WNBA to market to LGBT community

wnba

KOMO: Amid a surge of public opinion in favor of gay rights in the U.S., the WNBA is launching a campaign to market the league to the LGBT community, becoming the first pro sports league to specifically recruit gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender fans to its games.

With the marketing campaign, the WNBA is capitalizing on what it has known for years: The community makes up a significant portion of its fan base. The difference now is that the league is talking about it publicly and making it a deliberate part of its marketing strategy.

The launch of the effort coincides with a surge of political and legal advances for the gay-rights movement in the U.S., and shifting public opinion behind many of those advances.

Photo from gay pride festival

Photo from gay pride festival

The campaign, which begins with the debut of a website Wednesday, includes having teams participate in local pride festivals and parades, working with advocacy groups to raise awareness of inclusion through grassroots events and advertising with lesbian media. A nationally televised pride game will take place between Tulsa and Chicago on Sunday, June 22. All 12 teams will also have some sort of pride initiative over the course of the season.

“For us it’s a celebration of diversity and inclusion and recognition of an audience that has been with us very passionately,” WNBA President Laurel Richie said.

Celebrate diversity!

Celebrate diversity!

It’s taken the league 18 years to take the step, though it had discussions about the possibility previously. Teams have done some promotion locally, sponsoring booths at gay pride events and hosting groups at games.

Photo from gay pride event

Photo from gay pride event

“We embrace all our fans and it’s a group that we know has been very, very supportive. I won’t characterize it as ‘Why did it take so long?’ For me it’s been we’ve been doing a lot of terrific initiatives. The piece that’s different this year is unifying it,” Richie said.

Before launching the campaign, the league took a close look at its fan base. It commissioned a study in 2012 that found that 25 percent of lesbians watch the league’s games on TV while 21 percent have attended a game.

Rick Welts, who was the executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the NBA when the WNBA first started in 1997, said that when the league began executives figured the fan base would be a carryover from the NBA.

“We guessed very wrong on that,” said Welts, who is the president and COO of the Golden State Warriors and became the highest-ranking executive in men’s sports to publicly acknowledge he’s gay in 2011. “Maybe we should have known better. I think from its outset, the WNBA attracted a fan with different interests than our profile of an NBA fan.

“I remember sitting in a few meetings where we had really interesting thoughtful discussions of: Should we be proactive marketing to the LGBT community? What does that say if we do? We certainly didn’t want to position the league of being exclusionary to anyone. What were we saying if we did it more proactively? Society and sports culture is very different today than it was back then. Teams were trying to figure out the right thing to do.”

Brittney Griner, who is one of a handful of WNBA athletes who have publicly identified themselves as lesbian, was happy the league was embracing the community. Griner, who was the No. 1 pick by the Phoenix Mercury in the draft in 2013, plans on wearing rainbow-colored shoes during the month of June in support of the initiative.

We’ll pave the way and show its fine and there’s nothing wrong with it. More sports need to do it. It’s 2014, it’s about time,” said Griner, who served as grand marshal of the Phoenix Pride parade last season.

“This is a group where there is a natural affinity and marketing affinity,” he said. “It’s a recognition of where the world is today. I’d be shocked if there was any backlash.”

Rebecca Lobo, who played in the league for six seasons and has been a broadcaster for the last decade, has seen a change from when the league began in 1997.

Culturally acceptable...

Culturally acceptable…

It’s culturally more acceptable now than it was when it first started,” she said. “The league has been around for so many years they can do these sort of things without worrying about what some people might think.”

It wasn’t always that way.

“For a long time they were happy to have those lesbians fill those seats in the stands, but not willing for a long time to embrace the fan base,” said Pat Griffin, professor emeritus in the social justice education program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “I attribute that to the homophobia, fear that somehow acknowledging the fan base would encourage other fans not to go to games. What they’ve learned is that the fan doesn’t keep other people from going to games.”

(All photos from gay pride events, the “clean” ones I could publish.)

DCG

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0 responses to “WNBA to market to LGBT community

  1. “the WNBA is capitalizing on what it has known for years: The community makes up a significant portion of its fan base.”

    Is that the Women’s National Basketball Association’s tacit way of saying that most female basketball players and fans are lesbians?

     
    • exactly…it’s unfortunate if a young girl wants to become a pro-basketball player she has to endure being being hit on by other women or discriminated against. What does one’s choice in sexuality have to do with playing ANY sport?

       
    • Sounds like it Dr. Eowyn, afterall the homosexual movement is also about rape you know, it may not necessarily be physical rape, but forcing the perversity in everyone’s faces through whatever venue *doesn’t* outright ban them, is a form of mental rape, I should think, especially pride parades where the sickness is marketed to children, and openly at that (as well as “sex ed”). This is another reason why WNBA support is being exploited, to make sure little girls with a mindset to play basketball get indoctrinated, it has nothing to do with “fans”, if it did then they should be catering to lone single men who likely constitute the majority of their viewers, especially vs homosexual women.

       
  2. Celebrating perversity…not diversity.

     
  3. Well, isn’t that special!

     
  4. “Swish … nothing but net,” suddenly acquired a completely different connotation.

     
  5. Maybe the WNBA’s hoping all the talk of “ball handling” will bring them in…

     
  6. This verse covers it all!
    2 Timothy 3 New International Version (NIV)
    3 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

     

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