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It’s WNBA Playoff Time, But Who’s Watching?

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is not happy with the WNBA’s progress, and he isn’t afraid to admit it.


The WNBA playoffs are in full swing, but most of the country doesn’t seem to care. At least that’s what NBA commissioner Adam Silver thinks. Last week, he made headlines and received plenty of backlash for admitting that he’s less than thrilled about the progress the WNBA has made since its inception in 1997.


“We thought we would have broken through by now,” Silver told the audience at a sports industry conference. “We thought ratings and attendance would be higher.”


Coincidentally, Silver made these comments on the same night as the start of the 2015 WNBA Playoffs. Many sportswriters who cover the WNBA religiously were taken aback by his negative remarks about media coverage, including espnW’s resident women’s basketball writer, Michelle Voepel. In an open letter to the comish, Voepel sarcastically wrote:


“I'd guess it really wasn't your intent to dump cold water over the WNBA on the day the league playoffs started. Or to insult the media who've long covered women's basketball. Or to cause loyal fans to begin speculating you're not committed to the league and have lost confidence in WNBA president Laurel Richie.”


Voepel wasn’t the only writer to take issue with Silver’s statements. Others were equally as upset; especially with the way Silver casually tossed WNBA president Laurel Richie under the bus. But despite the criticism, Richie moved forward with a marketing campaign that she had been coordinating to start along with this season’s conference final matchups of the WNBA playoffs.


The campaign is called, “Watch Me” and the first promo spot will run tomorrow on Good Morning America. It showcases WNBA standouts and popular players both on and off the court, giving the audience a glimpse into their basketball prowess as well as their personal lives away from the hardwood. Top WNBA players, including Brittney Griner, Candace Parker, Elena Delle Donne, Maya Moore and Swin Cash, also narrate the spots.


Here’s one of the spots: 


Pam El, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of the WNBA, said the marketing campaign will “highlight the fact that [these women] are great basketball players but will also talk about [the player’s] remarkable personal story.”


The WNBA hopes to inspire fans and would-be fans to tune in and watch the playoff games after establishing a more personal connection with its players. Perhaps Silver also should keep in mind that the WNBA playoff schedule puts them into direct competition with playoff push for Major League Baseball and the start of the NFL season.


And those are marketing battles that not even the NBA could win.


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