Richie Perfect Choice for WNBA President
Fresh approach is exactly what the league needs.
“With a long track record of developing award-winning campaigns that transform brands and drive business results, Richie served most recently as Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Girl Scouts of the USA. She was responsible for the organization’s brand, communications, publishing, marketing and web-based initiatives, and was the driving force behind the recent brand revitalization of this well-loved American icon.” – From the WNBA.com press release on new president, Laurel J. Richie
The NBA and David Stern took their time in finding a replacement for Donna Orender, and they got it 100% right.
Branding, communications, publishing, marketing, and web-based initiatives experience – those words should feel like a breath of fresh air to long-time fans of the league who have been waiting for someone to take the reigns on those key platforms.
The trial and error phase of the WNBA is over; no longer can the league afford to try and impact a certain demographic or audience to see what the results will be (at least, not on a grand scale). Entering its 15th year, it’s also at a point where we can’t really use the excuse of “it’s a new league, give it time” much longer. The league has a realistic opportunity to truly prosper and thrive but it needs a solid foundation and developmental plan to get there. Richie’s success both in the for-profit and non-profit world correlate perfectly with the WNBA and its core values.
As we’ve seen in the past few years more so than ever, the WNBA is an evolving business and it certainly needs to be ran that way. However, it’s also in a unique spot as there is a great deal of sentimental value to the league as the overall product and example the players set on and off the court are generally more important than it being a cash cow. Obviously, turning a profit is vital to the long-term success of the league (Richie will help get it there) but sustainability begins with proper branding and marketing.
There is a humanistic side to Richie that will prove invaluable towards maintaining the integrity of the WNBA – this, perhaps more than anything, is key towards pleasing current fans while also generating new ones. Fans have always felt like they were a big part of their favorite teams and have a personal connection towards many of the players. With Richie’s success in the Girl Scouts of America and through altruistic passions such as her time with Big Brothers Big Sisters, it seems there is a deep appreciation for reaching children at a young age and inspiring success. Just like the NBA did in the ’80′s and ’90′s, the WNBA needs to grow the game at a younger level and the connection Richie has with the Girl Scouts shows an innate desire to impact young women early on.
What sets Richie apart, however, isn’t just the immense success she has achieved in marketing, branding, etc.; it’s the organizations she has succeeded with. She brings a proven record of thriving in multiple business environments such as Leo Burnett Worldwide, an advertising agency based in Chicago, from 1981-1983, where she worked on a host of Procter and Gamble brands. In 1984, she moved to Ogilvy and Mather, where she spent more than two decades building brands for blue chip clients including American Express, Pepperidge Farm and Unilever, among others. During her tenure at Ogilvy, she led the team that helped Huggies become a multi-billion dollar brand. This shows me that she can take any product or company and turn it into a booming brand.
Richie doesn’t have a basketball background…so what? Neither did David Stern and look how much the NBA has grown since the time he took over in 1984. The WNBA represents more than just a professional women’s basketball league. It’s far more important than that in today’s society. If anyone understands this, it’s Richie. Her blend of corporate and community involvement brings an instant sense of credibility to her position as President of the WNBA. Quite simply, Richie isn’t one to just talk; she makes things happen but she does so with honor and character.
What isn’t being talked about yet is how significant a role Richie will play in growing the women’s game in multiple cultures and demographics. Richie’s pro-bono clients have included the Museum for African Art, the Hospital for Special Surgery and the New York Human Rights Commission. In addition, she has mentored young women and girls as part of Big Brothers Big Sisters (as mentioned above), the 4A’s Multi-cultural Advertising Intern Program, Xavier University’s Youth Motivation Task Force and the Advertising Educational Foundation. Richie is a recipient of the YMCA’s Black Achiever’s Award and Ebony Magazine’s Outstanding Women in Marketing and Communications.
Being the leader of the WNBA isn’t an easy task but I imagine that growing Huggies into a multi-billion dollar brand wasn’t exactly a walk in the park either. The WNBA enters a crucial turning point in 2011. Will we see a drop in momentum or will Richie lead the league into its best years yet?
If history is any indication, my money is on Laurel Richie.