SBD/October 8, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

WNBA Still Facing Attendance Challenge After 16 Seasons; League Shifts Marketing Ideals

The WNBA “continues to fly under the radar even as it prepares for its 16th finals this week,” and though it “wouldn’t be accurate to say that nobody cares, league officials say they wish more people did,” according to William Rhoden of the N.Y. TIMES. WNBA officials said that merchandise sales have “increased 19 percent over last season and group sales by 20 percent,” while season-ticket renewals for ‘13 are “up 10 percent.” But Rhoden writes, “Metrics are one thing, passion quite another." Despite an uptick in season-ticket sales, the WNBA “had its lowest average regular-season attendance, 7,457 fans a game, since its inception.” The WNBA in a “significant shift" is now promoting "its top talent, like Minnesota’s heavily tattooed star Seimone Augustus.” Former WNBAer Chamique Holdsclaw said, “Sometimes it wasn’t the best players who were being promoted, but the best image. I see the league getting away from that.” She added, “The league realizes that it has to support and have a place for its gay community. ... You have players, some star players now, who openly identify as being gay. Early on, the league would not market them because of that. That has changed.” Meanwhile, Rhoden notes there have been “suggestions that the WNBA should play in smaller arenas to create a more intimate experience." Sparks Owner & CEO Paula Madison said, “In order for us to gain the kind of marketing dollars and sponsorship dollars, we have to play big." Holdsclaw said, "The WNBA and NBA need businesswomen and women executives buying season tickets and going to games after work. ... We’re not there.” Madison added that the Sparks are the “only WNBA team with a paid local television contract" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/8).
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