The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) has named Lisa Baird as the new Commissioner, the league announced today.
In her role, Baird will be responsible for overseeing all operations for the league and NWSL Media with a focus on growing revenues and audience while elevating the profile of the league globally. She will begin the position on March 10. Baird and Arnim Whisler will be available on a media conference call on Friday, Feb. 28, at 12 p.m. ET.
“We are thrilled to name Lisa as the Commissioner of the NWSL,” said NWSL Executive Committee Chair and North Carolina Courage Owner Steve Malik. “Her impressive background at the forefront of sports and commercial business for some of the most iconic properties worldwide will be instrumental to the future success and growth of the league.”
“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,” said Baird.
In conjunction with Nolan Partners, one of the top global executive recruiting firms, the league conducted a comprehensive search for the next NWSL Commissioner. From a list of some of the most talented and accomplished sports professionals in the United States and beyond, a committee, including a representative from each NWSL club, conducted in-person interviews with the selected finalists. With unanimous support, Baird emerged from that group as the clear choice to lead the league into the future.
“Among the extremely talented finalists we saw, Lisa had the right combination of experience and leadership which immediately captured the Board,” said Mike Golub, President of the Portland Thorns who was a member of the Commissioner search committee. “Lisa’s stellar accomplishments with some of the most successful properties in our industry and her well established reputation as a leading global marketer make her the best person to steward the league’s next phase of growth.”
Baird joins the NWSL from New York Public Radio (NYPR), where she served as the Chief Marketing Officer for more than a year. In this position, Baird oversaw all sponsorship, membership, and marketing endeavors.
Prior to NYPR, Baird spent a decade as the Chief Marketing Officer at the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. During her tenure with the USOPC, Baird played the leading role securing broadcast, sponsorship, and licensing deals and launched the iconic Team USA brand, in addition to working with the national governing bodies including U.S. Soccer on several marketing and media initiatives.
Baird has earned a number of organizational and personal honors and recognitions. She was named the 2011 WISE Woman of the Year for making a significant impact on the business of sports and was recognized in the 2011 Sports Business Journal’s inaugural class of “Game Changers: Women in Sports Business.” She was named to the 2016 Business Insider TOP 50 Most Innovative Global CMO’s and most recently in 2019 as an OpCon Top 50 Marketer.
A graduate of Penn State University, with a master’s degree in Management, Marketing, and Statistics from the Smeal Business School, Baird began her career at the Proctor & Gamble Co. where she spent six years in brand management. From 1990-2000, she transitioned through many managerial responsibilities overseeing some of the most iconic Fortune 500 companies including Johnson & Johnson, Bristol Myers Squibb Company, Warner-Lambert Company (now Pfizer), and General Motors. As the Director of Marketing at e-GM, she brought digital firsts to the auto industry as a part of General Motors’ first internet business development initiative.
From 2000-2005, Baird served as the Senior Vice President of Marketing Communications at IBM, the world’s leading technology company, managing marketing communications in over 70 countries.
She became the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Licensing for the National Football League (NFL) in 2005 and continued to grow the most commercially successful sports league in the United States, directing the NFL’s consumer products, entertainment marketing, and advertising programs. During her three-year tenure with the NFL, she launched NFL Play60, and expanded the league’s licensing business with first time deals with Nike, Under Armour, and Fanatics.
Baird currently serves as an independent director on the Board of GK/Elite Sportwear, a Riverside Partners portfolio company, and Fox Racing, Inc, a portfolio company of Altamont Capital Partners.