NEW YORK — The WNBA is launching a campaign to market specifically to the LGBT community, a move that makes it the first pro league to specifically recruit gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered fans to its games.
With the campaign, the WNBA is capitalizing on what it has known for years: The community makes up a significant portion of its fan base. The difference now is that the league is talking about it publicly and making it a deliberate part of its marketing strategy.
The effort, which begins with the launch of a website Wednesday, includes having teams participate in local pride festivals and parades, working with advocacy groups to raise awareness of inclusion through grassroots events, and advertising with lesbian media. A nationally televised pride game will take place between Tulsa and Chicago on Sunday, June 22. All 12 teams will also have some sort of pride initiative over the course of the season.
“For us it’s a celebration of diversity and inclusion and recognition of an audience that has been with us very passionately,” WNBA president Laurel Richie said. “This is one of those moments in the ‘W’ where everybody comes together.”
Before launching the campaign, the league took a close look at its fan base. It commissioned a study in 2012 that found that 25 percent of lesbians watch the league’s games on TV while 21 percent have attended a game.
Brittney Griner, who is one of a handful of WNBA athletes who have publicly identified themselves as lesbian, was happy the league was embracing the community. Griner, who was the No. 1 pick by the Phoenix Mercury in the draft in 2013, plans on wearing rainbow-colored shoes during the month of June in support of the initiative.
“I’m so glad that we’re finally making a push to the LGBT community who is a strong supporter of the WNBA,” said Griner, who served as grand marshal of the Phoenix Pride parade last season. “Our league being the first to make that push and bring more attention to it is great. We’ll pave the way and show its fine and there’s nothing wrong with it. More sports need to do it. It’s 2014, it’s about time.”