EDELMAN, New York / WNBA / 2019
The WNBA always stood for much more than basketball. For 22 years, their players have not only been fierce ballers, but fierce advocates for equality. Boldly declaring “We Got Next” in promotions for their inaugural season, they were pioneers of a movement that really hadn't taken off yet. But over time, the conversation changed; it’s no longer enough to say “if men can do it, so can women.” To stand out today, amidst a tidal wave of support for women’s issues, you have to take meaningful action to affect change.
We set out to make supporting the WNBA synonymous with supporting women, period, with an idea built on their history of activism that reignited the advocacy at the heart of their brand.
We turned attending a WNBA game into an act of advocacy by inviting fans to Take a Seat, Take a Stand. Throughout the 2018 season, purchasing a ticket did more than support women’s basketball – it supported organizations that work every day to empower women and girls. When fans purchased a ticket, a portion was donated to their choice of one of six national non-profit partners: Planned Parenthood, Mentor, GLSEN, The United State of Women, It’s On Us, and Bright Pink. The league also donated a matching ticket to that organization to send a young girl to a game, giving the youngest generation a chance to see powerful female role models in action.
Leading up to the campaign launch, we developed a comprehensive earned media strategy targeting a wide range of outlets that tapped into the WNBA’s key audiences and reflected the spectrum of issues and identities within the women’s movement. We enlisted WNBA stars such as Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins-Smith to serve as media spokespeople for the campaign and communicate our messages through their unique, diverse personal perspectives and experiences
We also developed an influencer strategy designed to engage top influencers and partners who were connected to the women’s movement and/or influential among key audiences to communicate our message and help drive ticket sales, and developed sample social content and activation toolkits for them to amplify the initiative through their owned channels.
We had just four weeks to build a program that all 12 teams could activate.
We created an anthem film announcing Take a Seat, Take a Stand on WNBA social channels. The league ran it as a broadcast spot during televised games and during the NBA Finals.
We created customizable assets for each team, including in-arena signage, digital ads, and social content with a custom emoji for #WNBATakesAStand. We enlisted WNBA stars and influencers connected to the women’s movement, providing assets for them to amplify our message on their social channels.
Days after launch, President Trump reignited a political debate to defund Planned Parenthood, one of our partners. Rather than backing down amidst controversy, the WNBA issued a statement of support promoting our initiative. This resulted in positive media comparisons between the WNBA and the National Football League, which had recently penalized players like Colin Kaepernick for making political statements.
Take a Seat, Take a Stand garnered hundreds of pieces of earned media coverage in a wide variety of outlets spanning from The Washington Post to Glamour Magazine to Global Citizen. Most commended the WNBA in embracing social issues, particularly in contrast to other sports leagues such as the NFL. To date, the campaign has resulted in approximately 516 million impressions.
We reignited support for the WNBA and inserted the league into the cultural conversation, allowing them to reach a totally new audience and a new generation of potential fans. Opening weekend attendance increased by 15% from the year before. Viewership for the season increased 35%. We increased reach by 207%, and engagement by 129%. Even merchandise sales for the season were up 66%.
But most importantly, the league inspired meaningful support for women and helped a new generation of sports fans raise their voices for change.