The BBC has appointed its first-ever chief brand officer following a search that began in May this year. Charl Bassil, who has been CMO at Absolut Vodka for the past five years, is to take up the post in March 2024.
Bassil first joined Absolut owner Pernod Ricard in 2013 and prior to that spent more than a decade in marketing and general manager roles at SABMiller on brands including Carling Black Label and Amstel.
His experience at FMCG brands was one of the key decisions in his appointment, according to the BBC’s chief customer officer Kerris Bright who Bassil will report into.
The BBC outlined the importance of brand in driving growth when it revealed it was looking for a brand chief in May.
As stated in the job ad for the role, Bassil will be responsible for defining the organisation’s ‘priority brands’, those which it deems have the most potential for growth.
That will likely include flagship programmes and IPs, many of which are being positioned for commercial growth by the for-profit wing of the BBC, BBC Studios – which has been using BBC Earth content as its flagship brand across social media.
Finding and communicating the value of those BBC brands – which are part and parcel of the perception of the broadcaster as a whole – will therefore require the BBC to develop a strategy for brand building away from its owned and operated channels. As was stated in the job ad, it will require adopting a digital-first approach to drive audience value across new channels.
“Building a powerful BBC brand, driven by our unique public service values, that drives audience growth and is loved and valued by all is vital in today’s world,” Bright says. “I am excited to bring Charl’s expertise into the BBC to help us build our iconic global brand further.”
Bassil will be responsible for “driving audience value across the BBC” – as outlined in the job description – meaning he will have to effectively promote the BBC’s value to the British public. That was in the face of a mooted fall in the licence fee, which has since come to pass. On 8 December the BBC revealed it expects to have a funding gap of around £90m after a smaller-than-expected rise in the licence fee.
At the time of the licence fee announcement, the BBC Board stated: “Our content budgets are now impacted, which in turn will have a significant impact on the wider creative sector across the UK. We will confirm the consequences of this as we work through our budgets in the coming months.”
Bassil’s remit, then, is constrained by a shortfall of funding for the BBC’s content strategy. His task to “develop a holistic brand strategy for the BBC that engages audiences across the globe, builds support from fans and drives growth on BBC digital platforms” will be impacted by the savings the BBC will now have to find.
Bassil’s focus on developing a brand strategy that extends across digital channels will help defend what the BBC calls a “valued daily habit”, which is a measure of whether audiences are willing to pay the licence fee in the first place.
The UK government has previously stated it is looking at the validity of the licence fee as a funding source for the BBC. In the face of changing audience consumption habits around television, with a rise in consumption of content on streaming services and social video, the government is exploring alternative funding methods for the BBC’s services.
Bassil describes the BBC as “the envy of the world”.
“I am incredibly proud to embark on a new chapter in my career helping the BBC build relevance and deliver value for all in an increasingly fragmented media marketplace,” he adds.
Bassil will lead a team of 250 people and have a “multimillion pound budget”, according to the original job spec.