Romney ousts medical pro for PR exec as fitness chair

BOSTON: Massachusetts is turning to marketing leaders from such companies as PepsiCo, Bank of America, and Reebok to promote physical fitness.

BOSTON: Massachusetts is turning to marketing leaders from such companies as PepsiCo, Bank of America, and Reebok to promote physical fitness.

In a controversial move, Gov. Mitt Romney (R) replaced the committee's former chairman, a sports-medicine specialist, with a marketing expert.

"Marketers are the ones with the strategic direction," said Soosie Lazenby, the committee's new chairwoman, who added that medical experts would continue to serve on the committee and help guide messages.

"The problem isn't just statistics, but putting programs in place," said Lazenby, VP, brand marketing, for marketing firm Jack Morton Worldwide. "It's hard to get that message out."

But at least one Boston Globe columnist decried the decision.

"[Romney] ousts a respected doctor and replaces him with a branding specialist," Brian McGrory wrote. "That is nonsense."

"The governor recognizes we have a crisis," said Romney press secretary Shawn Feddeman. "We wanted to expand to include more experts in our field."

The 30-member committee also consists of five PR pros: Jennifer Khoury of Comcast Cable, Jodi Matthews of Weber Shandwick, Becky Collet of Collet Communications, Sylvia Stevens-Edouard of Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Amy Vreeland of New Balance Athletics.

The committee is charged with creating public awareness to encourage residents - and children in particular - to participate in physical fitness programs.

It is also working closely with the Romney administration to pass legislation mandating physical education in schools.

Lazanby noted that the committee is still developing its strategies, but that the campaign will be "fully integrated" across marketing disciplines.

She described the physical fitness outreach as "probably the top cause-marketing campaign" for companies.

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