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Wednesday, November 12th, 2008 at 12:26 pm  |  56 responses

What’s Next For The WNBA?

Goody breaks down the W and looks to the future.

Naperville's ownby Adrienne Goodson

This past season was real bright for the WNBA. There were new deals, new champions, and a new face to market worldwide (Candace Parker).

All of these things were hot, but there are a few areas that I would like to see improvements in. The first can take place overnight, while the second will take some time.

The lack of ethnic sponsors who represent the true make up of the league would have to be the first. This list of sponsors is fine, but brands like Essence, Ebony, Dark and Lovely, Oprah and Lifetime also need to be partners with the league. I can honestly say that since the WNBA has not put out a good campaign to start off the season since 1997. Of course, back then they were competing with the ABL so there’s the answer. I liked the commercials back in the day with Kym Hampton and Sue Wicks in the streets of New York as well as Lisa Leslie in Cali. They were funny and drove the league. It literally gave the WNBA a face and an identity in the community. They WNBA has a group of beautiful and intelligent women who should be in the public eye more often.

Second, and more importantly, I would love to see the league continually expand into an empire just like the NBA has so that aspiring coaches, trainers, equipment managers, and strength coaches have a better chance at employment in the WNBA. The league’s growth is not as rapid as the current market but with time they will create more teams. Perhaps in another 10 years the league will have 24 teams. It’s certainly not impossible and very realistic but it will take a new plan of action that includes marketing, sponsorship, and a creative developmental team to do it.

The league has been the first at many things and will continue to be a trailblazer. I am hopeful that the players will push the league as we did back in the 90’s. They make more money now and have the resources and the power to do it. They will pass the torch on and on until someone signs that first million dollar contract.

Realistically, a new campaign is due and should be led by Candace Parker, Deanna Nolan, Cappie Pondexter, Jen McCarville, Diana Taurasi and Candice Wiggins. They are the ones who will transition away from the faces of the 90’s and take the torch through the rest of this decade and into the next. Hopefully, the WNBA marketing meetings in New Jersey will be the beginning of a new trail.

The first part of the journey is now water under the bridge and it’s time to bring the league to the next level of success.

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  • riggs

    just for the picture alone im giving this props…now lemme start reading…

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    i hate to nag about the wnba but they also need athleticism. nobody denies that the pace of the game/lack of fierce moves off the bounce can droll the senses sometimes. peep the senior 6 foot 7 center hs girl from texas who can dunk off a drop step. and not that candace parker barely dunk after a transition run to the goal, i mean yamming on the rim. check that out. getting more players to do that will help the wnba.

  • http://slamonline.com Matt Caputo

    wnba is a good thing.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Thanks Goody. As to Justin’s comment, Goody, have you seen this Brittney Griner play? We’ve had some stuff about here on the site and we’ve got a story on her in the next issue. I hear you that there are some great players the league should be building on (I personally remain loyal to DT as the W’s best player), but Griner could really take things to another level when she arrives.

  • riggs

    if only they can get over the hump of “oh theyre ugly and dont play real basketball” that many nba fans have (many not all) then they can do well, they still have many years ahead of them and are gaining traction. co-sign on those commercials

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    by the way, i agree that the WNBA is a good thing, i just think they need more than marketing, they need to grow not just the brand of the sport, but the skill of the sport itself; just as the NBA needs to improve on fundamentals and fluidity in some cases, WNBA needs to improve on athleticism a bit. and Ben, absolutely on Brittney’s skill. I saw her play at a tourney in Dallas back when I went to school there, and she made everybody in the gym go nuts when this skinny girl that nobody had heard of was literally pulling the breakaway rim down… I mean she was really DUNKING, not just flicking her fingers at the rim…Brittney will be a great step forward for the WNBA!

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I heart Candace Parker.

  • http://slamonline.com Khalid Salaam

    Me too tad, me too

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    shelden williams is a lucky man

  • WhaHuh

    I hear you about the dunking, there is no excuse for professional bball players 6’2″+ not being able to dunk, male or female

  • Fredo

    What’s next for the WNBA? Night shifts at Score’s?

  • http://antwonomous.blogspot.com Antwonomous

    Adrienne, where did you get that picture from?
    I demand that you tell me where I can find it.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Adreinne didn’t post the photo, Ryne did. She did provide the words and the links, though.

