SBD/May 21, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

WNBA Launches Marketing Campaign To Appeal To LGBT Community

The WNBA is launching a new marketing effort called WNBA Pride aimed at the LGBT community. The effort includes the creation of a new site on WNBA.com, called WNBA.com/pride where league and team Pride content will be posted throughout the season. In addition, WNBA teams will host Pride-themed games throughout June where players will wear commemorative Pride shooting shirts. The WNBA also will celebrate LGBT Pride on national TV with the June 22 Shock-Sky game on ESPN2. A new WNBA Pride logo will appear during the broadcast in courtside signage along with in-game promotions. Other elements include team participation in local LGBT Pride festivals and parades and advertising with lesbian-targeted outlets. Covergirl is the presenting sponsor of the new campaign (John Lombardo, Staff Writer). The AP's Doug Feinberg writes the WNBA is “capitalizing on what it has quietly known for years: The community makes up a significant portion of its fan base.” The WNBA commissioned a study in ‘12 that “found that 25 percent of lesbians watch the league's games on TV while 21 percent have attended a game.” Warriors President & COO Rick Welts, who was the NBA Exec VP & CMO when the WNBA launched in ‘97, said that when the league began, execs “figured the fan base would be a carryover from the NBA.” Welts, who is gay, said, “We guessed wrong on that. … Maybe we should have known better.” Mercury C Brittney Griner, who has publicly identified herself as a lesbian, said, "I'm so glad that we're finally making a push to the LGBT community who is a strong supporter of the WNBA. Our league being the first to make that push and bring more attention to it is great. We'll pave the way and show its fine and there's nothing wrong with it. More sports need to do it” (AP, 5/21).

SUMMER BREEZE: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL’s Lombardo notes the WNBA's “Summer Hoops” campaign calls for each team to “create its own grassroots marketing initiative.” The goal is to “further spur leaguewide attendance," which edged up by 1% last year from the previous season, to 7,531 fans per game, while also "continuing to increase leaguewide gate revenue," which rose 8% last year. The WNBA “hopes its new campaign, created in-house, will drive interest in each of its individual markets.” Meanwhile, ESPN is counting on Sky F Elena Delle Donne to “help drive viewership nationally.” ESPN has “scheduled the Sky for seven nationally televised games this year, the most of any WNBA team.” The hope is to “build on viewership numbers" that climbed 28% on ESPN2 last year and 19% on NBA TV (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/19 issue).
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