SBJ/Sept. 23-29, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

‘3 to See’ boosts gate, viewership for WNBA

The WNBA’s “3 to See” rookies brought notable gains at the gate in the players’ home markets this year, and league officials said the trio also helped increase the league’s TV and online numbers in 2013.

The Chicago Sky, led by rookie Elena Delle Donne, saw the league’s biggest attendance gain across the 2013 regular season compared with last year, up more than 18 percent. The Phoenix Mercury, with rookie Brittney Griner, posted the league’s second-highest increase, up 9.5 percent. And while Tulsa, with rookie Skylar Diggins, did post the league’s lowest per-game average for the third-consecutive year, the Shock’s mark also was up in 2013, by 5.2 percent.

The Chicago Sky, with rookie Elena Delle Donne, saw a double-digit attendance gain.
Photo by: NBAE / GETTY IMAGES
Delle Donne, Griner and Diggins were at the heart of the league’s marketing efforts for the 2013 season.
Chicago Sky President Adam Fox said his club’s gains went beyond the gate: Sponsorship revenue increased by 30 percent.

“All our metrics are very much positive,” Fox said. “The good news is that they are growing. The bad news is that we have the room to grow. We still have a ways to go.”

Similarly, leaguewide, attendance was up 1 percent for the WNBA from last year, but the per-game average of 7,531 was still the third-lowest mark in the WNBA’s 17-year history (surpassing only 7,479 in 2006 and 7,457 last year). League officials, however, found deeper gains in the gate numbers.

“No doubt that this year’s [draft class] generated a ton of excitement,” said WNBA President Laurel Richie. “We found that the attention has brought new people into the game. Individual sales are up by 25 percent, and I view that as a sampling number. Those people may not be all the way in yet but are checking us out. Those dynamics bode well for the league.”

Gains also can be see in gate revenue, which was up 8 percent. League officials attribute that increase to higher ticket prices, the use of variable ticket pricing, and a 25 percent increase in single-game ticket sales.

Additionally, viewership jumped 28 percent on ESPN2 and 19 percent on NBA TV this year, and the league posted double-digit increases in Web traffic. The league saw its total visits on WNBA.com increase by 20 percent while total page views increased by 11 percent. The number of video views jumped by 68 percent.

“In terms of digital activity, we are seeing some strong numbers,” Richie said. “It speaks to the fan engagement and interest.”

Richie said the league is still tabulating sponsorship revenue but she expects to see an increase with the addition of State Farm Insurance and Procter & Gamble as league-level sponsors this year.

“We are still waiting for a couple of things to close,” she said. “We are definitely up at the league and team level.”

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