By Barry Janoff
February 10, 2016: On the heels of unveiling a multi-media campaign and a few months shy of beginning its 20th season, the WNBA said that Lisa Borders has been named its new president.
Borders, who most recently was chair for The Coca-Cola Foundation and vp-global community affairs at Coca-Cola, replaces Laurel Richie, who resigned as WNBA president this past November after five seasons in the position.
NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum had been overseeing the WNBA on an interim basis.
Borders will officially join the WNBA on March 21, about two months before the 2016 season starts on May 14.
She is no stranger to the league, having been "instrumental in bringing the WNBA to Atlanta in 2008, when she served as vice-Mayor of Atlanta and president of the City Council", according to the NBA.
“As a proven executive with a passion for the WNBA and the game of basketball, Lisa is the right leader at a pivotal time in the league’s history,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “She will be responsible for spear heading our efforts to strengthen the WNBA and accelerate its growth.”
She arrives at a time when the WNBA is coming of off low attendance figures and soft TV ratings.
The WNBA's average attendance in 2015 was 7,318, the lowest in league history. That average was down 3% from 2014 and down from a one-season high average of 10,864 in 2009.
The downturn included a 37% decrease in average attendance for the San Antonio Stars, which has to move from its AT&T Center home venue to the smaller Freeman Coliseum due to renovations.
TV ratings on ESPN and ESPN 2 fell about 14% from 2014, averaging an estimated 202,000 viewers, according to industry analysts.
The league's strategy also was put under a harsh spotlight by SIlver.
"I think we might have been ahead of ourselves 20 years ago in terms of what we were doing. (In 2015, interest is) not where we hoped it would be," Silver said during a sports marketing conference in September. "We thought it would have broken through by now. We thought ratings and attendance would be higher.”
According to Silver, "In terms of our marketing overall, we may have lost our way at certain points."
The commissioner later clarified that statement, saying that he and the NBA were very supportive of the WNBA. "We are 100% committed to the league," he said.
Borders comes into a league with several attributes in its favor, including a lineup of strong marketing partners and team rosters with many of the top women hoops players in the world.
“The WNBA has reached a significant milestone, and I feel privileged to be joining the league at such an exciting time,” Borders said in a statement. “I have always been a staunch supporter of this league and its tremendous athletes. I am impressed by their talent and inspired by their passion."
WNBA Tip-Off 2016 will be presented by Verizon. It consists of 12 games over nine days — May 14-22 — including the home opener of every team.
Samsung was the presenting partner for both the 2015 WNBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.
Marketing partners also include adidas, American Express, BBVA Compass, Anheuser-Busch (Bud Light), Coca-Cola, Diageo, EA Sports, Gatorade, Nike, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, SAP, Spalding and State Farm.
Several teams ended the 2015 season with jersey-sponsor deals, including the Washington Mystics (Draft Ops), Chicago Sky (Magellan), Minnesota Lynx (Mayo Clinic), Phoenix Mercury (Casino Arizona), Indiana Fever (Finish Line), Los Angeles Sparks (EquiTrust) and New York Liberty (DraftKings).
Among the changes this season, the Tulsa Shock have relocated and rebooted as the Dallas Wings.
The new multi-media campaign, "Watch Me Work," celebrates the current and future WNBA as it touts such stars as 2015 MVP Elena Delle Donne, WNBA Finals MVP Maya Moore, WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Brittney Griner, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi (who missed the 2015 season to focus on playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian Premier League), Skylar Diggins and Candace Parker.
The campaign also looks back at the players who drove the league and inspired players through its first two decades. The WNBA launched in April 1996 and began play in June 1997.
"The athleticism of the game and the sportsmanship exhibited between teams offers clear evidence of our ability to grow women’s basketball," said Borders.
ESPN networks will air as many as 33 games this season, then will broadcast every WNBA post-season game, including the WNBA Finals presented by Verizon.
NBA TV will televise more than 40 games during the regular season.
This season will see an interruption in its scheduled to accommodate for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. As many as 25 WNBA players likely to represent their respective countries at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from Aug. 5-21, the league has not scheduled any games from July 23-Aug. 25, also forgoing this season's All-Star Game.
WNBA Eyes Challenges, Rewards, Growth In 20th Season
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