Kathyrn Pratt brings more than 25 years of experience in global brand building, with well-known names such as Gap, Kenneth Cole and L.L.Bean, to her new role as chief marketing officer at Saucony. She describes herself as passionate about leveraging the power of a brand to emotionally connect, change behavior and start conversations with consumers and loves finding something authentic about a brand and leveraging it in a way that is disruptive and unexpected.
She is married to her husband, Danny, who she met at the New York City Marathon in 2003 (they were both spectators, not runners) and they have three kids who keep them busy — Clara, 14; Maggie, 11; and Brendan, 9. They live in Maine, a far cry from New York City where she spent the first 16 years of her career and every day she remains grateful to live in such a beautiful place and consider it home.
Personal interests … Pratt is a voracious podcast listener, which helps with her commute from her home in Maine to Saucony headquarters in Waltham, MA. She is also always on a wellness quest, trying a mix of programs, products and practices to help her feel physically, mentally and emotionally better. She admits to being addicted to Instagram, but doesn’t trust herself to have TikTok on her phone. When not Instagramming she can often be found on her Peloton or watching Bravo … or doing both at the same time.
Her role at Saucony … As CMO her job is ultimately to create an emotional connection with the brand in a way that drives the business: “I truly believe that consumers want to understand what a brand does, why it’s relevant to them and how it can add value to their lives.” That emotional connectivity is the result of nailing brand positioning, direct-to-consumer, advertising and digital strategies. “Yes, it’s also about the product, but we need to have authentic conversations with our consumers first around DEI, sustainability, body diversity and gender equality, among other brand values.”
The appeal of the brand … The unique position Saucony holds in the running category is what attracted her to the company. This year, the “Original Running Brand” is celebrating a milestone: 125 years of heritage, innovation and design. And yet she views Saucony as still a challenger brand amidst the bigger players. “There’s a bit of a “#IYKYK” (if you know, you know) aspect to it, which creates a unique and exciting challenge to a marketer like me,” she says. “I am passionate about creating disruption and gaining attention in the most unexpected ways. There’s so much to unlock with Saucony, so get ready.”
Working with Saucony president Anne Cavassa … Having the chance to work with Cavassa did factor into her decision to join the brand because she believes who you work for is critical to one’s success and general happiness. “Your leader can make or break your experience and that blends into your personal life, at least it does with mine,” she says, adding that when she first met Anne she immediately felt her drive, her commitment to the Saucony business and her passion for running. “I inherently knew she would trust and empower me to make a difference for the brand.”
Working moms ... Because they are both in the same life stage as moms with kids the same age, Pratt and Cavassa relate to one another on a personal level as well, which she feels no doubt creates a strong connection.
A woman in the running business … Whether she feels her role is as a woman in the business or, more generally, a professional in running depends on the context. In typical meetings and in the day-to-day, she considers herself a professional in the run specialty space — that stems from the fact that her male counterparts at Saucony don’t make her feel any different from them, simply because there is no difference. It’s a culture of respect across the board.
But … However, in certain situations, she believes the definitely leans more into her gender (she, her, hers). “When we’re looking at women’s footwear and apparel, when I’m mentoring a woman on my team, when we’re reviewing potential partnerships, content or messaging targeted to the female consumer, that’s when I tap into my position as a woman in the running business and provide that perspective.”
The Wolverine connection … Pratt is also inspired to have meetings with the other CMOs from the Wolverine brands (Merrell, Sperry, Sweaty Betty) who are women, emphasizing that there’s a very open, trusting and supportive vibe within that group.
A career mentor … Pratt has had several mentors at different stages of her career. Her former manager Kyle Andrew (now CBO at Athleta) has always been someone whose career she has admired. Likewise, her former manager at L.L.Bean, Zane Shatzer, has served as a mentor, coach, friend and unofficial therapist across both her professional and personal lives.
The Camber connection … Last year Pratt participated in the pilot of Camber Outdoors’ MENtor Allyship Program where C-level men were paired with female leaders to learn the importance of advocating for women in the workforce and to understand the unique challenges women face in order to create a more equitable and productive work environment. She was paired with Scott Allan, former CEO from Hyrdroflask, and the relationship taught her that while female mentors are such special relationships, having male mentors who can also serve as advocates is critical in helping women advance.
Run specialty gender equality … Running has always been an inclusive activity, so Pratt is not surprised in its more equal gender participation. But she believes now the business needs to shift its focus to improving inclusion and access for the BIPOC community, in both participation and in the industry. Saucony is a partner with the Running Industry Diversity Coalition to support them on their mission to tackle this.
Attracting more women … “There are a lot of strong women already in the industry, so first I would continue to shine a light on them like Running Insight is doing with this issue,” she says. (Thanks for the shoutout!)
No more “you guys” … A pet peeve of hers that she is working on is to do away with the term “you guys.” She is trying to practice this one herself because, in her words, it’s “cringey and time to remove it from our vernacular.”
A women’s perspective … Studies confirm that men and women think differently and Pratt believes that taking advantage of those valuable differences can add to innovation and problem-solving. Management styles also differ — she personally chooses to lead through collaboration while some male leaders may be more directive. “I truly believe though that you can be compassionate and strong as a leader, whether you’re a woman or a man, but ultimately it’s time we realize that what makes a great or not-so-great leader is a person’s attributes, not their gender.”
Advice to retailers … Make sure you’re presenting women in a way that’s relatable and celebrates their differences. Women aren’t all the same, they don’t all look the same and they don’t all have the same goals.
Female relationships … “If we’ve seen anything in the past few years, it’s that women have a strong, collective voice and aren’t afraid to use it,” Pratt says, adding that the industry as a whole needs to create opportunities for women to come together to support each other’s goals. “Women celebrate one another’s wins, both big and seemingly small. And we are often juggling a lot, so running can be an amazing outlet and community builder.”
Career advice … Her advice to any woman thinking about a career in run specialty is to dig deep into the business. Often placed in more creative and marketing roles, women can be a bit separated from the financials, operations and processes that make a business tick. She advises women to listen, ask questions and set up time with finance and operations leaders to get a better sense of their work and challenges they face. “Regardless of what seat you’re in, by having a deeper understanding of the business, you’ll gain more confidence, it will help shape and/or support your point of view and ultimately it will make you a more valuable contributor.”
Her running routine … When she lived in New York City Pratt was part of New York Road Runners Club and participated in 5Ks, 10Ks and half marathons and she is considering a half marathon this year — provided her podiatrist gives her the green light. It will also give her a chance to wear test Saucony’s full product assortment.
Saucony in 2023 … Pratt believes this is going to be an incredible year for Saucony, with its 125th anniversary providing an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the past and to celebrate the brand’s dedication to inspiring and enabling people to live a better life. And while the macro-economic climate will be something all brands are navigating this year, she believes Saucony has a strong product offering, a passionate team and an unrivaled commitment to the transformational power of running. “We’re also excited to get deeper into the running community to connect directly with runners of all abilities, races and genders,” she says. “Saucony will shine bright this year and beyond.”