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women play basketball

Signage in the arenas that host WNBA games

By Kathy Prentice

    The audience is primarily female, well educated, earning a better-than-average paycheck and making spending decisions for a family.
    They are Women’s National Basketball Association fans, filing into arenas in 16 cities, 10,000 at a shot, for a season stretching from May until the September playoffs.
    WNBA signage and promotions are similar to, and sometimes overlap, NBA teams’—but with a much lower price tag.
    To find out how to get your client on the court with the WNBA, read on. This is one in a Media Life series on buying the new out-of-home venues. They appear weekly.

Fast Facts

What

    Sponsorship of Women’s National Basketball Association teams.

Who
    There are 16 WNBA teams in the league. For this article, Media Life spoke with the Los Angeles Sparks, Utah Starzz, Washington Mystics, the Orlando Miracle and with the WNBA about league-wide sponsorships.

How it works
    Advertising and sponsorship of WNBA teams can include courtside and other arena signage, product sampling, program ads, and packages that include radio, television and print.
    The WNBA season runs from late May through September, with the majority of play in June, July and August.
    League sponsorships include support of all 16 teams.
    League-wide sponsorships can include signage, sampling, tickets and player appearances. “Manifested locally it could be ticket packages with two hot dogs, two Cokes and two tickets,” says Traci Cook, senior director of corporate communications for the WNBA.
    Product exclusivity is part of league-wide contracts. “League-wide sponsors have national rights as well as team rights in their categories on a national level,” Cook says. “For example, on a national level there’s no grocery store sponsor, so a local team can sell that.”
    Individual teams sell courtside, scoreboard and fascia—between seating levels—signage. They also can package sampling and other promotional programs, as well as print, radio and television spots.
    “It takes on a different stance depending on what an advertiser’s objectives are,” says Mark Scoggins, executive director of corporate sponsorships for the Los Angeles Lakers and Sparks.
    “Those looking to enhance a product for core fans—women and families—look more for a promotional spin in and out of the arena. For example, in the various sports clinics we do for children we’ll try to have the product, say bottled water, available for participants.”
   The Orlando Miracle sells advertising in a playbill that is distributed at game time to every fan.
   The Utah Starzz host “fan fests” outside the arena before games with cookouts, jugglers and other entertainment. “Sponsors have the ability to set up a booth or put a banner up,” says Heidi Coleman, director of corporate sponsorships for the Utah Starzz.
    Food sampling generally takes place in the post-game period so it doesn’t interfere with concession sales.
    Local sponsorships can be joint ventures with the resident National Basketball Association team.
    Joint sponsorship generally works when a product appeals to a diverse range of people, says Coleman.
    Local buys are a mix of national and local advertisers.
The mix is 50-50 in Los Angeles, Scoggins says.
   Some arenas where WNBA teams play also have sponsors with exclusivity rights. "When signage is permanent—part of a building--we don’t require it to be changed,” Cook says.
    Exclusivity in remaining categories can often be purchased at the team level.
    League-wide sponsorship often involves “cause-related marketing,” Cook says. Examples include the Sears WNBA Breast Health Awareness program and the American Express Read to Achieve initiative.
   Creative is usually provided by the advertiser, but not always. For instance, the Washington Mystics in-house staff provides creative for its venue.
    Creative is often tied into the basketball theme. In Washington, images are frequently based on the concept of Mystic team members as role models in the community, says director of public relations, Dyani Gordon.
    In Orlando many smaller advertisers tap the Miracle’s creative department to develop copy. “We’ll even have a player do a spot,” says Jack Swope, vice president of corporate sales.
    National sponsors often mention their WNBA affiliation in other advertising campaigns.
    Local sponsors can often use the team logo outside of the arena. In Los Angeles they are restricted to a 75-mile territory, Scoggins says.
    WNBA sponsorships are used as stand-alone campaigns and also as part of larger media mixes.
   There can be added value for WNBA advertisers through association with their NBA counterparts, Scoggins says. “For the first time in history, when the NBA and WNBA teams from Los Angeles were champions in the same year, we tried to use both teams' icons in everything we did.”

Markets
     Los Angeles, Calif., Charlotte, N.C., Cleveland, Ohio, Detroit, Mich., Miami, Fla., Orlando, Fla., New York, N.Y., Washington, D.C., Seattle, Wash., Phoenix, Ariz., Houston, Texas, Minneapolis, Minn., Indianapolis, Ind., Portland, Ore., Sacramento, Calif., and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Numbers
     An average of 9,500 to 10,000 fans attend each WNBA game.

How measured?
    Impressions are calculated using game attendance.
    Television ratings are worked into the formula when games are broadcast or portions are used in televised sports coverage.

Research

What product categories do well?

