Asserting a League’s rightful place in culture.
Twenty years after its founding, the world’s greatest professional women’s basketball league found itself struggling to grow without a clear fan base. Tickets went unsold while trolls tapped into outdated stereotypes to overtake online conversations. Yet, from #blacklivesmatter, to #loveislove, to #futureisfemale, culture’s most pressing movements are rooted in the WNBA’s DNA. The league needed to seize this moment and reassert its rightful place in culture in order to resonate with a new generation of fans. How do you re-envision a brand and business to resonate in culture, connect with fans and deliver long-term profitability?
After hosting stakeholder and player interviews and analyzing the business and potential fan segments, we illuminated a new socially active, culturally engaged, and deeply influential design target centered around millennial women of color and their allies. Through immersive in-person and digital ethnographies with this audience, we unearthed a collection of insights that set the foundation for a disruptive new purpose and positioning for the brand.
We discovered that in a world where they can be made to feel small, our audience is deeply seeking the empowerment that comes from having your unapologetic self reflected and respected in culture. The true ethos of the WNBA was deeply relevant to this audience, as the players themselves were active pioneers of female empowerment within sports and greater society. With this in mind, the league could play a greater role in culture by making space for players and fans to celebrate their full selves, in all their strength and light.
With this new driving purpose, we hosted a series of co-creation sessions with our design target to imagine how the brand could come to life. From there, we developed a new brand identity for the league alongside a pipeline of innovative content and activation ideas, all designed to get a new generation of fans to not only enjoy the League’s entertainment factor, but to also rally behind it as a beacon of their identity and politics.
The new brand identity was unveiled in April 2019 and instantly garnered positive reception in social media and pop culture. Then, driven by the renewed purpose, the league reached a landmark CBA in January 2020, which doubled player salaries while increasing benefits, ultimately taking a stand for female athletes everywhere. As the league heads into its 24th season, the new brand purpose continues to lead the way.