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WNBA Sellouts- Fandom Breakthrough or Marketing Hype?

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Women’s basketball is the sports fandom story of the year. Three WNBA teams are reporting sellouts for season tickets.  The Las Vegas Aces were the first, followed by the Atlanta Dream and Dallas Wings. From justwomenssports.com:


On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   




 

The rise of women’s basketball in 2024 is a fascinating phenomenon. Women’s sports have taken center stage, with the Women’s NCAA tournament final exceeding the viewership of the men’s final. The upcoming WNBA season is highly anticipated – will the Caitlin Clark effect extend into the WNBA? 


I don’t know.


More from the justwomenssports.com article.


According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 


A quick calculation yields that the Wings have sold 2,500 season tickets. This is impressive for the Wings, and the sellouts signal progress for the league. But in the realm of sports, 2500 season tickets (in a big market like Dallas) is not indicative of mass appeal. The Omaha Supernovas of the new women’s professional volleyball league has reported attendance of more than 11,000 per home game.


But the messaging reveals something important about the story. The sellouts are used to generate hype for the teams and league. A sellout means that the games are hot tickets, and fans are attracted to what's hot.  


I’m very much looking forward to this WNBA season. The league and its broadcast partners have successfully created and publicized compelling narratives. We have the continuing rivalry between West and East super teams. Sabrina Ionescu is coming off a triumphant 3-point competition at the NBA’s All-Star Game. And we have Caitlin Clark, who is about to become the league's featured performer.


But the fundamental question is how much of this is about real and enduring fandom and how much is about marketing and hype. What makes this an important question is that even raising the issue of whether we are looking at breakthrough fandom or marketing hype is met with fierce opposition. It’s yet another fandom story with political and social justice overtones. It's also a real time case study of the power of marketing to create fandom.

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