    “Anything that a female uses is going to do well,” Utah’s Coleman says.
    Personal care, groceries and other packaged goods, health care, pet products, eye care, home improvement, cosmetics, soda and other beverages, sports apparel and equipment, footwear, automotive, airline, financial institutions, computer hardware and software, fast food, telecommunications and entertainment such as movies and amusement parks.
   When the flick “Love and Basketball,” a love story about a Spark and a Laker, premiered in Los Angeles, it was a natural sponsorship, Scoggins says.

Demographics
    Demographic profiles for WNBA fans change from hometown to hometown within the league, but overall:
  • Fans in the arena are 78 percent female.
  • Television fans are divided equally between male and female.
  • Median age is 33, with 28 percent age 17 and younger.
  • The majority or 56 percent of fans attend WNBA games with a family member.
  • Education breaks down to 52 percent having completed four or more years of college and another 26 percent having some college.
  • Season ticket holders have an average annual income of $68,000.
  • The race of attendees varies greatly with locale, with an average of 24 percent of fans identifying themselves as African American, 66 percent Caucasian and 5 percent Hispanic.

Several demographic factors vary from team to team.

  • About half of Washington Mystic fans are season ticket holders. The majority are decision makers for their families and range in age from 25 to 54.
  • In Utah fans are about 80 percent adult females, most with children. "We also have a lot of grandmas,” Coleman says. “Older women love the girls.”
  • In Orlando 70 percent of fans hold season tickets. And while the core demographic is made up of 18- to 35-year-olds, weekends often skew younger, Swope says.
  • In Los Angeles, group and individual game tickets make up the bulk of sales. Average attendance at Sparks games is 10,000.

Making the buy
    Team sponsorships: Most contracts are season-long but could be negotiated for multiple seasons. Joint sponsorships with men’s teams are often for a year at a time.
    Occasionally sponsors can sign on for fewer games. “It depends on the category,” Orlando’s Swope says. “If it’s not a large category a Mom and Pop might come in and do one game.”
    An exception is Utah, where contracts are generally negotiated for a year, expiring at year’s end. “An enormous amount of what we do is off-season,” Coleman says. “Our players are doing school and community outreach. The women’s side of basketball is more community oriented. We work hard getting exposure all 12 months.”
    In Orlando signage is usually a 12-month buy, while other venues are seasonal. Much of the arena signage is sold jointly with the Orlando Magic men’s team. Most media can be turned around with a week lead-time with television and radio taking a day lead-time. Cost ranges from $5,000 into six figures, Swope says.
    Signage preparation, print ads and retail promotions take a month to two months preparation time while video board spots, post-game sampling and radio have an immediate turnaround, according to the Mystics’ Gordon. For more information on Mystics sponsorship contact Rick Moreland, senior vice president of sponsorship and sales.
    In Los Angeles pricing varies with package components, with $30,000 to $60,000 providing all-inclusive coverage, Scoggins says. Contracts are season long and are sold from the new year through the start of the season.
    League-wide sponsorships: Lead time for league-wide sponsorships depends on package components, Cook says. “Sampling can be put together quickly. Obviously media take longer, as does ‘cause-related’ marketing.”
    The majority of deals are multi-year, Cook says.
    Call Mary Reiling Spencer, vice president of marketing sponsorships, at 212-407-8578 for cost information on league-wide sponsorship.

Who’s already in WNBA venues?
    League-wide sponsors include America Online, American Express, American General Financial Group, Anheuser Busch, Foot Locker, Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Dasani, Gatorade, General Motors, Hershey, Lady Foot Locker, Reebok, Sears, Spalding, Sports Illustrated for Women and Yahoo Sports.
    Local sponsors include D.C. Lottery, Giant Food, Thrifty Car Rental, U.S. Airways, Howard University Hospital, The Washington Post, Cingular Wireless, Bank One, Citadel Communications, Deseret News, Forest Pharmaceuticals, McDonald’s, Papa John’s Pizza, Phillips 66, Salt Lake Valley Health Department, Sam Weller’s Bookstore, U.S. Bank, Zions Bank, Cookies by Design, Florida Hospital, IKON, J&J Snack Foods, Jacobs & Goodman, Marriott Vacation Club, Orlando Marriott, the Orlando Sentinel and Piccadilly Cafeteria.

What they’re saying
   “In women’s basketball sponsorship is very fluid and very comprehensive. We tie into a promotional aspect with everything we do. Instead of just doing a radio spot we’re going to do the whole show, do the arena announcements and put something in our fans’ hands to send customers to our advertisers.”–Heidi Coleman, director of corporate partnerships for the Utah Starzz

Web site info
   Women’s National Basketball Association at www.wnba.com
   Los Angeles Sparks at www.wnba.com/sparks
   Washington Mystics at www.wnba.com/mystics
   Orlando Miracle at www.wnba.com/miracle
   Utah Starzz at www.wnba.com/starzz

January 28, 2002 © 2002 Media Life


-Kathy Prentice writes about out-of-home advertising  for Media Life, penning her stories from the resort town of Traverse City, in the upper reaches of Michigan.


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