Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

CMO Summit: Mission accomplished, sights set on future event


This fall’s CMO Summit connected a who’s who of global consumer brand leaders with students, regional professionals and academia, and in the process raised awareness of the scope of The Erwin Center for Brand Communications.

Joe Erwin speaks at the 2019 CMO Summit
Joe Erwin addresses attendees of the 2019 CMO Summit held at the Watt Family Innovation Center

Among other benefits, Joe Erwin, co-founder of the Erwin Center, said the mid-September event held at the Watt Family Innovation Center was transformative for student education at Clemson University.

“The CMO Summit was a great opportunity to expose our students to top brand experts and further elevate Clemson as a leader in brand communications education,” Erwin said.

The one-day summit, which was co-hosted with Forbes, drew leaders from some of the world’s most recognized brands, including Ally, SAP, Chick-fil-A, Ogilvy U.S., adidas, McLaren Automotive, McCann Worldgroup and Denny’s, to name a few.

“As part of our mission to educate the next generation of brand leaders, the Erwin Center wanted to create an experiential event for our students,” said Katie Hildebrand, executive director. “The result was ‘The Art & Science of Building a Brand,’ a collaboration with Forbes that connected students with global brand leaders and regional professionals.”

Based on feedback from presenters and attendees, Hildebrand said the sold-out inaugural CMO Summit exceeded expectations.

“We had conversations with Jenny Rooney, editor of Forbes’ CMO Network, about creating a way to bring professionals and students together to bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-world application,” Hildebrand said. “Our post-summit feedback has been extremely positive, including from speakers, many of whom are Clemson alumni.”

Closing keynote speaker Fabio Tambosi, global senior director of brand communications and training for adidas, said the CMO Summit was inspirational for the students and professionals who attended.

“The CMO Summit was a real-life kind of research. We were getting questions asked of us and we were able to ask questions back. I feel very privileged to have participated in the event,” Tambosi said. “If those attending walked away with one thing, I think they should be inspired by what they experienced.”

The success of the inaugural event raised awareness of the Erwin Center and the brand of the College of Business, according to Hildebrand. It also created networking opportunities and expectations for the summit to become an annual event.

“From the breakout sessions to connections in the hallways, there was meaningful networking among students and practitioners, which benefited both,” Hildebrand said. “And, there was a lot of buzz around when future events might be held.”

Though a date for the next Clemson CMO Summit has not been set, students have already begun planning the event.

“It’s a project in the Erwin Center’s client relations class. Under the direction of instructor Mark Land, vice president of University Relations, students are looking at all aspects of the next event, including how we might do things differently,” Hildebrand added.

The next summit will likely involve Forbes as a partner again and take place in the new business school building. And, Hildebrand suggested students may be getting presentation time on stage.

“Students played an integral role in promotions and event planning for this year’s event, but we’re looking at adding a student perspective that would be even more beneficial to them and the professionals attending,” she said. “Brands are looking for ways to make inroads with Gen Z and having students share their thoughts would be welcomed by the professionals in our audience. It’s also a great way to introduce the talent we have to future employers.”

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