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A Slam Dunk Guide to WNBA Advertising

Discover the power of WNBA advertising to reach a growing, engaged, diverse audience with a track record of brand loyalty.

Meredith Cunningham Published: May 22, 2024
A Slam Dunk Guide to WNBA Advertising image

Women’s sports are experiencing a meteoric rise, and 2024 is a year of many firsts. This presents unprecedented opportunities for sports advertising.

For the first time in history, more viewers tuned into the women’s NCAA championship game than the men’s. There will be an equal number of female and male athletes at the Paris Olympics, and the inaugural season of the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) in Canada surpassed all attendance and viewing expectations. On top of that, Deloitte forecasts that in 2024, for the first time, women’s elite sports will generate a revenue that surpasses $1 billion — a 300% increase on the industry’s evaluation in 2021.

As WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert tells The Athletic, “We are witnessing a transformational moment in sports that we may not experience for generations.”

Since its inaugural season in 1996, the WNBA has created a platform for the game’s new superstars. If the recent success is any indication, the League is entering a new, fearless era as audiences and interest grow. This makes now the opportune time for brands to consider adding women’s sports and WNBA advertising to their marketing lineup. 

5 Reasons It’s Beneficial to Advertise With The WNBA

Alignment with WNBA teams and their stars is a strategy that, according to SponsorUnited, has worked for several brands, including Starry, Breeze Airways, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Coinbase. Not only have these brands been able to connect to a growing, diverse, and engaged audience, but they’ve also enhanced brand image by positioning themselves as leaders in social responsibility to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace and ultimately increase sales and revenue. 

1. WNBA Has a Growing Reach

The numbers are hitting full-court press. The 2024 draft reached more than 2.4 million viewers (up +307% from the year prior), and new broadcast deals are in place that will help increase viewership over the 36 million total unique viewers in 2023.

In May 2024, TEGNA and the Indiana Fever announced that 11 additional markets will join WTHR, TEGNA’s Indianapolis NBC affiliate, creating an unprecedented 12-market footprint airing 17 Indiana Fever games for free over the air this year.

With this expanded footprint, 4.6 million homes can watch #1 overall draft pick Caitlin Clark, 2023 #1 overall pick and WNBA Rookie of the Year Aliyah Boston, and the exciting Fever roster as they make a push to return to the playoffs.

2. Make the Most of the Halo Effect to Align With WNBA Stars

WNBA superstars like Clark, Boston, Breanna Stewart, A’ja Wilson, and veteran Diana Taurasi have influence and power that reaches beyond the basketball courts. Aligning your brand with these stars can help create a “halo effect,” transferring the stars’ positive traits to the brand.

3. Create a Positive Brand Image & Strengthen Brand Loyalty

Supporting the WNBA and women’s sports can enhance a brand’s image by demonstrating its commitment to social responsibility, gender equality, and empowerment. Nielsen’s Fan Insights found: 

  • 44% of WNBA fans have visited a brand’s website after seeing WNBA sponsorships during a game
  • 28% have bought from a sponsoring brand
  • Similarly, 69% of Women’s World Cup fans believe brands are more appealing when they participate in sports sponsorships
  • 71% of Women’s World Cup fans believe that companies sponsoring the tournament are committed to advancing gender equality and women’s sports. 

This type of repeated exposure to a brand helps build brand fame among audiences, who begin to recognize brands as household names after repeated exposure.

4. Get In Front of Live, Large Crowds

Appointment TV is evolving with the rise of streaming and on-demand content. Amid these changes, live sports dominate the landscape, and this audience is appealing to advertisers for several reasons. 

For starters, sporting events captivate audiences and command their full attention, leading to high viewer engagement. Unlike scripted programming or recorded content, live sports offer unpredictable outcomes and moments of excitement, keeping viewers glued to their screens and receptive to advertising messages.

Additionally, sports viewing is often a social experience, with friends, family, and fans gathering to watch games and cheer on their favorite teams. This social aspect amplifies the impact of advertising as viewers discuss and share their reactions to commercials with others, extending the reach and influence of the brand’s message.

Next, sports attract a broad and diverse audience spanning various demographics, including age, gender, income level, and geographic location. This diversity allows advertisers to reach a wide range of consumers with their marketing messages, maximizing the potential for brand exposure and engagement.

Last but not least, sports evoke strong emotions and passionate reactions from fans, creating an ideal environment for advertisers to connect with consumers on an emotional level. By aligning their brands with the excitement and intensity of live sports, advertisers can evoke positive associations and build meaningful relationships with their target audience.

5. Benefit from a Cross-Channel Strategy

Live sports audiences are highly engaged and active across various channels, from watching games on TV to engaging with content on social media platforms during and after events. A cross-channel marketing strategy that combines the power of broadcast, streaming, digital, and podcasting allows brands to interact with audiences in real-time, fostering engagement and conversation around their products or services. Bottom line: Reaching your audience through multiple channels isn’t nice to have. It’s a must-have. 

3-Point Strategies for Winning WNBA Advertising 

To harness the full potential of WNBA advertising, brands must employ strategic, innovative, and multi-faceted approaches that resonate with this unique audience. By leveraging targeted creative content, cross-channel campaigns, and partnerships with key stakeholders, brands can elevate their presence, drive engagement, and achieve their marketing objectives.

