SBJ/September 5 - 11, 2005/Other News

WNBA looks for answers to attendance dip

The WNBA ended its 2005 regular season with a decline in attendance, a rude welcome for new league President Donna Orender, who said she will spend the offseason redefining the league’s brand.

The league is considering hiring outside branding agencies to help in the effort, which comes as the WNBA saw its average attendance fall 4.5 percent this year from 2004, to 8,184 fans a game.

The Washington Mystics saw average attendance fall by more than 20 percent.
“It is about us resetting our position and clarifying our brand,” said Orender, who was hired in April to replace founding WNBA President Val Ackerman. “Everyone has a sense of what the WNBA is, but we have to refine it. We are in major market research now and are looking for partner entities. Instead of having our brand pop up in May, we want to create the opportunity for our brand to be relevant across the whole year.”

The WNBA last year hired New York-based Mother for some advertising help, but Orender said the league is no longer working with the company. She would not disclose the prospective new branding agencies.

The New York Liberty led the WNBA in attendance this year, averaging 10,145 fans a game. Charlotte ranked last in the 13-team league, with an average of 5,747 fans, down 16.1 percent from 2004. Washington had the largest attendance drop in the league (down 20.2 percent), though the Mystics trailed only New York with an average of 10,088 fans a game.

While Orender did not provide branding specifics, she said the WNBA will use its coming 10th anniversary as its major marketing platform next season and will push its television partners for a regular programming slot with increased promotion, particularly on ABC.

Television ratings for 13 games on ESPN2 this year generated an average 0.3 rating, compared with a 0.2 last season. ABC aired six games for a 0.7 average, down from a 0.8 rating for six games last season. Two games on ESPN generated a 0.3 rating; there were no games on ESPN in 2004.

The WNBA next season will expand into Chicago and will add another franchise in 2007. The league will not change any ownership groups this offseason, Orender said.

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