specialists as part of its unified brand and growth strategy

George Hughes
George Hughes

The Star Entertainment Group’s first CMO has recruited four senior marketing specialists and promoted one longstanding staffer as part of a new-look, unified marketing team focused on driving brand growth nationally.

The fresh-faced marketing function is under the direction of George Hughes, who was appointed CMO seven months ago as part of a strategic investment into building a cohesive and coordinate brand and marketing approach for the group’s three owned and operated properties: The Star Sydney, The Star Gold Coast and Treasury Brisbane.

Hughes told CMO the decision to bring on a chief marketing officer was the first step in recognising the need for a single brand strategy and approach that could realise the organisation’s lifestyle and entertainment ambitions.

Over the next five years, he noted The Star could invest as much as $5 billion into further developing its tourism and entertainments destinations across South East Queensland and Sydney. This made it vital a new marketing structure be put in place that can respond accordingly, elevate the customer, and position the combination of venues and offerings in a way that’s engaging and relevant.

Previously, the emphasis has been on generalist state-based focus and capability. The new-look team see us bringing together specialist, functional expertise and talent both existing within the team as well, as well as that available outside the business across a variety of sectors, Hughes said.

New recruits include Melanie Luque, who joins as general manager of digital marketing. She was previously the marketing director for the 12WBT program created by fitness guru and celebrity, Michelle Bridges.  

Qantas veteran and head of brand and marketing programs, Anthony Cohen, has also come on-board as general manager of brand, sponsorships and PR, after 16 years with the airline carrier.

Marnie Darren, meanwhile, joins in the newly created role of managing partner, creative agency, after 20 years in the advertising and marketing industry. This includes a stint with TBWA in New York working on brands such as H&M Global, Hearts On Fire, Michelin and Pernod Ricard.  

Another external hire is Nick Turner, who has assumed the general manager of commercial marketing (NSW) post after a stint as general manager of consumer marketing and sales at News Corporation. He also has held several senior roles in the FMCG sector at companies such as Nestle and Reckitt Benckiser.

Finally, existing employee, Shalon Lawler, has been appointed general manager of commercial marketing (Queensland) and has worked for The Star for 15 years across planning, managing and executing marketing campaigns.

“These new recruits offer deep functional expertise and strong leadership and the ability to work in matrix environments as well as knowledge of how to work in a 24/7 business,” Hughes said. “It’s about building the future of the business.”

The other key thing about the marketing team is the diversity of thought, expertise and background they provide, Hughes said. It also reflects the combination of internal talent acquisition as well as head hunting used to build out a team that he believed “could get the best out of each other”.

Importantly, all demonstrated clear commercial acumen, Hughes said – something he believed was too often missing from the attributes of modern marketing managers in Australia.

“The second thing is their customer insights approach, which can then be translated through their functional expertise,” he added.

Such a sizeable commitment to marketing takes considerable executive buy-in. Hughes said his appointment as The Star’s first CMO was arguably the first indicator of the group’s willingness to invest in marketing capability. What also helped is having a commercially minded former CFO and now CEO who identified the need to invest for growth, he said.

“We’re fortunate we have an experienced commercial leader who saw the need for this investment, but is also the first to say he’s not a marketer and who looks to bring in expertise,” Hughes said. “To get this this point, we’ve had an ongoing dialogue to first create the strategy, identify, talk about the challenges and then invest to overcome them.”

Check out other Australian businesses reshaping their marketing functions:

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