  • http://www.pistonscast.com John W. Davis

    TWO WORDS: BRITNEY GRINER

  • xsx

    Candice wiggins should not be one of the new faces for the WNBA she has not proven her self yet. We should also be careful not to dismiss the vets that have paved the way. If they are still performing at high levels they should continue to be the face of the league.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    I miss Lang’s iChats with Candice.

  • David

    I’m sure the WNBA could have much better ads and much better coverage. Give a bunch of the players blogs on the main site or on yardbarker or something. Use the NBA players in clever ads to promote their counterparts. Make some highlight reels. Make Candace a star outside of the game, too. And on and on. Oh – and ignore the sexist comments (like some of those above) or answer them with clever advertisements that attempt to break down stereotypes.

  • tinheart

    The WNBA has a great chance to experiment with all kinds of presentation. Hell, they should do wild things have portable cameras on player headbands or something or have their players wear streamlined body suits like swimmers do. Put graffiti on the courts. Chains on the nets. Try new forms of media or graphic design. Since the WNBA doesn’t have to take the heat that the NBA has, they should feel free to try anything. Instead, the WNBA wants to imitate the stodgy old boy’s league. Nobody says they have to be the NBA.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    I have to be honest and say we tried hosting a blog with some players from the Liberty last summer and it was BORING, because they wouldn’t write anything interesting. And I don’t know who dropped the ball more between Lang and Candice with their short-lived iChat columns, but that could have been good too. The players definitely need to show some of their personality to help increase interest.

  • http://womenshoops.blogspot.com Steve

    Thanks! I expect that we’ll see ads with the new faces you mention soon…also it is Janel McCarville, not Jen (I assume that a copyeditor mis-corrected you– that’s happened to me too).

    In response to Ben Osborne: you don’t want players blogging unless the players actually want to blog and (not the same thing) enjoy writing. Call it an occasional update if you’re only going to get occasional posts, and fold it in (this is what the W site sometimes does) with other updates from other occasional writers. Anything called a blog should have new content at least every two or three days.

  • http://twentythreenine.blogspot.com Russ Bengtson

    Somehow I don’t see the WNBA expanding unless the economy makes some sort of miraculous recovery. And at least in the immediate future, I’d think there will be less sponsors, not more. This isn’t a good time to be a professional sports league, especially a somewhat marginal one.

  • MarieS

    ”xsx says:
    Candice wiggins should not be one of the new faces for the WNBA she has not proven her self yet.”
    xsx, based on your comment, I’m going to assume you didn’t see Wiggins play much last season. She more then proved she’ll be a force & not only belongs in the league but will be a part of the transition that Goody is talking about. She’s one of the young guns who has the complete “IT” package the league is failing to utilize. Goody’s right in that the league would do it’s self a service by marketing not just CP but an ensemble of players who’ve got pizzazz on camera and bring game on the court.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    @Russ…Its either the economy picks up or the girls get to wear those lycra body suits the Australian Womans National Team wears (the Opals).

  • http://killbattyman.com slaydabomzi

    Watching a WNBA game is like slow torture.
    Also Ebony,Vibe and the like really don’t have much of a talent pool to deal with in terms of cover models from the wnba.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Steve: blog, column, updates, that’s just semantics. Having them “write” for the site wasn’t my idea at all. They came to us, and I was wary of it being boring, so we went back and forth with their agent, and I finally agreed to give them the forum. Then they didn’t give us anything good.

  • http://www.myspace.com/chicagosky hoop

    Ben: if you guys are looking for a WNBA blogger that will be entertaining and stay true to SLAM’s edginess, then Diana Taurasi is the way to go. Too bad Yardbarker already has her locked up. That’s a damn good blog. Ya’ll are in love Candace Parker on here (hmmm, I wonder why…) but that girl is boring too. DT and SLAM would be PERFECT for each other. Oh, and nice article Goody. I agree about the sponsors and the new faces, but not so much about expansion.

  • Ryan Evans

    Parker is over exposed and people are already getting sick of her. The WNBA needs to spread the marketing to include players of all the teams and not just the big market teams.

  • Ron Berry

    The author of this article was largely in error. The early commercials that drove the WNBA’s inception were the commercials with Cynthia Cooper, Tina Thompson, and a young sassy Kyla Pratt-Hey Cynthia, Why didn’t you feed Tina down on the block, she was open”-Typical of someone not wanting to give the WNBA’s greatest player ever (Cooper) her props

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    We’d love to have DT.

  • http://www.myspace.com/chicagosky hoop

    Ron: Those were Nike commercials, not WNBA commercials. And yeah, Ryan hit the nail on the head with the CP3 comment. Definitely over-exposed and over-hyped.

