The WNBA Draft was yesterday and it’s the dawn of a new era in women’s basketball.

Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese headlined the class of new draftees, but we’re not here to give out draft grades (I already sent my draft grades to my brothers LOL), we’re here to talk Marketing.

In the last 12 months women’s basketball has done a complete 180 (I have ALWAYS been a fan, Breanna Stewart is a LEGEND), but now the sport is TAKING over the world.

And it’s a fantastic case study in why investing in personalities is one of the most high leverage moves ANY business can make and cements the influence that a good story has.

Let me set the scene for you…

For 42 years NCAA Women’s Basketball had lived in the shadows of Men’s basketball. March Madness was dominated by the Men’s tournament, viewership was 5-7x higher, and the Final Four was regularly viewed by more than 15M people.

But that trend abruptly halted this year when the Women’s National Championship Game between South Carolina and Iowa drew in 5M more concurrent viewers than the Men’s Championship between Purdue and UCONN.


That’s the entire population of the state of Maryland (our social media manager Aidan is from Maryland LOL). That’s nothing to scoff at.

So HOW did the NCAAW (National Collegiate Athletics Association Women’s Basketball) go from roughly 2M viewers for their championship game in 2016 to a whopping 18M in 2024? Personalities.

Simple as that.

In case you’re not a sports fan I’ll spill all the tea and give you everything you need to know.

Back in 2020, a basketball player named Caitlin Clark stepped on the campus of the University of Iowa. Little did we know that she would be the catalyst behind changing women’s basketball forever.

A sharpshooter (meaning she is a very good 3-point shooter), tough, and loyal to the humble Iowa City, Caitlin came on to the scene HOT. Making the NCAAW tournament her first year on the team and putting the NCAA on notice.

What ensued was 3 more DOMINANT years from Caitlin, averaging 30+ points per game, breaking the all-time NCAAW basketball scoring record, and winning national player of the year, TWICE.

Caitlin Clark had become a crowd favorite and the NCAA leaned into it. Signing endorsement deals with Nike and Gatorade, earning $3M+ as a college student, and breaking NCAA Women’s attendance records, Caitlin was being positioned as the face of collegiate women’s basketball. And it was working.

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Gatorade signed Caitlin to a partnership in 2023 and they’re seeing TONS of success. 3 weeks ago Gatorade launched a limited edition water bottle and towel with Caitlin Clark, the site crashed because of the mass amount of traffic and the drop sold out that day.

The exclusive drop is now being resold on secondary markets for 3x the original price, not to mention the announcement post on socials got 100k+ likes. Caitlin packs ALL the punch brands look for in successful brand partnerships.

The reason individuals are so much more influential than brands as a whole all comes back to storytelling. Humans are drawn to stories and the best stories are character-driven.

By highlighting individual personalities, you can weave narratives around their experiences, successes, and failures that are far more compelling than brand-driven messages.

Consumers love Caitlin Clark so much because they see a little bit of themselves in her, so they tune into her games, they buy into what she’s selling, whether that be Gatorade bottles, jerseys, or women’s basketball as a whole.

The NCAAW strategically moved Caitlin Clark into the limelight because they knew that in order to grow their brand, it wouldn’t be through their logo, it would be behind the smiling face of Caitlin Clark and other stars.

This playbook can be translated across any industry. Gong is the golden child of this strategy on LinkedIn (I’ll be doing a full breakdown of their viral LinkedIn strategy in the next couple weeks lol).

Giving their employees and executive team the freedom to create content online and position themselves as experts in the niche, led to an incredibly approachable and impactful brand that reached unicorn status in 5 years ($1B+ valuation).

Remember, your employees building their personal brands is NOT A THREAT, it’s an opportunity…a massive one.

But back to hoops…

Caitlin’s impact was so profound that every single one of Iowa’s road games this year were sellouts. Her draw was so massive that she was the reason behind OTHER schools breaking their own attendance records, everyone wanted to see Caitlin play.

16 of her regular season games this year were Nationally televised, in one game Fox Sports implemented a “Caitlin Cam” which was a TikTok live stream dedicated solely to following Caitlin’s every move during the game, and in an exhibition game against DePaul, Iowa drew in a record-breaking 55,000+ fans to watch Caitlin Clark play in Iowa’s FOOTBALL STADIUM.

An iconic year for the sport, for Caitlin Clark, and finally a Marketing playbook of amplifying personalities for NCAAW Basketball to use moving forward to continue growing the game.

It doesn’t stop there though, the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) is now capitalizing on Caitlin Clark’s momentum. Selected #1 overall yesterday to the Indiana Fever, who were second lowest in attendance in the WNBA last season, are now seeing ticket price increases of 91% for their home opener because of massive demand to see Caitlin play.

Good luck getting tickets for Caitlin’s first game on May 16th, the cheapest tickets are going for $464. INSANE.

The season doesn’t start for a couple of weeks but I am incredibly curious to see how the league leverages the dynamic personalities and talents that have just been drafted.

If it was up to me, I’d tell the WNBA to leave it all up in the hands of the Marketing team, ride this momentum, let the bandwagon effect kick in, and take the NCAAW’s playbook to bring the league to the next level.

Daniel Murray
Daniel Murray
Level up your marketing game

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