A WNBA "Welcome to the W" ad. A WNBA “Welcome to the W” ad. (Dre Emerson on Twitter/X.)

There’s been a notable spike in interest in women’s college basketball over the past few years. That’s included games on cable networks that have long broadcast the sport drawing better ratings, broadcast networks stepping in to show more games and getting rewarded with ratings boosts themselves, and just a generally much higher level of media coverage for the sport. At least some of that has been about Iowa Hawkeyes’ superstar Caitlin Clark, but there is seemingly significant growing interest in the game beyond her.

Amidst that, a significant question is what the women’s college basketball boost may or may not mean for women’s professional basketball in general, and the WNBA in particular. That league has seen its own ratings growth of late, plus some new broadcast deals with partners like Scripps/ION and Amazon/Prime Video. And it could potentially see further media rights increases when its current deals come up after the 2024-25 season. So it’s interesting and notable to see a new ad campaign move there focused on incoming stars, and the April 15 draft (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Here’s some of that:

Here’s more on that from Emerson at Sports Business Journal:

The “Welcome to the W” campaign debuts Friday on ESPN during the NCAA Women’s Tournament coverage in an attempt to drum up excitement and awareness for this year’s much anticipated draft class, headlined by Iowa G Caitlin Clark and Stanford F Cameron Brink. The league is collaborating with Wieden+Kennedy on the campaign, which will showcase three 90s-inspired ads. WNBA CMO Phil Cook said the league collaborated with Wieden+Kennedy on the campaign because they “understood the voice of the athlete” and they could “mine the insight that was impactful to fans and consumers.” The ads will be directed by comedy website Funny or Die’s Jake Szymanski.

…The WNBA has seen a notable uptick in attendance and TV viewership in recent seasons, but it continues to look to grow the fan base. As such, Cook notes next month’s star-studded draft, which also could include LSU F Angel Reese, provides the league an opportunity to “cast a broader net” and “engage with the consumer base.” He called what’s happening at the collegiate level a “massive moment” for the sport. “Everyone sees the scope and the growth of the audiences in the women’s game,” he said. “That was just a great invitation for us to jump together and see if we can get them to partake in the same consumption of the WNBA.”

Meanwhile, this has also seen funny push-back ads, like this “Rookie-Os” one from veteran WNBA star Breanna Stewart:

Wieden+Kennedy is known for a lot of sports ads, from much of the run of ESPN’s famed “This Is SportsCenter” ads (before those went in-house in 2018) to notable ads for Fox Sports and more. And this is a notable new campaign involving them. We’ll see how it works out for the WNBA, but the idea is certainly reasonable, especially around women’s college basketball’s current success and the interest in upcoming WNBA players like Clark.

[Sports Business Journal]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.