The Women’s National Basketball Association has launched WNBA Pride, a national campaign to embrace equality and combat bias against the LGBT community. The league will host a number of WNBA Pride-themed events throughout the season tied directly to games and LGBT Pride events. Warm-up apparel for players and T-shirts for fans will feature the WNBA Pride logo, and a larger marketing push will take place with presenting partner Covergirl. ESPN and GLAAD are also taking part in the action.
For the WNBA, this makes sense from a communications perspective. The league did a study of its fan base in 2012, finding that 25% of lesbians watch games on TV and 21% attended live games. The WNBA never did much to court (no pun intended) this segment of the fan base, despite its loyalty and size relative to the total number of viewers.
Recent developments in sports that have seen barriers broken by members of the gay community may have inspired the WNBA to action. Major sports leagues are becoming more inclusive to openly gay players, as Jason Collins of the NBA and Michael Sam of the NFL can attest. Embracing and celebrating LGBT fans seems like the next logical step, and has proven to be a media relations win for the WNBA. AP, the Boston Globe, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Jezebel are among the media outlets that have covered the WNBA Pride campaign.
The WNBA has struggled for much of its existence with building a widespread fan base, but the league is now making a concerted effort to change that. This is a classic example of a brand taking a good look at its customer base, and enhancing its communications strategy to build that base.
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