The long wait for the arrival of a qualified league ambassador is over and everyone seems to be optimistic about it.
“The owners that I’ve spoken to in the NWSL are really happy,” Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl said. “They feel like she’s a great choice for this job, she’s been good with building brands over the years.”
As Grant pointed out, Baird’s track record is spotless. The Penn State alum tenured as the chief marketing officer of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee for nearly 10 years. She was also a senior VP of marketing and licensing for the NFL. And now, Baird is stepping down from her position as CMO of New York’s WNYC radio to take on the abandoned NWSL commissioner position.
During her time as CMO with the USOPC, Baird was involved in securing broadcast, sponsorship and licensing deals. Most NWSL fans know about the issues that the league has had in the past with broadcast deals – either low or poor coverage. It seems that Baird is the right person to cancel out problems as such.
“I’m going to spend my time on the commercial side of it and media sponsorship,” Baird told Wahl in her first media interview. “When I talk to people about professional sports, the most common complaint I hear from people who are avidly following the game is how are we going to engage with it? I have a lot of experience building brands, building digital extensions of brands, building social communities around the game and rivalries. And that’s an area that I hope I can put my imprint on.”
Baird also served as an important figure in launching the “Team USA” brand, which has attracted four million Facebook followers. She also developed a solid relationship with U.S. Soccer working alongside the federation in her 10-year tenure with the USOPC.
As you may know, U.S. Soccer still owns and manages the NWSL even though league owners have longed for independence for years. In December 2019, former NWSL President Amanda Duffy announced that the partnership would be extended through the end of 2020 as no deal was reached between the to. Anyhow, it turns out that Baird is happy about the extension as it will give her time to settle and come up with a plan.
“With the year agreement in place,” Baird told SI, “that gives me stability and security, and I have a good level of trust with them to build what is going to be the right partnership for the future.”
The Nolan Brothers conducted the search for the commissioner position. The NWSL search committee for the position gave Baird “unanimous support” to lead the league into the future.
As for Baird, she can’t wait to start her new role.
“As a long-time fan of the game and the players, I am excited to be joining the league at this time. The NWSL has tremendous positive momentum and a clear path towards growth,” Baird said in a press release.
The 2020 NWSL season kicks off on April 18 as the Rose Lavelle's Washington Spirit take on Meagan Rapinoe's FC Reign at Audi Field.