SBJ/July 21-27, 2014/People and Pop Culture

Plugged In: Hilary Shaev, WNBA

As vice president of marketing for the WNBA, Hilary Shaev spearheads branding initiatives, marketing strategies and promotions for the league. It’s been a particularly busy summer, as the league has rolled out several new efforts, including the WNBA Pride campaign, aimed at the LGBT community, and the league’s Summer Hoops initiative. Shaev joined the NBA in 2008 after working in the music business running national promotions for Capitol Music, Virgin Records and Epic Records on behalf of some the biggest names in the industry. Now, her task is to help raise the WNBA’s profile and drive business for the league, which is in its 18th season.


There is no question that there are incredible players with amazing off-court stories and on-court play. The challenge is getting the stories in front of the public in a broader way.


Photo: COURTESY OF WNBA
About WNBA Pride: All of our teams have had activation and marketing plans that have gone well. We have seen great sales of our “Pride” T-shirts. The lesbian fan base is an important one for the teams and the league. Over the years, we have had different league and team activations in that space. This season, we got some research back on our lesbian fans and we decided to dial it all up and take all the things we have done in the past and do them better, and we branded it.

About Summer Hoops: We wanted to marry the joy of basketball and the joy of summer. It will be lasting and not used just this season. The WNBA schedule rolls from Memorial Day to about Labor Day. We have our own events, our preseason, the All-Star Game, and there is the bulk of national holidays [during the summer]. … For Memorial Day and Independence Day, we took the [NBA’s] “Hoops For Troops” platform and burst that for the first time in the WNBA. We had our “Dad and Daughters” platform for Father’s Day. We have had a great response this year, and it will continue to grow.

The WNBA’s biggest marketing opportunity: Elevating our stars to be household names. We know that sports fans respond to stories. The more and the better we can tell our stories with our partners, the more attention we can grab for our athletes.

Getting the word out: A lot of our stories are generated internally and then go out through various channels. We also try to do a lot to excite our broadcast partners to continue to tell the stories. We have the great benefit to speak to a broad range of fans through the NBA and the WNBA. We have also done a lot with our partner espnW in having players tell their stories in their own voices.

The impact of players being overseas in the offseason: There is a balance, and there are good results of players staying and players playing overseas. We are U.S.-centric to our markets, but what is going on overseas when they are there is growing the popularity [of the game] globally. It establishes us as a powerhouse when it comes to the world stage. We have had players stay home and work within both their team and home markets during the season. You can see the benefits of both.
 
— John Lombardo

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