By Barry Janoff
September 22, 2015: The WNBA will support its post-season run to the 2015 title with a multi-platform campaign, "Watch Me," which addresses critics of the league by showing players on and off the court balancing their careers while raising families and accomplishing things that some people say they can't.
The anthem spot breaks tonight on ESPN and ESPN 2 during coverage of Game 3 of the Eastern and Western semi-finals between the Washington Mystics at the New York Liberty and the Los Angeles Sparks versus the Minnesota Lynx, respectively.
Support includes Internet, in-arena and social media, complete with a Twitter hash tag, #WatchMe.
The effort comes as the WNBA, nearing its milestone 20th season, continues to face obstacles in building a fan base, seeking stronger TV numbers and expanding its roster of marketing partners.
The extended 60-second spot and shorter 30- and 15-second versions "showcase the passion, determination and competitive spirit of playoff teams, while highlighting our players’ incredible talent, remarkable personal stories and leadership on and off the court."
Among those featured: WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne (who scored 40 points last night for the Chicago Sky, but was eliminated from the playoffs by the Indiana Fever), WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury), Candace Parker (Los Angeles), Maya Moore (Minnesota), Swin Cash and Tina Charles (New York) and former WNBA veteran star Becky Hammon, now an assistant coach with the NBA's San Antonio Spurs.
"I know what you're thinking. You think I can't," a voiceover says as shots of WNBA players are interspersed. "You think I can't go as hard as you . . . Cross you up and go coast-to-coast. You think I can't train like a beast. Give it everything I have. And still be flawless.
"You think I can't open doors," the narrative continues as images of famliy life come into play. "Be legendary. Box her out. Get her to school on time. Show her I care. 'D' you up. Be who I want. Love who I want. Inspire her. And him. Take a charge. Sink a 'J.' Make them dance. You think I can't do this . . . and that. All while chasing my dream. Watch me." (See the full spot here.)
The campaign and playoffs come on the heels of empowering yet challenging comments from both WNBA president Laurel Richie and NBA commissioner Adam Silver regarding the WNBA's current and future status.
"The WNBA is the intersection of gender, race and sexual orientation," Richie said during "The State of Women's Sports" panel at last week's at a Game Changers sports marketing conference in New York under the auspices of Sports Business/Global/Journal.
"We at the W are focused on building a genuine and sustained fan base," said Richie. "That’s where our sustainable growth comes from. All good things happen when we achieve that . . . When that is in place, your games look better on TV. Your sponsors like that — a lot — and you can generate more interest and involvement from those who might not yet be fans."
While supporting the attributes of the WNBA, Silver said during the Game Changers conference, "(Interest is) not where we hoped it would be. We thought it would have broken through by now. We thought ratings and attendance would be higher.”
The WNBA's average attendance in 2015 was 7,318, lowest in league history. The average is down 3% from 2014 and down from an average of 10,864 in 2009.
"I feel that we have, on occasion, sold the WNBA too much as a cause. We are played by women . . . and we’re very proud of that, and we don’t walk away from that ," said Richie. "This is 144 elite athletes, the destination for the very best in the world, and we cannot lose sight of that. That’s where our sustainable growth comes from.”
The WNBA Conference Finals presented by Boost Mobile are scheduled to start Sept. 24 and the best-of-five WNBA Finals Oct. 4.
Pay On: After Two Decades, WNBA Still Seeking Strength In Numbers
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