  • sparks***

    @@@”ryan” and “hoop”!!!!!!!!
    how is candace parker “over played and over hyped”..shes a legend setting records and if you cant except that…then atleast dont hate on her..league mvp and roy…>>even kobe, lebron, and jordan couldnt do that..so theyre is no way that she is over hyped because she is clearly living upto and exceeding everyones expectations..
    —hate to live, dont live to hate—

  • Jayemmbee

    @ sparks***
    woah woah lets not go crazy here
    Candace is good, real good
    but she couldn’t hold a stick to MJ, Kobe or LeBron
    1. no one will ever do that in the NBA because it takes a lot to do both, because the Talent Pool in the NBA is sooo deep
    2.shes not even in there league in skill, and i would love to see her do that in the NBA

    but the WNBA needs to market better, more TV games, and speed up the games and expand into other Countries, Like Canada

  • DOD

    “Parker is over exposed and people are already getting sick of her.”

    Who are these people? Non-WNBA fans? NO, they’re not sick of her. Candace Parker is the most recognised name in women’s basketball even before she made the WNBA and for you people who don’t like her, that’s really your problem. She’s one of the few things that helps the marketablity of the WNBA in these trying times and all people can do is hate. SECONDLY, NOBODY has ever been able to say how she’s over-exposed. How many WNBA commercials did she appear in?…One. Why does her name keep on coming up on any WNBA news feed? Because she plays the game at a level hardly any other player has played it, not to mention rookie. Candace Parker is not over-exposed. If she is, it’s not the WNBA doing it. She’s doing it for herself. She’s the one who won two ESPY’s…mostly for her achievements in College, not the WNBA. Essence Magazine just named her among the top 25 Most Influential African-Americans in 2008. It wasn’t because of the WNBA. Who is getting sick of her? Simple…the haters. And I’m not even going to reply to your “Overhyped” comment.

  • Butch

    The WNBA hasn’t a clue about good marketing,
    they don’t want to invest in the players and
    are content with the status quo. They need a
    N.J. team. If only the management was as great as the players then we might get somewhere with
    this league. Until then, dead,dead,dead…

  • http://www.myspace.com/chicagosky hoop

    Doesn’t take much to get the CP3 fans riled up, eh? With that said, if you’re not a WNBA fan or if you’re just a casual WNBA fan (or if you’re a Parker fan), then no, Parker is obviously not over-hyped or over-exposed TO YOU. Duh. But to someone like me that is a WNBA fanatic and follows the league closely, heck yeah, she’s over-exposed (at the expense of other deserving and talented players) and over-hyped (was she deserving of the ROY? yes. The MVP? no. She is teammates with two other Olympians and the Sparks still greatly underacheived last year). I enjoy watching the league and ALL its players, not just the ‘Candace Parker Show.’ Is all this Parker hype and hoopla good for the league? Maybe. But that doesn’t make it any less annoying TO ME. And I’m not a hater. I’m just not a CP3 fan and I wish the league would expand their horizons a bit. I know most of you won’t believe this, but there are other talented players in this league…

  • Blackberry

    Goody good take on the “should be” sponsors. Steve since Goody played with McCarville she may be able to call her “Jen” LOL. Oh yeah Ron the author PLAYED in the league at the time she spoke about and as Hoop said those were Nike commercials. CP3 and dunking are not all basketball and the WNBA are made of. But the league definitely needs marketing!

  • sparks***

    @@Jayemmbee…
    i never said shes better than kobe and lebron, becasue womens body’s are always different the mens..shes not as good as them , but when facing players whihc are upto her level, she is extraordinary…she won roy and mvp with players upto her levells, and kobe or jordan couldnt do that with players upto their level..thats what im trying to say so she deserves credit for that
    @ HOOP…
    who shouldve been mvp then??she earned the votes cuz she obviously is the best player in the league right now!!

  • ken

    The WNBA should not expand for the next year or so, let the league settle in more before expanding to another city.

  • WNBA, Try It!

    The WNBA is so UNDERATED its funny! One thing I think most basketball fans that aren’t interested with the league is because they don’t know the WNBA’s League Faces. People still think of the WNBA of just Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie, Yolanda Griffith etc. But its not, no disrespect but those players are edging near retirement and aren’t playing like they used to.

