Second-year WNBA President Laurel Richie stopped by Philips Arena on Friday and chatted with local media prior to the Atlanta Dream's impressive victory over the Los Angeles Sparks.
During the Q&A period, she discussed her plan for the league moving forward, what her second year has been like, and what it has been like to work with NBA commissioner David Stern.
Swish Appeal: Can you elaborate on your “Master Plan” and the three bucket approach: Attendance, Partnership and Viewership from year one to year two?
Laurel Richie: I think the first thing I think is most notable about this year is a full year of our partnership with Boost Mobile. Boost Mobile came on as a league wide marquee halfway through [last year] and this season, we have the benefit of activating with them from the beginning. They were presenting partner for the draft, of our tip-off, of our performance awards so we’re really excited and pleased with that partnership.
And in the process of creating some other new ones, we announced today entering into a partnership with 100 Black Men of America which we’re excited about. Demographically there’s a really good fit and then sort of culturally and mission wise, there’s a really good fit. So as they are thinking about mentoring young girls and young boys, (we offer) the women of the WNBA, the game of the WNBA, athletes who are at their peak performance. And we have gone through years of training and dedication and disappointment and bouncing back and even beyond our athletes to our owners and physical therapists and accountants. So we’re just very excited, the plans are not fully baked yet but we know there’s a great partnership and great things to come from that.
SA: How would you compare your second year to your first year?
LR: I’m still on a learning curve; hopefully it’s not as steep as last year’s. I feel I now have the benefit of seeing a complete cycle, so it highlights for me the strength of the league and places where I would like to see even more growth. I’m very intrigued [as] we have this incredibly passionate and loyal fan base and how can we interact and engage with them all year long. And maintain a connection with them throughout the year. I am intrigued by the partnerships that we do create and I think that’s a way to help us do that.
SA: What is your vision for the league in the next two or three years?
LR: I think we will continue to focus on attendance and the gate. And those are our measures of bringing more and more people, exposing them to the game and growing our fan base. We are actively doing outreach to organizations that appreciate and value the WNBA to build an even more robust group of sponsors and partners. And those are the things that we really focus on.
I think as I look at the game, while there is always room for improvement, I think the level of play right now is pretty darn good. When we’ve got 12 of the Olympians coming out of the WNBA, it’s just a proof point of where we are. I know that if you spoke to the players, they would never say that we’re there (laughing). But I feel very good about where the game is and now I just want to expose more people to it.
SA: Can you talk about David Stern’s commitment to the WNBA and what it’s like to work with him?
LR: David Stern is very committed. I’m very lucky to be apart of his organization and to be apart of the broader NBA family during his tenure. And it’s not just his support and passion for the WNBA - he’s the commissioner and he’s the ultimate commissioner in my eyes. I have a lot to learn from him and I feel lucky that I have that opportunity. He’s tough, he’s accomplished and he’s also quite giving of his knowledge.