The WNBA is launching a new campaign to target lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered fans. According to reports, the new marketing efforts mark the first time a professional sports league has specifically targeted the LGBT community.
The campaign will include team participation in local pride festivals and parades, hosting grassroots awareness events and advertising with lesbian media, the Associated Press reports. “For us it’s a celebration of diversity and inclusion and recognition of an audience that has been with us very passionately,” WNBA President Laurel Richie says. “This is one of those moments in the ‘W’ where everybody comes together.”
The new marketing strategy means the WNBA plans to capitalize on something it’s known for years: the LGBT community makes up a significant portion of the league’s fan base. According to a 2012 study, 25 percent of women who identify as lesbian watch the women’s professional basketball at home.
“We embrace all our fans and it’s a group that we know has been very, very supportive,” Richie adds. “I won’t characterize it as ‘Why did it take so long?’ For me it’s been we’ve been doing a lot of terrific initiatives. The piece that’s different this year is unifying it.”
Brittney Griner, a WNBA athlete who publicly identifies as a lesbian, says she’s happy the league is finally embracing the community. “We’ll pave the way and show its fine and there’s nothing wrong with it. More sports need to do it. It’s 2014, it’s about time,” she tells AP. Griner, who served as grand marshal of the Phoenix Pride parade last season, currently plays for the Phoenix Mercury.
The league’s first big event will be a nationally-televised pride game between Tulsa and Chicago on Sunday, June 22.
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