The WNBA has earned a $75 million capital raise to help further promote the league. The capital raise will be invested in digital innovations, player marketing, and player programming.
WNBA and NBA owners and new investors helped contribute to the capital raise. Investors include Nike Inc., former NBA star Baron Davis, L.A. Sparks part-owner Eric Holoman, Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and former Lakers star Pau Gasol among other investors.
This is the highest capital raise for a women’s sports property.
“We’re gonna be very thoughtful now that we’ve successfully closed this raise on the deployment of the capital, grow revenue and innovate around the business side of basketball,” said WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert.
The WNBA recently created the position of Chief Growth Officer that will work on growth initiatives, Colie Edison was hired to the new position in January.
“There’s a variety of other areas that we’re hiring around digital and data engineers to look at our digital product,” Engelbert said. “That would have been a small marketing budget before and not a separate one now.”
Engelbert mentioned how the league desires to get more information about their fans and find ways to reach out to a younger, digital-oriented fan base. An issue that is a high priority for the league is merchandise. Engelbert noted how the WNBA plans to invest some of the capital funds on technology that would track sales.
“We’re certainly looking at how to make sure that our fans know where to get our merch,” she said. “I think we haven’t been as good as letting our fans know where to get it, there’s a variety of places where you can get it.”
The funds will also help to globalize the league and players. Engelbert observed leagues that have globalized and is now looking at methods for the WNBA.
“We have enormous opportunities for consumption of our game whether it’s in media or sponsorship,” Engelbert said. “If we really want to have an impact here in the U.S., there’s a lot of businesses that are global business and they want to support companies that have a global platform.”
While the $75 million will help grow the WNBA, the amount is not enough for the league to partner with a charter flight company to ease the ongoing travel issues that WNBA players face. Although the league cannot address the issue now, the capital funds could help them address the issue in the future.
“As we think about what economic model you need that some of these leagues who have charter travel has been around 75, 100, 105 years,” Engelbert said. “This is an expense that is very high and we’d love to do but that’s why we had to deploy this capital, we need to have some growth, and hopefully longer term, we would be able to afford more around this area.”
The WNBA season is set to tip off on May 6, 2022.