I went to a lunch earlier this week where Donna Orender, the President of the WNBA was the speaker. It was a small group of women from a diversity of professions. She talked about her life and how she has gotten to where she is now.
A little background on Donna: she played basketball for Queens College and worked on the PGA Tour before coming over to the WNBA.
What struck me most during the conversation is how the issues she is dealing with regarding building up the brand of the WNBA and women’s sports in general are the same issues we all talk about in the entertainment business.
She talked about how that women’s sports is one of litmus tests in how the culture talks about women.
She described herself as a cultural anthropologist, and believes we are on the edge of a cultural revolution.
She talked about getting sponsors and how based on her numbers and the growth that it should be a no brainer, she should sign every sponsor. But she doesn’t, and the league struggles. Teams disband (Sacramento and Detroit) and new teams crop up (Tulsa and Atlanta). She needs to educate potential investors about how different the women’s sports model is from the men’s. And every single year she has to reinvent the wheel.
Most importantly, she talked about how important it is for people to watch the game and also to attend games in the arena. You gotta “actively support with your eyeballs and dollars.”
We are all fighting the same fight. We have to support with our dollars and with our TV time. The game has improved tremendously and watching the young women players develop from the college game (where basically 100% of them get degrees unlike the guys) to the pro game is great to see.
Women’s sports, like entertainment, opens people’s minds to seeing women in new and different roles. I have been a crappy fan. I haven’t gone to a game in a while. This season (no matter how bad the NY Liberty are) I will be in the stands as much as I can. I’m glad Donna reminded me of that.