Scotsman obituaries: Roddy Campbell, Scottish athlete and businessman

Roddy Campbell Obituary. Born: 27 September 1946 in Whitburn. Died: 7 April 2021 in Padstow, aged 74

Roddy Campbell had senior marketing positions with businesses worldwide

Roddy Campbell was an outstanding young Scottish athlete and later a highly successful businessman who held positions with a number of international companies.

He was a talented middle distance runner, the high point of whose career was winning the silver medal at the AAA’s [British] Junior Championships in the 1,500m steeplechase in 1964 at Crystal Palace, missing out narrowly on the gold medal by 1/10th of a second. In business he held prestigious positions with Adidas, the international sportswear company, including Managing Director of their UK operation, Director on the company’s main board in charge of marketing and President of Western Hemisphere marketing, with responsibility for substantial budgets. Along the way he became acquainted with some of the great and good in British sport including Sebastian Coe, Daley Thompson and Kenny Dalglish.

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Roderick Alasdair Campbell was born in Whitburn, West Lothian, the only child of William, a civil servant and Margaret. The family moved into Edinburgh but Roddy’s father died when he was very young. He was brought up by his mother, who ran the Lorne Guest House in Coates Gardens in the city’s Haymarket area and also taught domestic science in Broxburn.

Roddy attended Daniel Stewart’s College where, while not especially academically gifted, he regularly won the General Knowledge prize. After showing ability at distance running he became an enthusiastic member of the school athletics team, opting for cross country as his winter sport. He also joined Edinburgh Athletic Club. Later he received coaching from well-known Octavians Club coach George Sinclair at Redford Barracks track and Saughton Enclosure.

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He ran creditably in Scottish Youths and Schoolboys’ cross country championships but it was on the track that he made his mark, breaking the school mile record at the annual sports in 1963. In 1964, his final year, he did even better, breaking records at the half mile and his own mile record, the latter by 10 seconds in the excellent time for the era of 4 minutes, 28 seconds. For good measure he also won the quarter mile, completing an outstanding treble. Those successes set him up for an excellent performance in the Scottish Schoolboys’ Championships in the 1,500m steeplechase, in which he finished second, and he was selected to represent Scotland in the Schoolboys’ International in Cardiff against England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There he ran well in a field of eight to clinch a commendable 3rd place behind winner John Caine, a future British international.

Later that summer at Crystal Palace Roddy was inches away from claiming the British Junior title, while he also clocked a notable time over the 3,000m steeplechase, the senior distance, placing him among the top ten in the senior Scottish rankings while still a junior.

After school he studied at the Scottish Hotel School in Glasgow, then took a marketing diploma at Strathclyde University. Studies relegated his athletics to second place with consequent effect on performances. However, he still competed occasionally for Octavians at 440 yards hurdles, representing Scottish Universities in 1968, while that same year he showed his versatility by running in the prestigious Edinburgh to Glasgow road relay race, on the 5th leg for Strathclyde University. Later he also played recreational rugby and in summer enjoyed games of tennis.

After moving to London to take up a marketing appointment with Wilkinson’s Sword, Roddy’s active athletic career was effectively over, although he did join Polytechnic Harriers and remained a keen follower of the sport. Other appointments followed, including a stint with Dorland’s Advertising Agency before he joined General Foods, where he had marketing responsibilities for brands such as Maxwell House and Birds Eye. In 1978 he moved to Caracas in Venezuela where, still with General Foods, he was marketing manager for a confectionery brand for five years. On returning to the UK he was involved with the merger of Princes and Buitoni, earning promotion to the board.

He joined Adidas in 1986, for him an ideal merging of his marketing talents and sporting enthusiasm. During his five years with the company he rose to being President of their Western Hemisphere operation and in 1988 played an important part in their involvement in that year’s Seoul Olympic Games, where 120 of the competing 160 nations wore Adidas-branded gear, including the American and Soviet teams. At that time the company’s annual promotion and marketing budget amounted to $120,000,000 which, according to Roddy in an interview, “was a small percentage of the total turnover of $2.6 billion”.

After controversial French businessman Bernard Tapie took over the company, a number of top executives, including Roddy, were edged out. He continued in senior positions with several companies including Pony International Sports, Colibri and as a self-employed marketing consultant assisting, among others, Caledonian Brewery and Heineken. As a keen fan of London Scottish rugby, he also advised on fundraising projects.

He had three children, Louise, Kenneth and Gareth, by first wife Rona, but the marriage ended in divorce. In 1993 in London he wed Phillipa, a psychoanalyst, and with her three daughters, Martha, Grace and Rose, lived in Putney before retiring to Padstow in Cornwall, an area he loved. There he followed sport avidly, enjoyed gardening and walking his dogs, and was a volunteer guide at Prideaux Place, a grand Elizabethan manor house.

A gregarious, popular individual and family man, Roddy was stimulating company, a welcoming presence with a ready smile. He is survived by Phillipa, his children and nine grandchildren.

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