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NWSL appoints former US Olympic marketing chief Baird as commissioner

The National Women’s Soccer League has appointed veteran marketing executive Lisa Baird as its commissioner following the recent departure of league president Amanda Duffy.

Baird was most recently chief marketing officer at New York Public Radio. Prior to that, she held the same position for the United States Olympic Committee for nine years. Earlier in her career, she was the National Football League’s senior vice president of marketing and consumer products.

The league’s commissioner job had been vacant since Jeff Plush stepped down in 2017. Earlier this month, Duffy took up a senior executive position at NWSL team Orlando Pride.

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.

“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 statement.

“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.”

Under Duffy’s interim leadership, the NWSL took steps to capitalize on the spike in interest in women’s soccer following the Women’s World Cup last summer, which was won by the United States. This included a media-rights deal with ESPN until the end of the 2019 season, a sponsorship deal with Budweiser and an extension of the league’s partnership with kit manufacturer Nike until 2022.

In preparation of a move to operate independently of the United States Soccer Federation, which has been delayed until at least 2021, the NWSL appointed Octagon as a consultant to advise the league on its media- and marketing-rights strategy globally for the next three seasons.

The league also secured its first foreign majority owner, with OL Groupe, the parent company of French women’s soccer team Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, taking over Reign FC in a $3.51m deal. A team from Louisville and possibly Sacramento will join the league in 2021.

A domestic broadcast deal with CBS is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Read this: NWSL looking to translate Women’s World Cup aura into long-term gains