Red Bull today confirmed to Adweek that it has named Ken Turner to executive vice president and chief marketing officer for its North American operations. The move makes Turner the highest-ranking Black executive at the company.
According to reports by Business Insider, which first published the news, the energy drink brand has laid off around 50 employees in the past several weeks, largely from its culture marketing teams, which oversee projects related to hip-hop music and break-dancing culture. Red Bull did not respond to Adweek’s request for comment regarding the layoffs, but did not dispute the Business Insider story.
These latest changes come after a tumultuous summer for the brand, which began with a racism controversy following the police killing of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis. In the aftermath of Floyd’s death and in the midst of widespread protests against police brutality and systemic racism, 300 employees signed a letter to North American executives CEO Stefan Kozak and president and CMO Amy Taylor criticizing the leadership’s “public silence” on the Black Lives Matter movement. Three weeks later, employees leaked a slide shown at a February U.S. culture marketing team meeting that depicted a world map meme labeled with racist stereotypes.
In July, and reportedly in response to the leaked slide and controversy, Red Bull fired Kozak, Taylor and global head of culture marketing Florian Klaass. Klaass, Business Insider reported, had approved of the racist slide.
Turner has been with Red Bull for six years, a spokesperson for the energy drink brand told Adweek. He most recently served as head of brand marketing in Santa Monica, where he will continue to be based out of in his new role as CMO. Before that, Turner spent three years in Chicago as vp of marketing. He brings 15 years of brand marketing experience to the role.