WNBA President Laurel Richie Steers League in New Direction

The marketing executive reveals her winning strategy for leading women's athletics in to the future

Considering your background, what are some of the immediate changes or enhancements you are looking to do to increase visibility of the league?

I’m only [a few] months into the job so I don’t have concrete plans as of yet, but I think that there are a lot of women, families and basketball fans who are aware of the WNBA and definitely appreciate the level of play but have never been at or been invited to a game. I’m spending a lot of time when I meet with teams and owners to really think about how we can extend an invitation for people to come to a game. One of the things that we do know is that once someone comes to a game, there’s a pretty good chance they’re going to be hooked. These games are really fun. Once people come, our repeat [attendance] is very high.

Were there any fears or apprehensions before accepting the position?

I was truly excited about it. With any new opportunity you have a nervous excitement because it’s new. I’ve been to games so I know that the level of play is truly outstanding. I know that we offer an incredible experience and I also know that it’s an organization that cares about giving back to the communities that our players live and compete. While I’m not underestimating the task at hand, I feel really excited and honored about joining the organization and representing the 132 women in this league.

Over the past year the league has dealt with franchises folding and relocating, leading some to believe that the WNBA might be in trouble. Can you bring some clarity to the financial situation in the league?

We are seeing all of our key metrics heading in the right direction. Over the last four years attendance has been up, our sponsorships have been up and at this point and time, five out of our 12 teams have marquee sponsors. I feel like there’s some momentum as I come into this position. I’m focused on taking that to the next level.

What are the stigmas you’re trying to erase or things that you are trying to enhance during your tenure?

I think a lot about how to really shine the light on the women of the league. There is no question that they are athletes who are at the top of their game. Anyone who’s seen a game knows that is beyond question. What the people don’t know is the full story of these women. Almost every woman in our league has graduated from college. We have lawyers, children’s book authors and many of our women are mothers as well. They live these incredibly well rounded lives; especially as women who are at the pinnacle of their athletic performance. I hope to enlist the media’s help to tell the stories about the amazing women of the WNBA. I think that once you get to know the players and what they do on and off the court, it just makes the league that much more interesting.

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