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Global Expansion: A Layup for the WNBA

May 14, 2023

Fueled by its record-breaking 2022 season–its most-watched in 14 years–the WNBA has set its sights on global expansion to grow its reach and audience. As a preview to its 2023 season tip off on May 19th, the league made history last weekend with its first-ever international game at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena in Canada. Presented by Tangerine Bank, the milestone matchup garnered significant support from over 15 sponsoring brands, including notable names like RE/MAX, Air Canada, and Bell Media with the most assets.

This groundbreaking game both showcased the league’s commitment to conquering new frontiers, and highlighted the burgeoning partnerships between brands and the WNBA. Case in point: the multiyear deal the league struck in 2021 with Amazon, granting it exclusive global streaming rights for the league, including regular season games and the Commissioner’s Cup on Prime Video. The partnership marked the first time Amazon secured streaming rights in pro basketball.

With a sold-out crowd in attendance, the Canadian game was a resounding success–reminding fans exactly why the league grew its viewership by a remarkable 19% last year. The WNBA’s surge in popularity has also translated into substantial business opportunities for its athletes, with SponsorUnited tracking an astounding 1,000% increase in deals between brands and players since 2019.

As the trailblazing league keeps scoring slam dunks on and off the court and growing its fan base in tandem, more influential brands will no doubt come calling–joining top-tier sponsors like Coinbase, Google, State Farm, AT&T, Starry, and Doordash, all of which made their presence known within the WNBA in 2022.

One deal already making headlines this year: late last month, the league announced a multiyear agreement with the E.W. Scripps Company to televise Friday night games during the regular season on ION, an entertainment network that reaches every U.S. TV over-the-air and on all major pay TV services. With the deal, the WNBA becomes the first sports property to air on ION.

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