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    How WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert is Seizing Soaring Momentum

    enJuly 05, 2024

    Podcast Summary

    • WNBA growthWNBA is focusing on long-term growth, attracting new fans and investors, and investing in underfunded women's sports, thanks to record-breaking attendance and viewership and the impact of NIL.

      The WNBA, currently experiencing record-breaking attendance and viewership, is capitalizing on this momentum by planning for sustainable growth for the next decade. Kathy Engelbert, the league's commissioner, is focusing on attracting new generations of fans and investors, thanks to the influx of generational talent and the impact of Name, Image, and Likeness. Engelbert emphasized the importance of investing in women's sports, which have been historically underfunded, and the league is seeing increased interest from private equity and individual investors. Engelbert, who came into the league with a long-term vision, raised capital in 2022 to set the league up for future success. The WNBA is not just looking to capitalize on the present moment but is positioning itself for growth and recognition for years to come.

    • WNBA learning from college basketballThe WNBA can attract larger viewership and fan engagement by focusing on creating household names, fostering rivalries, and increasing the significance of games, similar to college basketball's March Madness.

      The WNBA can learn from college basketball's success by focusing on creating household names, fostering rivalries, and increasing the significance of games. These elements, which are prominent during March Madness, attract large viewership and fan engagement. The WNBA has already shown progress in this regard, with the Chicago Sky-Las Vegas Aces rivalry drawing impressive numbers, even during a regular season game. Additionally, the WNBA's unique position at the intersection of sports, culture, and society, along with its players' roles as community role models, adds to its appeal. Despite recent controversies overshadowing the product on the court, the league's commitment to prioritizing the game and its players ensures that the quality of the game remains the foundation for its success.

    • WNBA growth strategiesThe WNBA aims to expand globally and increase fan engagement, while addressing financial disparities between NBA and WNBA players through strategic partnerships and fan engagement initiatives.

      The WNBA sees the NBA as a role model for growth and aims to benefit from their association while maintaining its distinct identity. The WNBA has learned from the NBA's successful globalization strategies and is focused on expanding its fan base and player brands globally. However, the league also recognizes the need to address the financial disparities between the NBA and WNBA, with players like Caitlyn Clark earning significantly less than their male counterparts, leading to the need for many WNBA players to go overseas for additional income. The league is working on strategies to increase fan engagement, drive fandom, and ultimately, close the income gap.

    • WNBA opportunities and wagesThe WNBA is securing corporate partnerships, marketing deals, increasing prize pools, and allowing NIL deals for players to continue training and improving their skills during the off-season and beyond their careers, while negotiating for higher salaries and a larger media rights deal to set players up for long-term success.

      The WNBA is making significant strides in providing more opportunities and better wages for its players, both on and off the court. The league is working to change the under-invested ecosystem in women's sports by securing corporate partnerships, marketing deals, and increasing prize pools. Players are also benefiting from Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deals and endorsements from major brands. These opportunities are crucial for players to continue training and improving their skills during the off-season and beyond their WNBA careers. The league is currently negotiating for higher salaries in the next collective bargaining agreement, with the goal of setting players up for long-term success. The media rights deal, which is the league's primary revenue driver, is set to expire next year and negotiations for a higher annual payment are underway. Overall, the WNBA is making history by providing more opportunities and wages for its players, paving the way for a brighter future in women's professional sports.

    • WNBA growthThe WNBA is experiencing growth in talent, media reach, and digital transformation, aiming to close the gap with major sports leagues and attract younger audiences.

      The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) is poised for significant growth in the coming years, both in terms of on-court talent and media reach. The league has been working on securing a new media rights deal for three years, capitalizing on the rise of new, younger players like Juju Watkins, Kiki Rice, and Hannah Hidalgo, as well as established stars like Diana Taurasi. With an average of over a million viewers for regular season games across ABC, CBS, ESPN, and ESPN2, the WNBA is already a major draw, but the league aims to close the gap with other major sports leagues in terms of media revenue. Additionally, the WNBA's digital transformation, including a focus on creating engaging content for younger audiences on platforms like TikTok, is crucial for staying relevant in the rapidly changing media landscape. The expansion into new markets in the Bay Area and Toronto will also help expand fan bases and increase merchandise sales. Overall, the WNBA's strategic investments in talent, media, and digital content position it for long-term success.

    • Digital transformation, young talentInvesting in digital transformation and hiring young talent is essential for businesses to attract the next generation of fans, consumers, and partners, as they will be the future wage earners and primary audience. Traditional industries must adapt to media disruption by offering streaming platforms and subscription models to remain competitive.

      Digital transformation and hiring young talent are crucial for businesses to attract the next generation of fans, consumers, and partners. The speaker emphasized the importance of this demographic, as they will be the future wage earners and the primary audience for media and corporate partners. The successful execution of this strategy required the allocation of capital for digital transformation and the hiring of young people who are in tune with current trends. The speaker also mentioned the impact of media disruption on traditional industries, such as sports, and the need for traditional media companies to adapt by offering streaming platforms and subscription models to remain competitive in the market. Additionally, the speaker shared a heartwarming story about a young athlete, Kate Martin, who defied expectations and made it to the draft, illustrating the importance of perseverance and hard work. Overall, the conversation highlighted the significance of embracing change, investing in young talent, and adapting to the evolving media landscape.

    • Sports TechnologyCommissioner Cathy Engelbert of the WNBA uses technology to provide year-round live content and identifies tech investments as opportunities in sports.

      Technology is revolutionizing the sports industry, particularly in the realm of live content and women's sports. Commissioners are utilizing technology to provide year-round live content to linear TV and to scale investments. The WNBA, for instance, has embraced technology through its use of a striped ball and partnership with Wilson. Previously, Cathy Engelbert spent 33 years at Deloitte, where she honed her skills in growing technology-driven businesses. These experiences have equipped her with the knowledge to identify technological investments as potential opportunities in the broader sports landscape. The use of AI and technology to change the game presentation and scale investments is a trend that Engelbert believes will continue to shape the future of sports.

    • Career growth, diversityEmbrace new opportunities every few years and build capabilities early to foster career growth and adaptability. Relationships and adaptability are crucial in business, especially during crises.

      Having a diverse career with various experiences and roles can lead to significant personal and professional growth. The speaker, who spent 33 years with Deloitte, emphasized the importance of raising your hand for new opportunities every few years and building capabilities early in your career. She also highlighted the importance of relationships and adaptability in business, especially during crises. While staying with one company for a long time may seem daunting to some, the speaker's experience shows that it can lead to valuable skills and experiences. Ultimately, the decision to stay or leave a job depends on individual circumstances and goals, but being open to new opportunities and continuously learning can lead to long-term success.

    • Career ContributionsFocusing on strategy, culture, or capital allocation in a company leads to greater job satisfaction and longer tenure, even in the face of Gen Z's trend towards frequent job-hopping. Staying adaptable to new skills and technologies is also crucial.

      Young professionals should aim to make meaningful contributions to their companies by focusing on strategy, culture, or capital allocation. This approach can lead to greater job satisfaction and longer tenure, despite the trend towards frequent job-hopping among Gen Z. Additionally, Kathy shared her experience that the consulting industry tends to have more jargon than the sports world, which uses sports metaphors extensively. She emphasized the importance of staying adaptable to new skills and technologies as they evolve. Overall, Kathy's insights provide valuable advice for young professionals looking to succeed in their careers.

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