WNBA Signs Design Firm Sylvain Lab To Reimagine Brand, Engage With Fans
Monday, May 7, 2018 at 02:28PM
NYSportsJournalism.com in Sylvain Lab, WNBA, WNBA, sports marketing

By Barry Janoff

May 7, 2018: The WNBA was founded 1996, played its first season in 1997 and has been operating much longer than its critics predicted.

But the league faces challenges in fan attendance, TV ratings and marketing power.

In 2015, NBA commissioner Adam Silver, talking about the WNBA, said, "I think we might have been ahead of ourselves 20 years ago in terms of what we were doing, 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. In terms of our marketing overall, we may have lost our way at certain points."

Last month, Silver, speaking about the WNBA, held similar reservations regarding the growth and impact of the league.

“The game looks fantastic. And it’s amazing where the league now is at from over 20 years ago when it launched,” said Silver during an interview on ESPN.

“But we still have a marketing problem, and we got to figure it out. We got to figure out how we can do a better job connecting to young people and to get them to be interested.

“Women’s basketball is largely supported — just in terms of the demographics — by older men, for whatever reason, who like fundamental basketball. It’s something I’ve talked a lot to the players about,. We’re not connecting with almost the same demographic that our players are.”

Now, with its 22nd season about to begin (May 18), the WNBA has taken a major step to reinvigorate its overall image and impact, signing a deal with innovation and brand design consultancy Sylvain Lab to “work closely with the league to develop a long-term growth strategy and identify new marketing opportunities.”

According to the WNBA, the partnership with New York-based Sylvain Labs “entails a complete review of every aspect of the league to learn more about its fans and how best to engage them.”

In particular, the WNBA, echoing Silver's comments about demographics, wants to focus on engaging with a "young female audience."

Sylvain Labs’ resumé includes working with such companies as Google, Nike, Pepsico and Samsung to “reimagine their brands and products and generate revenue.

“Our research makes clear that fans are interested in establishing a deeper connection with our players and teams and experiencing the game in every way imaginable,” Lisa Borders, WNBA president, said in a statement.

“We are delighted to work with Sylvain Labs to help us meet these objectives and continue the WNBA’s growth for our 22nd season and beyond, with an increased emphasis on engaging a young female audience through rich storytelling.”

The WNBA is not lacking for star power, led by the likes of Maya Moore, Sue Bird, Diana Taurus, Candace Parker, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Brittney Griner, Breanna Stewart, Nneka Ogwumike And Elena Delle Donne.

According to the WNBA, the league last season had its highest total attendance (1,574,078) and highest average attendance (7,716) since 2011. saw merchandise sales at WNBAStore.com rise 18% versus 2016 and had a 15% increase in social media reach.

in addition, during its inaugural season on Twitter, the WNBA averaged 613,000 unique viewers per game.

Nike is now in its first season as WNBA official on-court apparel provider (taking over from adidas, as it did this past season in the NBA). The company signed an eight-year deal in 2015, valued at $1 billion by industry analysts, which took effect this season.

“We are delighted to work with Sylvain Labs to help us meet these objectives and continue the WNBA’s growth for our 22nd season and beyond."

The jerseys feature the Nike Swoosh, Verizon’s logo as a league-wide sponsor and each team’s jersey-front sponsor.

Among the 2018 team sponsors (to date) are Chicago Sky-University of Chicago Medicine, Connecticut Sun- Mohegan Sun Casino (franchise owner), Dallas Wings-American Fidelity, Indiana Fever-Finish Line, Los Angeles Sparks-EquiTrust, Minnesota Lynx-Mayo Clinic, New York Liberty-DraftKings, Phoenix Mercury-Talking Stick Resort and Casino and Seattle Storm-Swedish Medical Center.

According to Alain Sylvain, Sylvain Labs CEO, “Working with the WNBA is an ideal assignment at an ideal time: The game is at its best, the players have a new, profound cultural relevance and the leadership is inspired and empowered.

“We look forward to driving further engagement with new and existing fans and finding new, innovative ways to grow the WNBA.”

Nike Begins WNBA Alliance

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