    You got NEW FRESH FACES that are really changing the game!People I know of are like well…whos the ‘Kobe’ of the league (Diana) whos ‘KG’ (Candace) whos the ‘Steve Nash’ (Becky and Lindsay) LOOK AT PLAYERS LIKE Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, Cappie Pondexter, Lauren Jackson, Becky Hammon, Tamika Catchings, Alana Beard and plenty more to come (Maya Moore, Britney Griner). All I can say for an NBA fan that has no interest in them or doesnt know about them, YOUTUBE THEM THEY’RE INCREDIBLE. GO TO WNBA.COM AND LOOK AT TOP PLAYS AND TELL ME YOUR NOT INTERESTED, THEN YOU’D BE LYING!

    Their plays are as good and as exciting as anyones, from circus shots, crossovers, clutch shots. Its all in the WNBA just as much as it is in the NBA. Basketball is Basketball.

    Then you got the teams what style of ball do you like to see. Do you like to see’Run-N-Gun’ Phoenix Sun type basketball, then check out their sister team the Phoenix Mercury or the San Antonio Silverstars, that ball goes through the hoop so much you dont know what hit ya!

    Or do you like to see hard defense, hustle or “rough and tough ball” I suggest you tune into the Detroit Shock or Indiana Fever.

    All I can say is dis on the WNBA all you want, these women’s journey to being a professional is just as the same as the mens, hate all you want, they’re playing the sport that they love and you cant take that away. THERES NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT, SO QUIT WISHING THAT THE WNBA WOULD DIE, BECAUSE ITS NOT!

    One thing that I think could help the WNBA is increasing the minutes from 10 minute quarters to the NBA’s 12 minute. People always complain about the scoring is too low, but I’ve noticed when watching NBA games in the 4th quarter pause the game with 8 minutes left, thats what the WNBA score would be and its the same! I dont see why not, an extra 8 minutes aint nothing. I seen plenty of WNBA games that have went into double or triple overtime and the players are just fine. The decision is right in front of Donna Orenders big ‘ol eyes!

    Those who still hate the WNBA because women can make a living playing the sport they love too, then that sucks for you. The WNBA is the game your missing…and that sucks!

  • Goody

    I really enjoyed everyone’s comments. I didn’t realize how sensitive this issue was to people. The ideas that people have and put on the table are very insightful. It’s dialogue like this that create change. We will keep it moving ova here at SLAM. Peace and love to all of yall up top… See u soon…….

  • Dee Lin

    Great article Goody, glad to see you are still on point with the analysis. I want to amplify your comments and say that the future success of the league depends on season tickets sales, sponsorships, and TV money. African American firms should be ashamed for not supporting the league as should women-interest media like Lifetime. Players should be hawking hair care products, vaseline lotion, and haynes underwear like the guys. That will raise profits, enable more media/tv coverage, and put more money into players pockets. But, the most disturbing thing to me is why women will not support women’s sports like the WNBA. Has to be a social or cultural reason for this. Bottom line: Women, whether single or married usually control the spending in the house. Some colleges fill their arenas year after year for women’s games. What happens to these fans once they graduate from college? Answer: They are still out there, we just need to go and get them by being innovative. Granted, all college football fans don’t support the NFL when they leave school and ditto for men’s college basketball fans supporting the NBA. But you have to at least try. Finally, I think the dialogue that we have gotten on this subject shows that the game is relevant. It is not just about the dunks either. As a former high school player and college walk-on, I have to admit that some WNBA/ABL players have beat me down on many a day. Peace
    ess

  • L

    I agree that they need to have a new campaign. And I agree with the people they need to head it, especially Candace Parker and Candice Wiggins.
    They should a ACE vs. ICE campaign. It would be better if Candice was in the Eastern conference.
    A real Bird(ICE)/Magic(Parker) show down.
    I can’t wait to see them play each other next season.

  • L

    to xsx,
    You must not have seen Candice Wiggins set NCAA records earlier this year by scoring 40+ points in the playoff games. You definitely must not have seen hear average 15.7 points off the bench, even though she missed 4 games and left two of them early due to injury. Or how about her winning Six Woman of the year award, and the Rookie of the month award in June? That’s a callous statement if I ever heard one.
    That girl is bad. She truly helped turn Minnesota in the right direction, plus her game is nice, and it’s only going to get better now that she has a year of experience under her belt. It would be a dumb mistake not to include her in the campaign.
    Same thing with CP3. Expect her to get even better.
    I don’t think she’s over-hyped at all. People just weren’t used to seeing someone of the skill in womens college basketball.
    The class that Candace and Candice came out of is one of the best that the NCAA has produced.

