I won’t bog you down with the numbers. We all know that the WNBA attendance rates pale in comparison to their brother league.
It’s a shame, because we also know that the WNBA has so much to offer to viewers.
A recent post revealed some reasons why current fans of the league are dedicated to following their WNBA team. A desire to watch fundamental basketball at it’s best was the most common denominator. The league needs to capitalize on the skills and resources it already possesses. The main ingredient: content creation. These are four areas that are in need of stronger content. These are four area that, if publicized right, could broaden the appeal of the league.
Capitalize on the fundamentals
If the main thing driving current fans to WNBA games is a love for the fundamental skills exhibited in them, the league should be capitalizing on that. This all has to come in the form of numbers: analyzing the arc or angle of a shot; calculating the capacities of a female athlete, using those numbers to determine the athleticism of women in the league. The Washington Mystics and Minnesota Lynx did something similar last season. They played in an analytical scrimmage to increase appeal. Fans weren’t invited — fine. But why wasn’t this publicized afterwards more? Why isn’t there a piece of promotional content that came out of this? All I can find are news stories about the scrimmage itself.
Women are too often compared to male players and will almost always come up short based on biological makeup. Developing a new standard would lead more people to be impressed by the capabilities of female athletes. In the area that they won’t come up short — fundamental basketball — is where there should be the most content being produced. The league doesn’t have to try to put on the Steph Curry show. Rather, it needs to find new ways to transform seemingly basic skills that its players posses into what they actually are: pretty dang impressive.
Play up rivalries between teams
Any New Yorker will talk your ear off about the Knicks-Nets rivalry. White Sox games sell out when they play the Cubs, and not just because all of the fans are in Chicago. Bears ticket prices are dependent on who they play. For sports fans, it’s about the rivalry. Sure, anyone wants to watch a competitive game as opposed to a blowout. But add in a little drama? Count me, and thousands of others, in. What’s the biggest rivalry in the WNBA? A few superfans might tell you, but even they might be unsure. It’s just not played up enough. To play it up, the league risks the chance of coming off contrived–the narrative must be subtle. This is also a hard step because a lot of this is dependent on external factors: the players’ attitudes, the fans enthusiasm. But one way the league can contribute is drawing from previous interactions and games between players; pregame features that are less about stats and more about the story of two teams as competitors of each other. This gives viewers a stake in the game.
Create content that features veteran players
The WNBA is at an advantage here: the Michael Jordans of the league are still playing today. Candace Parker, Sue Bird. These are household names. I want content created around them, featuring their careers as athletes and how the league has changed since their introduction to it. I want a history of this 20 year organization to start to be publicized so that people can draw connections and relate to it. In addition to this, the league and its players need to continue to create player personalities. Lebron James is either hated or loved. But he’s known and he’s watched because of his reputation as a cry baby who also happens to be one of the world’s greatest athletes. Steph Curry is a father who grew up in the NBA. Even reserved players like Joakim Noah has a personality, even if a large part of it has to do with his hair. The only player comparable to this in my book is Elena Delle Donne, who has made it her business to market herself as a player with a life outside of the league. People go to games because she is a force to be reckoned with, of course, but also because she puts herself out there. When people feel that personal connection to a player, they want to see them play.
Create content that exhibits a strong relationship with NBA
This is almost a no-brainer. The WNBA already has a pretty strong working relationship with the NBA. Now it’s a matter of capitalizing on that to generate interest. I love when Delle Donne posts pictures with Draymond Green or Kevin Durant. It reminds me that, though the league is at a much younger place, these women are professional athletes the same as their celebrity male counterparts. A Creating content like this would be a big step in the right direction for a league that unfortunately has to constantly try to establish legitimacy.