SME5Q is our discussion forum with various industry leaders, where we ask five thought-provoking, brand-related questions about their areas of expertise.

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Lisa Baird is the Chief Marketing Officer of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) where she is responsible for directing the USOC’s Sales and Marketing Division and overseeing the development of innovative corporate sponsorship and licensing programs. 


Prior to joining the USOC in 2009, Baird worked with Brand Value Advisors, a brand consultancy that serves private equity, merger and venture capital clients.  She was also the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Consumer Products for the NFL where she developed the league’s first consumer-generated ads for the 2006 Super Bowl, launched the league’s first youth and Hispanic websites and the first virtual sports world for kids, Baird has also held several senior-level positions with IBM, General Motors and Proctor & Gamble and has over 25 years of experience in marketing and branding. 

SME sat down with Lisa to discuss the Olympic brand, exciting changes and enhancements for the 2012 Olympics, and how the USOC keeps the buzz alive between the Games.


The Vancouver Olympics peaked a lot of interest in non-mainstream sports this winter, which usually happen since we're able to see competition that we wouldn't regularly see.  How does the USOC attempt to continue the momentum between the Games?

The USOC works to create exposure and buzz after the Olympic Games that highlights Team USA and gives Americans a chance to show their pride and support. And what a team we have to work with! Our athletes won 37 medals in Vancouver, the most of any team in history at an Olympic Winter Games.  To continue the momentum, we have worked to create the right opportunities to showcase the team’s success, beginning immediately after the Games with our “Managing Victory” program, which capitalizes on the window of opportunity by streamlining our athletes’ experiences. This includes press conferences and sponsor appearances, and continues with bookings on the Today Show, the Oprah Winfrey Show, The Tonight Show, Ellen, The View, David Letterman - you name it. Then in April, we took the entire team to Washington, D.C., and the White House. We organized public appearances, sponsor functions, congressional visits and more press opportunities over the three-day period.


This summer we just completed the second year of our national fundraising effort: America Supports Team USA – which raised $4 million to support our Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls through a PSA campaign, athlete appearances and other outreach. We also build the momentum leading into the Games with our “Making Team USA” program, which begins with activity at the One Year Out and then really takes off at the 100 Day Countdown. Prior to Vancouver, we held an Olympic festival on this milestone in Rockefeller Center in New York City. The program continues through the U.S. Olympic Team Trials and comes together through the telling of the incredible journeys of the athletes who make up Team USA.


Can you give some insight into some of the changes and improvements being put form for the 2012 Olympics, as far as marketing strategy? 


Coming out of the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, we launched a completely new brand mark, featuring the American flag, one of the most respected symbols of our country. Having a consistent brand identity from Games to Games is very important as it unifies all of the diverse constituents who drive the Olympic Movement forward in the United States, including sponsors and National Governing Bodies, such as U.S. Figure Skating and USA Basketball.  The USOC also just launched a major effort in licensed apparel with the new mark to offer Americans a new way to show their pride and support by wearing the authentic apparel of Team USA. You’ll see more and more of this apparel debuting at retail in the near future. Behind the scenes, we have been doing a lot of work to better understand the enormous fan base in the United States in order to improve our programs and offer better insight to our partners. 


How do you help partners develop and execute Olympic-focused marketing concepts?  What values are undertaken when considering sponsorship opportunities and deciding which partners to bring on board?


I am proud that we have one of the most experienced and dedicated partnership marketing teams in sports to support our sponsors.  This team has a deep understanding of their partners’ business models in order to help them activate successfully with our brand and one of the best ways we help is connecting them with our incredible athletes and sports in easy and imaginative ways. Olympic sport events take place year-round in the USA, and we help sponsors utilize our best ambassadors—our athletes—in a multitude of ways.  


As for our sponsor family, we are tremendously proud to have such exemplary and iconic companies aligning with and supporting our brand. This is incredibly important to us.  One common characteristic we hold dear is that they all are market leaders in their respective categories.  The U.S. Olympic Movement is about achieving excellence; we want to partner with the best. 


The platform for sports consumption is changing dramatically with several "screens," so to speak, to consume sports.  How important is the digital/new media arm in terms of marketing and sponsorship activation?  Can we look forward to a few enhancements or unique tactics in 2012?


Digital media is hugely important to us in marketing activation for our efforts and those of our sponsors.  You can look for some new creative ways to help fans learn about Olympic sports and get the inside scoop on our athletes.  A lot of our fans are competitive sport participants themselves, and they want to learn more about how our athletes train and compete with excellence. You’ll see us offering some inside peeks on how this happens. 


The Olympic brand is extremely powerful, as well as the values it represents.  In a world of transparency, how do you ensure that this trickles down into the fabric of the organization - from leadership, to athletes, to partners?  As CMO, what role do you play in this strategy?


Spreading the values of Olympism—excellence, friendship and respect—is a core mission of the USOC.  As a leadership team, our head of communications, Patrick Sandusky, our head of sport, Norman Bellingham, and I spend a lot of time together ensuring that we have a comprehensive and disciplined plan of events, education, recognition and programs that spread these values every day to the American public. We have recently seen our efforts around Olympic Day, held annually on June 23, absolutely take off. In 2010, 330 events took place in more than 250 communities around the United States and more than 375 Olympians, Paralympians, coaches and Olympic hopefuls joined Americans in celebrating Olympic Day in their communities. Athletes led discussions with youth about the Olympic values, while sport demonstrations, fun runs and festivals helped introduce young people to Olympic and Paralympic sport.


Olympism is a true team effort at the USOC, and a top priority of our Chairman, Larry Probst, and our CEO, Scott Blackmun.