Open Thread: What are your ways to improve WNBA attendance in 2013?

These three folks should provide attendance boosts for their teams, and also for other teams when the Sky, Mercury, and Shock go on the road. - USA TODAY Sports

Last year, reported attendance at WNBA games overall was at an all time low at 7,457 and this was despite the fact that the Olympics were held which is often a time when WNBA players get more exposure. This year, we hope that it changes given the three players you see above. So how would you like to see teams try to increase their attendance this year?

Here are some ways teams could increase attendance just from thinking out in writing:

1. Win games at a consistent clip.

I know that a lot of teams last year had attendance declines even if they performed well, but two teams saw some increase. From the Sports business Daily link above, and I'll link again, The Minnesota Lynx's attendance improved by nearly 15% from 2011. Teams that didn't show up their end of the bargain often had large declines like in the nation's capital, where the team suffered a 17% decline from 2011 to 2012. The Mercury and Storm also suffered double digit percentage declines in attendance in part due to a decline in team performance. I can't explain why the Dream had a large decline in 2012 though where the team had nearly a 16% drop.

Winning is also easier said than done, so teams without a Big Three player that don't figure to win many games this season aren't necessarily getting better attendance than last year, especially when the Big Three's teams come to town.

2. Offer major discounts (like a Groupon) to get people to buy tickets.

I believe I saw the Mystics and the Wizards do this before, even with full season tickets for the Mystics I believe, albeit at lower price points. The pro is that it could let more people in the game at a low price for any particular game and according to Monumental Sports Senior VP of Ticket Sales and Service Jim Van Stone in an interview with the Washington City Paper back in 2010, it also allows "people who would never touch the Wizards product, so they could come in and test drive it", but the con here is that it could devalue the product, and as is often the case with Groupon deals, once people pay a super low rate on a product that they have limited interest in, they aren't likely to keep going back there and pay full price for the product whether it's a single game, a partial plan, or full season tickets.

3. Market the teams with the "Big Three" when they are on the road.

I would think many teams are doing things to this effect. Some teams like the Minnesota Lynx which are already loaded with stars don't have to really market games against the Mercury, Sky, and Shock since they'll sell themselves. Teams that aren't expected to be competitive in the wins and loss column however could see larger attendance from the Big Three's teams coming to their town and two such teams appear to benefit here: the Seattle Storm and the Washington Mystics. Sorry to "count them out" before the season or "being a hater", but I don't see either team in the playoffs, and that actually is not bad for their long term futures for various reasons.

4. Offer tickets for free or the chance that tickets could be free.

The Phoenix Suns organization had a December 6 home game against the Dallas Mavericks and guaranteed all attendees at the game would have a "good time" or their money back on a game appropriately titles "Satisfaction Guaranteed Night." The game ended up being a success with 17,517 fans and only 365 or 2.1% of attendees requested refunds, despite losing 97-94. In addition to having a highly attended game, the Suns also had concession sales that were 21% above an average night.

The organization also owns the Phoenix Mercury WNBA team and will hold something loosely similar to "Satisfaction Guaranteed Night" with the #ManUpChallenge a/k/a "Cure the Cooties" campaign where men and women who are skeptical about the WNBA can go to a game for free.

The pros about doing this is quite similar to the option 2. Higher attendance and with the Suns case, maybe more concession sales too, and of course, allows fans who would otherwise not seriously consider the product. The cons are that offering a "free" night whether outright or with a guarantee if a fan isn't satisfied, can devalue the product, especially for a non-big four league like the WNBA. And there could be non-basketball reasons for doing something like this as well, including the need to "change how some people view the WNBA." Though the Suns and Mercury did get positive feedback for this campaign, I think it is a bad idea, and gave anything but positive feedback. I have nothing more to say on the issue than that.

These can't possibly be the only ways to improve attendance for all the teams in the league. If you were the chief businessman or woman for one of these teams, what would be your ways to try to drive attendance up this season, and even after that?

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