TicketManager | Quantifying the Value of Women’s Sports Partnerships

The already existing—and deserved—buzz surrounding women’s sports has reached a crescendo with the 2024 WNBA season now in full stride amid nearly nightly reports of record crowds, ticket prices and viewership numbers for the league’s games, especially those featuring up-and-coming players such as Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese battling each other as well as the league’s established stars such as A’ja Wilson, Kahleah Copper and others.

And now we are getting some welcome initial data on the impact of all that energy and excitement on sponsors and partners.

Nielsen has released consumer survey and valuation research that indicates investment in WNBA partnerships is paying off for brands. For example, according to Nielsen Fan Insights, 60 percent of the league’s followers are likely to recommend a brand sponsor to others, while one in three have purchased a sponsor’s product. In addition, compared to sports fans in general, WNBA fans are:

  • 8 times more likely to visit a brand’s website
  • 6 times more likely to follow a brand’s social media
  • 18 percent more likely to talk about a brand with friends or family

Not surprisingly, the increased attention on the league has raised the value of media exposure for brands associated with the league, with Nielsen reporting the following results across the first 26 games of this season versus the same number in 2023:

  • 319 brands receiving exposure—up five percent
  • 160 hours of total time on screen for all brands—up eight percent
  • $2 million total social media value for all brands—up 52 percent
  • $16 million total media value for all brands—up 65 percent

While reporting that the WNBA fan base grew 29 percent from April 2023 to April 2024, the research giant notes similar growth in the number of fans for women’s college basketball—up 26 percent—and the NWSL—up 17 percent, indicating that partners in those areas could see increased valuations and brand interest similar to the WNBA’s.

The key for brands involved with college hoops, pro soccer and other women’s sports will be digging beyond the raw interest numbers and understanding whether they translate to the types of outcomes that the WNBA is seeing thus far in affinity, loyalty and engagement with partners.

As one WNBA partner who works with Nielsen put it, “We need to think about measurement holistically: How much are people leaning in to being a fan of this league versus just how many people tuned in Saturday night for the game. As a brand, you only get so much value from showing up courtside.”

As other emerging sports have proven in the past, it’s the quality of the audience’s interest and passion that often is the difference-maker in delivering ROI to partners versus the quantity of eyeballs delivered by the most established properties and events.