SBJ/May 14-20, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

League targets prospective fans with more grassroots events

Look for more grassroots marketing efforts in the WNBA this year as teams seek continued traction at the gate.

The WNBA saw its group sales grow by 20 percent last year. The league is on track for another double-digit boost in group-ticket sales this season, with much of that increase being driven by grassroots efforts.

The Sky is lining up more local marketing events in Chicago.
Photo by: NBAE / GETTY IMAGES
The Chicago Sky, for example, for the first time this year scheduled a preseason game at a local suburban high school in hopes of finding new ways to get exposure and target fans. It’s part of a strategy that calls for limiting broad marketing efforts in favor of having targeted events aimed at winning fans on a more local level.

“We know that trying to compete by out-advertising people may not work,” said Chicago Sky President and CEO Adam Fox. “It is not easy to cut through the noise as a sports team here in Chicago, especially one not lining up with [teams from] the big four in the market, so we are trying to take our product to the people and, to that end, we think we have a great opportunity.”

The Sky began its increased grassroots activity last season and saw attendance increase by 30 percent over the 2010 season to 5,536 fans per game. While that average was still second to last in the 12-team WNBA, the spike in sales spurred the call for more new local marketing events. In addition to the preseason game at a local high school, the Sky this year is working to develop a Gospel Night program aimed at driving new business.

“Our season-ticket sales will end up flat, so we hope to increase the number of individual buyers,” Fox said.

The Sky isn’t alone is creating new local events.

The Indiana Fever this year agreed to be a presenting sponsor of a girls youth basketball program that fields some 200 teams. It is the first time the WNBA club has agreed to be a presenting partner of another organization.

“Part of the plan is to connect with the girls and their families,” said Kelly Krauskopf, Fever general manager and COO. “For us, it is a very small investment, and they turn over their database to us.”

WNBA President Laurel Richie said there will be a continued shift toward grassroots marketing efforts as teams improve on their creation of local programs.

“Our teams have been exploring all kinds of partnerships, and we have really focused on who our prime prospects are,” Richie said. “We are getting better at it and we are understanding our audience and tapping into them.”

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