Was Hiring Girl Scout Marketing Chief Laurel Richie a Smart Move for WNBA?

6 years ago

This week the WNBA appointed veteran marketing executive, Laurel J. Richie, as the third president of the league. She succeeds Donna Orender who announced her resignation in December. Val Ackerman was the WNBA's first president, hired in 1996 -- a year before the league began play.

Most people were surprised by the appointment and the question "who is Laurel Richie?" began circulating moments after the announcement was made. Google searches tried to uncover Richie's ties to women's basketball and why she was chosen to lead the organization. What online detectives learned is that, unlike the previous two presidents, Richie has no basketball experience listed on her bio. In fact she that she has no real sports experience to speak of.

Richie was most recently Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Girl Scouts of the USA, and has been credited with revitalizing the iconic brand. Not surprisingly, there have been the requisite jokes about offering Tag-Alongs and Thin Mints at every WNBA game and giving the players badges instead of pay raises.

The business acumen of the incoming president is more than apparent. She brings more than three decades of experience in consumer marketing, corporate branding, public relations and corporate management. Whether or not she can lead the WNBA through a significant re-branding process remains to be seen but at this point in the evolution of the league, hiring a seasoned business executive seems like a smart move.

Among her many accolades, Richie has received the YMCA Black Achiever's Award and Ebony magazine's Outstanding Women in Marketing and Communications. She graduated Dartmouth with a degree in policy studies. She has also worked for the national advertising agency, Ogilvy & Mather, developing campaigns for such companies as American Express and Pepperidge Farm.

When RIchie takes the reigns at the WNBA, she will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the league. She will assume her new role on May 16, 2011 just in time for the tip-off of the 15th season in June.

Of course, the unknown factor is how her background will translate to running a sports league, which is way different than re-imagining a beloved girls leadership organization. There are shared ideals between the two that Richie may try to leverage and as an outsider she will certainly bring fresh eyes to the table,  ESPN's Mechelle Voepel thinks she will have to play catch-up in her new job and the jury is still out whether her lack of experience in a sports culture will hinder her.

What do you think of the appointment? Was hiring a Girl Scout for the top WNBA spot a smart move or not?

Photo credit: Courtesy of WNBA


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