1. Focus Creative on WBNA Fans

Knowing your target audience is a critical piece of the puzzle in making effective ad campaigns.  Revisit who benefits from your product or service and identify if their demographic characteristics have changed since the last time you reviewed customer persona profiles. Add or update any new interests or hobbies, what motivates them, their purchasing power, and purchasing behaviors.

Thoughtful audience insights can help tailor creative to these segments, which can help them better connect and resonate with the content, leading to increased awareness, engagement, sentiment, and sales. 

For WNBA fans specifically, YouGov finds this fan base is: 

  • Young. Ages 18-34 make up nearly half of WNBA fans (47%)
    • For context, this group makes up only 30% of the overall adult US population
  • Female. Women make up 44% of all WNBA fans
  • Into the Idea of Sponsorships. 71% of WNBA fans like supporting their teams by buying from sponsors, and 77% of WNBA fans feel sponsorship can help keep companies socially relevant.

This fan base is also passionate about women’s sports and values messages emphasizing empowerment, inclusivity, and equality. Ads that highlight the athleticism, skill, and inspiring stories of WNBA players resonate well with this audience. Incorporating fan-driven content and leveraging player endorsements can create a deeper connection and foster brand loyalty.

2. Invest in Television Advertising

An average of 505,000 viewers watched regular season games across ESPN Networks and CBS in 2023, making it the highest-viewed regular season in recent years and a great platform for TV advertising.

Viewership should continue to grow, especially as TEGNA’s new partnership with the Indiana Fever is beginning to take off. 

“We could not be more excited to make these exciting WNBA games available to more fans, in more homes, across more markets, including Caitlin Clark’s home state of Iowa,” Brad Ramsey, senior vice president of media operations, TEGNA, said in a press release. “We are grateful to the Pacers organization, the WNBA, and our broadcast partners for their trust and for helping us create a first-of-its-kind fan experience.”

3. Consider Podcasts

It’s no secret that sports fans are passionate, and adding sports podcasts into the marketing mix offers an excellent opportunity to reach a targeted audience engaged with high-quality content and credible sports influencers. Many sports podcast hosts are influential figures in the sports world, including former athletes, commentators, and journalists. Their endorsements can lend credibility to a brand through the halo effect, as listeners trust their opinions and recommendations.

Podcasts also often have associated social media channels, websites, and newsletters. Brands can leverage these multiple touchpoints through podcast advertising for a more integrated and comprehensive marketing campaign. For example, TEGNA offers cross-channel integration with TV, streaming, and podcasts with the Locked On Podcast Network. Amazingly, Locked On Podcast Network boasts creative ad opportunities and an audience of 82 million avid, loyal sports fans tuning into the channel in January, February, and March 2024. 

The Best WNBA Ads

The WNBA stands out not just for its remarkable athletes and thrilling games but also for its innovative and impactful marketing campaigns that help elevate the profile of women’s basketball, inspire change, and showcase the unique spirit of the league.

The Indiana Fever Sponsorship Grows Awareness with Extended Local News Coverage

The Indiana Fever tapped into the influence and power of its local broadcast news station, TEGNA’s WTHR, sponsoring a segment called “Inside Track,” where they introduced audiences to Aliyah Boston and gave a behind-the-scenes and inside look at her 2023 season, in which she won the title of WNBA’s Rookie of the Year. 


Deloitte’s ‘Real MVP of Business’

Knowing their target audience and what they care about makes Deloitte’s ad incredibly effective. The creative features WNBA superstars Sylvia Fowles, Diana Taurasi, and Theresa Plaisance as they “fan girl” over top women executives and their work. As the YouTube video description states, this ad showcases how the company is “proud to invest in women’s careers and of our WNBA sponsorship.” 


WealthSimple Joins the Fight for Equal Pay with WNBA All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith

WealthSimple, a wealth management company, showcased its commitment to social justice and women’s sports by telling the true story of WNBA All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith, whose WNBA rookie contract was only $40,000 compared to an NBA rookie contract of $4 million, despite having a better track record and more accomplishments on her resume. 

WNBA Advertising with TEGNA

Advertising with TEGNA in the context of the WNBA presents many benefits for brands looking to tap into the dynamic and passionate fan base of women’s basketball. TEGNA, known for its expansive media reach and innovative advertising solutions, offers brands unique opportunities to connect with audiences meaningfully, from broadcast and streaming TV advertising to podcasting with the Locked On Podcast Network and more digital solutions. Let’s get in touch if you’re ready to start advertising alongside the WNBA with team TEGNA.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who are WNBA Fans?

WNBA fans are a diverse, socially conscious, and engaged community that values the high-quality athleticism on display and the league’s commitment to broader social issues. This passionate fan base is a testament to the WNBA’s impact on and off the court. Many WNBA fans are family-oriented, viewing the games as a family-friendly event where they can bring their children and foster a love for sports. They are deeply engaged and loyal, frequently attend games, follow their favorite teams and players on social media, and participate in online discussions and fan communities. While a substantial portion of the fan base is female, reflecting the league’s strong appeal to women who appreciate seeing female athletes in the spotlight, there is also a significant male audience. 

Which Gender Watches the WNBA the Most?

It turns out that the WNBA is more popular among males than females; a survey by Statista found that 11% of males indicated they were “avid fans” of the WNBA, whereas only 4% of females stated the same.

Want to learn more about sports advertising? Be sure to check out:  

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