Heavy Lifting Builds a Team of Ten Top Performers

High-performing sports nutrition portfolio case study showing a fit man shopping for healthy, nutritional products


When a century-old global food ingredient company decides to venture into performance nutrition, a new, fast-growing complementary segment, it raised a tough question. Hire for experience in this new category or for capabilities that transcend category?

“Finding people with the talent, passion and business building capability was critical to building our global scale and helped us become the industry leader in performance nutrition.” – Global Chief Brand Officer and Chief Marketing Officer

Gaining a foothold through acquisitions, the company charged the Chief Marketing Officer with developing the vision and strategy for a newly acquired sports performance nutrition division. His priority was to build a team of three Vice Presidents, the critical first step in securing the level of professional leadership to guide the development and implementation of global brand and marketing strategies for the product portfolio. Without that foundation, the ability to recruit the rest of the team to launch and quickly deliver results would be severely limited.

It required a strategic recruitment effort to hire a team with excellent Consumer Packaged Goods experience, which was just the point of entry. His team would also need to work cohesively, believe in the mission of the company and embrace the opportunity to help consumers achieve their fitness and sports performance goals. Finding leaders with a passion for both performance and people was essential for shaping the culture of the organization.


To help with the heavy lifting required to recruit the right team, the CMO engaged Kris Holmes, Principal with O’Connell Group, a recruiting firm with a 25-year track record for building teams in brand management, marketing, innovation, insights and analytics. Over a period of 15 years, Kris had been a trusted, strategic advisor who had helped the CMO navigate his career, sharing industry connections and insights along the way. Kris listened, heard and clearly understood his vision, key business objectives and the critical success factors for each role.

“O’Connell Group brought a remarkably deep sense of partnership to the entire recruitment effort, both a sense of speed and agility, as well as an openness to debating the best strategy – role by role.
Even better, they showed a commitment to pushing us when we thought we had the right scale or scope, and when we needed to up the level of talent we were seeking. O’Connell Group helped us with very productive outcomes.”
– Vice President of Marketing, North America

O’Connell Group’s targeted recruitment approach enabled them to add value well beyond presenting a “slate of usual suspects” for each role. Based on the firm’s deep CPG experience, the team tapped into their extensive network of marketing talent and identified the CPG superstars who fit the client’s culture, share their goals and capable of making an impact in a private equity environment.

Each candidate demonstrated strong, relevant experience; clear advancement; entrepreneurial spirit; and a track record for delivering results. Importantly, they had been successful in navigating evolving – and often ambiguous – organizational cultures, while also developing talent in others.

Next they tackled the challenge of securing the best candidates to hire for key functional roles. The depth of O’Connell Group’s relationships and highly attuned skills in assessing fit ensured that the candidates’ professional motivations and personal drivers were aligned the organization’s culture and business objectives.


Within the span of two years, O’Connell Group had recruited 10 professionals, including the three Vice Presidents and other roles ranging from assistant brand manager through director. The combination of classical training at top CPG companies and experience in smaller, scrappier entrepreneurial companies outweighed direct experience in fitness and nutrition.

They successfully transitioned the business from the “gut instinct” driven culture that the acquired companies had grown up with toward a culture that leveraged the benefits of analytical rigor and professional CPG business management, without losing the collaborative, entrepreneurial dynamic.

Bound by a shared passion for performance and people, the marketing team powered the growth of a $1.3 billion branded sports nutrition portfolio and achieved its rank as a global category leader with the top performance nutrition brands in over 20 countries.