Bozoma Saint John, former head of Pepsi-Cola North America’s music and entertainment marketing group, has joined Beats Music as its new senior vice president, head of global marketing. Effective April 14, Saint John will lead marketing strategy, brand collaborations (with AT&T, Target, Chevrolet and others) and align with sister company Beats Electronics, among other duties. She will report to Beats Music CEO Ian Rogers and be based out of the company’s Santa Monica headquarters.
A well-known presence in music industry circles for Pepsi’s sponsorship of key events like the Grammys, Super Bowl, MTV Video Music Awards, IHeartRadio, CMA Awards and FanFest and Billboard’s Summer Beats music series, Saint John often ran in the same circles as Beats By Dre executives like Rogers, co-founder Jimmy Iovine, chief creative officer Trent Reznor, president-COO Luke Wood and exec-VP marketing Omar Johnson. “You find a lot of brands who are in the pop culture space are always in the same places, really,” she says. “We got to talking about what the opportunity could be for me at Beats Music, and how I could help with their vision and bring it full circle,” she says.
What ultimately sold Saint John, however, was a candid conversation with Iovine about the fledgling service. “He took my phone and went to demonstrate for me what I could get from a playlist, and immediately pulled up The Best of 90s R&B unprompted. I fell to the ground – he was showing me SWV, Tony Toni Toné – I was so stoked. Playlists are there for stuff I want to reminisce about – like ‘Damn, that’s my jam!’ - but also to discover music and have Beats serve up whatever I’m looking for that works for that moment. I want to be able to take that experience to other people.”
Saint John will work closely with Beats By Dre’s marketing guru Omar Johnson — “The Bonnie & Clyde of Beats,” she’s already declared them – to identify artists and other brands who could help market Beats Music. At Pepsi, Saint John played an instrumental role at brokering and activating relationships with acts like Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Katy Perry, Hunter Hayes and the estate of her idol Michael Jackson. Under Johnson’s leadership, Beats has become a powerful platform for breaking active singles – current Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 “Happy” by Pharrell Williams first took off as a direct result of its prominent use in a Beats campaign, as did current top 10 hit “The Man” by Aloe Blacc.
As Saint John wraps her time at Pepsi (“We’ll be poppin’ bottles, Pepsi or otherwise”), could a brand partnership with Beats be in the cards? “Those discussions are all open – coming from Pepsi, I know the inner workings on how things go down,” Saint John says. Pepsi already has an active presence in streaming music via a long-term deal with Apple’s iTunes Radio, and rival Coca-Cola has a minority investment in Spotify.
Prior to her three-year tenure at Pepsi, Saint John served as VP of marketing for fashion brand Ashley Stewart and also held roles at ad agencies Arnold Worldwide and Spike Lee’s DDB. She has been recognized by Billboard’s Women In Music and 40 Under 40 honors, as well as Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People, Ebony Magazine’s 100 Top Executives and the cover of Adweek magazine. She is also involved with the Leadership Council for the United Nation’s partnership with the PVBLIC Foundation and as a mentor for the Levo League.