WNBA's Attendance, TV Bump Attributed To Promotion Of Griner, Other Rookies
WNBA Mercury C Brittney Griner in her rookie season has achieved what the league "desperately needed her to do: she has attracted more fans," according to Nate Taylor of the N.Y. TIMES. The league's "shift in branding and promotion, with a focus on Griner and other top rookies, has been a success," as attendance rose slightly from record lows in '12. Games on ESPN2 also saw a 28% viewership jump and traffic on the league’s website "has increased." However, this past season was the "sixth time in seven years that the average was below 8,000," and more than half of the league’s 12 teams "did not report a profit." WNBA President Laurel Richie to renew interest "made drastic changes before the WNBA’s 17th season," as the league "received a rebranding, with a new logo, Web site and color scheme." ESPN extended its contract with the league through '22 and "televised its draft in prime time." The league’s "biggest promotional efforts, and optimism, focused on its top three draft picks" -- Griner, Sky F Elena Delle Donne and Shock G Skylar Diggins. Clemson Univ. economics professor Raymond Sauer said that it was "wise for the league to put faith in Griner," and added that her "ability to dunk, along with her engaging personality and her stance to stop bullying, made her fascinating." Mercury G Diana Taurasi, the No. 1 overall pick in '04, said that she "did not face the same demands when she was the new face of the league." Richie said of this year's rookie class, "I think 20 years from now we’re going to look back and say that was a defining moment in the history of the WNBA." Richie now is "focusing on how the league can work with ESPN to build on its momentum" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/19).