Since 2009, old Greenwich resident Lisa Baird has served as chief marketing officer for the United States Olympic Committee. Her responsibilities are Olympic in scale, and include overseeing sales and marketing, corporate sponsorships, properties, media, events, consumer products and direct marketing. She drives revenue (since she started, to the tune of $400 million) and manages the public face of the U.S. team. Before joining the USOC, she held executive positions at the NFL and IBM. Here’s what she is looking forward to doing in Rio, the biggest misconception about the USOC and her tried and true methods for avoiding jet lag.
What are you most excited about for Rio?
Rio is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and so seeing the athletes compete and enjoy the city will be a lot of fun. Like many Americans I am going to love watching our gymnastics, swim and basketball teams, but I have learned to love some of the lesser-known Olympic sports including table tennis, wrestling and fencing. And of course, we are hoping our women’s soccer team defends their gold medal from London. A highlight for me is hearing the American anthem play when one of our athletes medals. I make everybody at the USA House stand up and sing—every time! I never get tired of it.
What will fans see at this Olympics that they’ve never seen before?
Rugby Sevens [seven-a-side rugby] and golf are two new sports. We also work with sponsors on all of the Olympic marketing campaigns—and I promise you will see some advertising that is just so much fun.
What are you proudest of in terms of what you’ve accomplished in the last seven years?
Before I joined the USOC in 2009, we were limited in how much future investment we could do as our sponsorship contracts were, at most, four years out. Today, we have a broadcast agreement with NBC through 2032; four sponsors are signed through 2024 and we already have secured more than two thirds of our revenue goal for the 2017-2020 period.
What stands out for you as a memorable moment with the USOC?
Running the Olympic torch is an experience I will never forget. I was honored to run the torch in advance of the Vancouver Winter Games in a very small town in Nova Scotia, and also far from home in Kursk, Russia, as part of the Sochi Games.
What’s your greatest challenge?
We have been preparing for the 2016 Games, which take place this summer in beautiful Rio de Janeiro, for six years. It takes a lot of planning for our team to support our delegation of over 700 athletes, trainers, coaches and staff for over a month!
What is one misconception about the USOC?
Most Americans do not realize that the USOC receives no government funding—not a penny! So we have to continue to raise awareness that we need everybody’s support to provide resources for Team USA to train, to travel to worldwide competitions and to support the delegation when we are at a Games. We run three Olympic Training Centers, which host thousands of athletes year round. So whether you buy a USOC sponsor’s products or Team USA gear, or donate at teamusa.org, you are supporting our team.
What career advice do you give to your three children?
To be grateful and appreciate any opportunity or challenge that life throws at you. We may think that we know how our life should play out, but for me it’s been its most rewarding when I have gone down a path that might not have been the obvious choice.
How does this job inspire you?
Olympic athletes often don’t have sponsors or the same resources behind them. Most of them are regular people who have this incredible dedication and commitment to be the best in the world—and sometimes that best comes down to a few minutes or one event, which is the culmination of years of training. The Paralympic athletes are inspiring as their stories and challenges are great, and yet, they are really incredible elite athletes.
How much do you travel in a particular year and how do you avoid jet lag?
Too much. It’s insane. They know me at all the airports. My best tips are: Drink water. Don’t eat on the plane. Fall asleep the minute the plane takes off and then power through the first day at your destination until as late as you possibly can.
What’s in your carry on luggage?
School pictures of my kids, exercise clothes and running shoes (even if I don’t get to the gym, I feel better trying), limited clothing (I never check luggage), Oil of Olay moisturizer with SPF (I have been using it since I was 20 and I swear by it) and at least three credit cards—just in case. Plus my Global Entry Card. When you land, you just want to get home!
For the full Olympic schedule, click here.