1. Make the season ticket holder experience something that can be enjoyed for 12 months out of the year.
The regular season in the WNBA is from mid to late May through mid-September. The season goes through early-mid October if a team makes the Finals. Either way, it's a long offseason which can get folks not thinking about the WNBA during the fall and winter, and I'm guilty of that and probably many of you are too.
One part of now Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman's recommendations to the NCAA regarding womens' college basketball is to better integrate the WNBA marketing efforts into women's college basketball and to have teams from both sides share STH lists among others (see page 47). In addition, our own James Bowman and M Robinson gave many of their observations as well as interviews regarding it and you can check out our StoryStream here.
Personally, I'm not as interested in the college game as the professional game, and my watching of college basketball, both men and women, is primarily to look at potential stars of the future. But I think I'm in the minority when it comes to the demographic of WNBA fans since I'm watching mostly NBA basketball during the college season.
Integrating college basketball with the pros is only one part of improving the WNBA STH experience. I've pointed out on Sunday's Open Thread that teams in the Big Four, including the Washington Wizards and Capitals already have began selling their season tickets not just as tickets but as club memberships for events and benefits all year round with the DC 12 Club and Club Red 365 memberships respectively. As a Wizards STH, I'm in the DC 12 Club. A number of other teams in the NBA especially are also going this route and adding more offseason benefits and perks to integrate fans with the team all the year, so I'm not just trying to single out the DC teams here but it's my area.
At least from personal experience with the Wizards, there are a number of monthly events such as summer time happy hours, skating events at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, the Caps' practice facility in Arlington, Virginia, and even first rights to tickets for other Verizon Center events not involving the Capitals and Mystics. (Now, I'm regretting not getting Beyoncé tickets in three weeks.)
Granted the NBA and NHL offseasons are much shorter than the WNBA so there's not too much effort needed to get things off the ground. In fact the NBA and NHL seasons are during the whole WNBA offseason more or less and vice versa, but there's got to be better ways for teams to integrate their fans all year long. One way is to expand the regular season. But some monthly STH meetups, etc. including for non-basketball events are also things teams can do.
I know that players aren't always available during the winter, but season ticket holders are also a community. And from my own personal experience, WNBA STH's are a more tight-knit group and a family than their NBA counterparts.
Lastly, another thing I could add is perhaps partnering with other women's professional or semi-professional sports teams in the area. At least in the DC area, even though I bet that it's been done already to some degree in terms of marketing, maybe a STH night with the Washington Spirit NWSL women's professional soccer team could be worth a shot. Many WNBA fans are advocates of women's sports in general, so this could be of interest to fans who have strong convictions on women's sports in general as well as soccer fans.
2. Give comparatively equal in-game benefits to WNBA and NBA season ticket holders who sit in similar locations.
This sounds like it should affect only these teams in particular because the owners of these teams also own NBA teams: the Silver Stars, the Mercury, the Lynx, the Fever, the Liberty, and the Mystics but it is still food for thought for the other six teams that are owned by an owner who isn't also an NBA team owner. Fans who sit in the lowest priced locations generally aren't going to get many more in-game benefits than a seat to a game, but the differences really start to show to those who throw out the biggest bucks.
Many, if not most (or even all) NBA STH's who sit courtside or within four rows of the basketball court (varies from team to team) enjoy benefits like all-inclusive food and drink (it's not just nachos and hot dogs - the Wizards give a very good example - look at page 13 of the document for a sample menu) and complimentary parking. I don't see the Mystics offering such benefits to season ticket holders who sit in similar courtside locations. To be fair, there is "Monumental Money" or concession credits given to most season ticket holders and that beats out the Wizards where only lower level STH's along center court can get that benefit though the credit is higher per seat than Mystics season ticket holders who sit in a similar location. Click here on that (and then click on "Center Select").
I don't know exactly what benefits all the WNBA teams give their courtside season ticket holders, like if they give an all-inclusive experience like NBA teams typically do, nor do I know all the benefits that general ticket holders get besides a ticket to a game and playoff ticket priority. But at least in DC, the experience isn't the same.
3. Cultivate a marketplace for season ticket holders to sell their tickets.
The NBA uses Ticketsnow.com (A Ticketmaster reseller) to allow STH's to sell their tickets on the secondary marketplace which goes by NBATickets.com. Buyers who use the service can do so with peace of mind that they have genuine tickets. StubHub is the service I generally use for my Wizards tickets because at least historically, there are more buyers lurking there and the company offers a money back guarantee that the tickets are genuine.
The WNBA doesn't offer such a service and it is a lot harder for me to get WNBA tickets out of my hands, even if I tried to give them away. The latter is because the Mystics just haven't been good lately, but to be fair, this year's team is playing a lot better. I get that part of it is because the secondary market for tickets is nowhere close to any Big Four league. But the league and its teams need to embrace the fact that STH's will choose to sell their tickets off, and not just go to every single game. Sure I have season tickets to both the NBA and WNBA teams in DC, but I don't have time to go to at least 58 regular season matches (41 NBA + 17 WNBA) let alone 17 matches in three months.
Potential concerns on these suggestions.
Obviously, these three suggestions will see resistance.
With point one, it's really hard to keep any group of folks interested and "in the loop" on anything when the league isn't a Big Four league like the NFL. Second, in terms of WNBA teams collaborating with colleges, you don't want to see teams partnering with one school and not others. And with the suggestion of hypothetically partnering with the NWSL on a team level, the soccer season overlaps with the WNBA where soccer games are almost always on the weekends and WNBA games have been concentrated toward the weekends too. I think this is of minor concern on both of those fronts, and look, any marketing that could expand the paying customer base is a good thing.
With point two, I will have to say that premium NBA seating is geared much more heavily toward businesses as opposed to individuals and most can't just afford them and go to every game. Nearly all WNBA seating is marketed toward the average joe. In addition, one of the benefits of WNBA basketball is that it is a more cost-effective option to watch professional quality basketball as well. But at the same time, people who have premium level WNBA level seating will want to feel that they are in a premium seating location and don't want to feel that their experience is less than that. Games are events, not just games. The question now is if adding high level benefits forces the cost of tickets to go up, will they pay higher prices for them?
And with point three, I kind of pointed it out already, but there's not much of a secondary market unless you know the right people. But I'm sure there may be people who want to share season tickets, even for the WNBA, and having such programs could help them in that regard.
Lastly on my end, the most important thing to keep WNBA STH's happy like STH's of any team in any other league is this: build a long term contender! Regardless, though the ticket sales and guest services teams within any professional sports franchise doesn't control what decisions are made on the basketball court, they always need to strive for excellent service to customers and make sure they are getting the most bang for their buck.
What are your suggestions on improving season ticket holder experience in the WNBA? Comment below, and if you have a long thought, make a FanPost!