Meet the Member: “Sometimes people are shocked to learn I’m not the founder’s PA”

May 4, 2023

We sat down with Queenie Porter, Global Managing Director of WOW HYDRATE, to discuss the drinks industry, partnering with ambassadors and TikTok.

So Queenie to kick us off, take us through your journey in sport?

I don’t have the traditional route into the sports business, I started off at the Arcadia Group working quite closely with Sir Phillip Green. While there I worked my way up from a buyers admin assistant to head of buying for the cold weather and jewellery categories. Then, aged 26, I took a bit of time out and ended up being head hunted by the Co-Op group on LinkedIn. I started off by heading up everything non-food for them, but quickly transitioned into food as well.

This is how I got introduced to the founders of WOW HYDRATE. They pitched me their healthy, sugar free, electrolyte drink that at the time I thought was a really nice product and seemed to be ahead of the curve.

They then asked me if I wanted to hop over and work with them on the brand side. I came over and took up the role of Head of Commercial and since then we have grown our retail accounts from two to six and we are on track to sell about 20 million bottles this year.

You are five months into your position as Global MD of UK for WOW HYDRATE, how are you finding it and how is it different to your previous position as Head of Commercial?

When I was Head of Commercial, I was only looking after one department and just looking after the KPIs for that department. Now I am overseeing the whole business. I have really had to learn how to split my time and attention between each department. Initially, it was a bit tricky going from a finance meeting to a marketing chat and then a meeting with one of our retail accounts, but I am definitely getting better at it. Also, it has been really enjoyable working with all the department heads and understanding what they need to feel supported and make sure we are all pulling in the same direction.

What is it like being a female leader working in sport from your experience?

I actually think it is really exciting and a privilege to be working in a space where unfortunately it isn’t being driven by a lot of women. I also think it works to my advantage at times because it can make you more memorable whether that be meeting brands at events or going to conferences people are more likely to remember you because you stand out. Sometimes people are shocked to learn I am not the founder’s PA.

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WOW HYDRATE is actually a very women-driven business which is really refreshing and having the chance to lead a group like that is something I take great pride in. I do want to try and inspire them and make them feel they can stand in a room and be taken seriously.

What are some of the challenges that are facing the drinks industry at the moment?

Over saturation. There is so much competition out there at the moment and the consumers have so much choice. There are lots of brands out there that pay ambassadors a lot of money to appear like they drink their drink when in reality they don’t. We are very different in that sense, to be an ambassador for us you either have to own equity in the company or the drink has to be a part of your staple diet. What is difficult is being authentic and being recognised for that because it is so easy for content creators with TikTok and social media to just look affiliated with brands without actually having any interest. 

Authenticity is one of the traits that Gen Z appreciate the most, is that why you have chosen this route when it comes to who you partner with?

That definitely is a factor, but it also about having credibility within sport as well. Professional sport is a small world and it can get round quickly if the athletes you partner with aren’t actually drinking your drink. It really helps us create a narrative that people want to be a part of the WOW HYDRATE family because they know it is real.

On Gen Z we are moving into using TikTok a lot more, Instagram was great a few years ago but now whenever the audience sees #ad they turn off from what the person is actually saying. Our TikTok strategy is very different to what we have done before we post entertaining Q&A’s with members of the public so that when people organically find out content we are not doing a hard sell.

It’s a mixture of credibility, authenticity, and also making sure that the elite stars within the sports world understand that it’s a great product because their colleagues affiliated below sportsmen and women are committed for the right reasons.

You have recently signed deals with Tyson Fury, Kevin De Bruyne and Ella Toone, talk us through the strategy of using sports stars and how you identify the right people to use?

We really started off in Boxing because hydration is such a key part of the sport not just in the training but then when the fighters are trying to make a certain weight and then need to rapidly rehydrate after. The initial strategy was to partner with Tyson because he was just his comeback from his time away from the sport and everything that came with that and we wanted to go on this journey with him. The rest is history with him really and he is now an equity partner within the business and he is part of the WOW HYDRATE family.

In terms of Ella Toone we were able to pinpoint her as a real rising star and partnered with her early on. She has obviously gone on to do incredible things scoring in the European Championship Final at Wembley. We’re still aware, there’s lots to do for us and the female support space, which is a big strategy, the big concentration for us this year.

Your social media campaigns, particularly on TikTok, are interesting where you ask people questions without overtly promoting your drink. Talk us through the thought process behind that strategy?

At the moment our strategy is all about making our channel an entertaining place for people to visit and have a laugh. We are really trying to create an audience that people want to be a part of and have fun interacting with. Once we have grown an audience that we feel has our trust and is receptive to us then we will start to introduce elements of buying through TikTok shop and other ways. We are really planning to start this during this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup. We want to get the company’s ethos across rather than just a hard sell.

Click here to find out more about WOW HYDRATE