Catching up with world class Kiwis: Sarah Robb O'Hagan

By Siobhan Leathley

Marketing guru soaks up the fun.

Sarah Robb O'Hagan is spending time in Wanaka and Taupo these holidays. Photo / Supplied
Sarah Robb O'Hagan is spending time in Wanaka and Taupo these holidays. Photo / Supplied

Cantabrian Sarah Robb O'Hagan has never been one to shrink from a challenge. In 2008, she showed true Kiwi ingenuity in transforming flagging American sports drink brand Gatorade into a billion-dollar success.

Her achievement did not go unnoticed. In 2009, she was named one of Forbes magazine's "Most Powerful Women in Sports", and included in the "Top 40 under 40" list by the American SportsBusiness Journal. In 2010, she was named one of Advertising Age's "Women to Watch".

But her success did not start with Gatorade. She was well-known in marketing circles for her work on Virgin Atlantic's Shag Atlantic campaign, which established the airline's edgy difference. From there she went to Nike and was involved in the Nike + iPod collaboration.

But now the Christchurch-born marketing guru has left the world of sports drink behind. Ms Robb O'Hagan is president of the successful American gym chain Equinox, which operates more than 50 clubs throughout the United States and is expanding to England and Canada.

She is a member of the World Class New Zealand network, which is a collection of New Zealand residents and expats committed to aiding the country's international competitiveness and economic growth.

What do you most look forward to about coming home for summer?

Family and friends. I get so excited about getting to hang out with those I have always been closest to and to enjoy great laughs, great food and great wine together. I always come away from a New Zealand vacation feeling like I have gained a great perspective on things just by sharing stories, moments and ideas with great friends who live there. I find New Zealand to be a very creative environment - people are always exploring interesting ideas and I love hitting my favourite shopping areas and taking it all in - not to mention taking half of it home with me.

Where will you spend your time in New Zealand this summer?

We are trying to do it all - with very little time. We are spending Christmas in Wanaka with my husband's family and then heading up to Taupo for New Year's with my family. I am sad not to be getting any time in Christchurch or Auckland where many of our friends are - but at the same time excited to enjoy the beauty of New Zealand by going further afield.

What books will you be reading this summer?

We are already reading A Kiwi Night Before Xmas - we read it to the kids every year and they just love it, even though they don't quite understand why the kids in the story would ask for a cricket set for Christmas.

Then I will be re-reading my favourite book of the year. Its called 11 Rules for creating value in the #Social Era by Nilofer Merchant and it's an absolute game changer. I recommend it to everyone trying to figure out how to compete in our new digitally enabled world.

Lastly - because I just moved to New York - I have started reading the biography on Bruce Springsteen called Bruce by Peter Carlin. It's an awesome look into the life of one of America's greatest musicians and it also brings back great memories of a 1980s childhood lived in NZ.

What's December like where you live?

It's very festive and quite multi-cultural. We live in a part of New York that has a lot of European expats so there are all sorts of fun customs being celebrated. Hanukkah has just gotten under way so many of our friends are celebrating that at the same time as Christmas decorations being out in force getting ready for the big day on December 25.

What dish will you be cooking on the barbecue this summer?

I am pretty inept [at] cooking, but my husband is awesome at it. So he'll no doubt be keen to show the Kiwi cousins his fantastic Chicago ribs.

- NZ Herald

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