Watch this exclusive interview with former Chief Marketing Officer & Vice President at Aston Martin, Simon Sproule, while he discusses his multiple leadership roles at the heads of some of the most innovative businesses in the automotive industry over the last decade.
Global Marketing and Communications leader Simon Sproule has worked in a variety of different roles across the automotive industry for more than two decades. He has held senior marketing roles in companies including Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan, Tesla and more recently – Aston Martin.
In an interview with Peter Stojanovic, Simon discusses his many roles and anecdotes throughout the years while providing valuable insights into the world of marketing and communications.
A passion for the automotive industry
Simon began the fireside chat by answering the first question most would ask after a cursory glance over Simon’s CV: “Why the automotive industry?”.
What started off as a childhood passion eventually led Simon to where he is today. Before beginning his career, he graduated from the University of London with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography. Once his university years were over, however, Simon knew he wanted to get into the car business. “My first job out of college was selling cars”, he said.
Soon after this, he got into media and internal communications through Ford of Europe.
“Ford, at the time, had a very sophisticated television and text-based system for all its offices and factories around Europe”, he explained. It was later on when he joined Jaguar that he started to get to the marketing side of things.
After leading communications for Jaguar, then Land Rover, in North America, Simon transitioned to Nissan and was relocated to Japan. At this point, he began to realize how to efficiently integrate marketing and communications. Social media was coming into play. “Ways of engaging with consumers and stakeholders was changing”, he said.
“I bounced back between heritage brands and new brands”, said Simon. He recalled when he first joined Jaguar Land Rover in the early 2000s. Based in North America at the time, Simon was present when the two companies first merged together. From a business perspective, he believed that pairing Jaguar and Land Rover dealers could better manage the business and product cycles. What stood out most to Simon was bringing together “two very different British brands and [uniting] them under a common roof”.
He then joined Nissan a few years later just as the product onslaught was happening alongside massive investment growth in China. “Nissan had just been through, when I joined, a near-death experience”, he said. In 2004, China’s economy had turned around. Simon thought back to the time he attended the Shanghai Motor Show. “They kept outgrowing each of the previous venues”, he explained, highlighting the growth of Chinese markets at that time.
No Time to Die
Simon was present when Spectre was about to be launched with Aston Martin. He joined the luxury car manufacturing brand in 2014.
“Then there was a pause obviously with the cycle”, he said. The “pause” he referred to was the three-year delay of the No Time to Die film. He talked about his meeting with Eon Productions to discuss the original script. “Cars weren’t really a big part of the movie at that point in time in the script”, he said.
After reviewing the script with his team, No Time to Die ended up with four Aston Martins. Simon commented: “I think for me the coolest one was the return of the V8 from The Living Daylights”. The model in question was the convertible V8 Volante which made a comeback in the most recent Bond film.
The opportunities for Aston Martin didn’t stop there. “We had this incredible convergence of opportunities around Formula 1”, he said. In 2019, Simon said that the 1007th British Grand Prix race was scheduled to be hosted in Silverstone. Eon, Red Bull and Aston Martin all worked together to celebrate the iconic Bond franchise at the 1007th Grand Prix.
One “easter egg” Simon pointed out was that the Formula 1 cars had the license plate from two Bond cars. Daniel Craig visited the setup and met the drivers and team behind the event. “When you talk about lightning in a bottle- that day was it”, he said.
Opportunities to look out for
Peter asked Simon what opportunities CMOs should be looking forward to towards the end of this year in terms of strategies and opportunities.
He highlighted social purpose as an important topic to watch out for. “I think there is massive opportunity for companies to take a much more proactive role in engaging with their communities”, he said. He continued to describe how there is a “mismatch” in how companies today are giving back to communities. He focused on donation activity among corporations.
Simon shared that people in the US donate around $460 million a year to charities. Only five to ten percent of that figure is made up of donations by companies and foundations. After looking at the Fortune 500’s aid, Simon stated that out of their $1.84 trillion profit, they donate less than the recommended five percent ($80 billion).
“If I can have one challenge to CMOs or one thing to think about is that ask yourself the tough question – are you doing enough?”