  • L

    As far as athleticism’s. These girls have tremendous athleticism. Just because they’re not dunking every 10 seconds doesn’t mean that they don’t have athleticism.
    The reason why you don’t see many of the ’6″2+ tall players dunk is because in college, they don’t run through drills like that.
    It’s always a guy, who knows nothing about how the women play on the college level, making a statement like that.
    They teach lay-ups, not dunks!

  • Stacey

    This jus goes to show how people are so ignorant to that fact that women put in the same if not more blood, sweat and tears into what they love just to get respect..For anyone how has something negative to say about the WNBA..put up or shut up..none of you could do half of what they do on a daily basis..
    @Jayemmbee: OF COURSE CANDANCE PARKER IS NOT ON LBJ, KOBE OR MIKES LEAGUE..SHES A GIRL!!!!..DUH..and she is the FEMALE version of them..and theres no way you can argue shes not..just like those guys are unstoppable so is she..but none of the players you compared her too won a national championship and rookie of the year in the SAME YEAR!!..get it together..

  • sparks***

    AGREED

  • Tracee

    Goody!!!Girl you kow what u Talkin about!!!Love ya

  • http://google.com miles

    man candace is good.she has a almost perfect year.man i wish i was her lol

  • McGuire

    I agree with most here regarding the marketing. By the way, Candace Parker is one of very few female players in the world in which casual sports know on face recognition prior to entering the WNBA. To not take advantage of that is stupid. To say she’s over-hyped is the equivalent of the NBA not marketing LeBron. Like he, she’s young, talented, well spoken and good looking (yes, it matters in marketing). Some folks who are “sick of her”, don’t understand that she had her shine on full blast well before graduating from UT.

    The league has to not suppress the colorful personalities in the league. Taurasi and Sue Bird are a hoot. So is Cappie Pondexter, and Sylvia Fowles. They offer insightful and funny comments on a league that desperately needs a pulse.

    Five things that would help this league right away:

    1. Market the stars more. Don’t be content with just the few people already know.

    2. Ask ESPN to change over it’s women’s basketball tv crews. Burke, Peck, Ward, Lieberman are out of touch, and need to go. They spend too much freaking time, analyzing a players facial expression than giving the viewer an unbiased overview of what’s happening in the game (see the scuffle in Detroit, probably the worst in game analysis of what was going on in history, Fans at the game gave better accounts).

    3.The league is too freaking polite. Stop trying to make it a Miss America pageant and let these girls show some fire without getting T’d up.

    4. Changeover the referees. College refs should not call pro games. The officiating is laughable and makes the game less enjoyable for the fans.

    5. Lastly, stop trying to “guilt” people into supporting the league. The Expect Great campaign sucked. Who are they trying to sell to? They had all season to create highlight packages to show throughout the season, but the league refused to think outside of the box.

    If Donna Orender’s office can’t get it done, she needs to be the first to go. There is no shame in being a niche sport, but DO IT WELL!

  • Harlem_World

    All very valuable and insightful comments. However its not just the stars that need to be marketed, its the teams/regions. Where I see the WNBA failing right now is in building a stronger bond between the local market and the resident franchise. Players come and go, but affiliations to franchises get passed on from generation to generation regardless of who is playing for them (trust me on this one, I’m a Knicks fan…). To do this, there needs to be more work done in the community. Also, targeting marketing at just women is a big mistake. As is, assuming the crossover marketing strategies for the NBA automatically going to work with the WNBA. NBA has high numbers from women and not just the hardcore ball fans – also women who like to look at these athletes. There is a an underbelly of sexuality in marketing the NBA that does not work with the WNBA. That’s another and longer topic! In terms of what the WNBA should be doing, in my opinion, in addition to the community activity and building local ties and franchise cultures within their local markets, overall the WNBA should be marketing the fundamental purity of their game. Don’t try to compete or wait for the next generation of freakish dunkers, thats not representative of womens basketball. The high numbers of support can be found from basketball purists who can appreciate and value fundamentally sound basketball, well developed team plays, success based on skill and hard work rather than freakish athleticism. For every fan that is ready to jump out of their seat on a D Wade isolation, there is at least their match of fan B who wants to see the strategic game develop out on the floor. NBA have lost ALOT of these fans over the years. They mostly now can be found in college and sometime high school basketball – but a well marketed pro league, celebrating these things would draw them all in. Marketing 101: don’t try to beat a dominant brand at its own game – create your OWN brand! I’m pretty surprised at how poorly the marketing team has done with the WNBA considering the money behind it. Feel free to email me if you want more…lol…

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