The WNBA Is Poised for a Banner Year

Morning Consult data shows that positive buzz about — and consumer engagement with — the league is growing ahead of its 2024 season
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April 09, 2024 at 5:00 am UTC

Key Takeaways

  • Awareness of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) grew six percentage points between the start of 2022 and the end of 2023, according to Morning Consult Brand intelligence data.

  • Positive buzz about and weekly engagement with the WNBA also hit all-time tracking highs late last year for most major consumer groups, including all U.S. adults, men, women, millennials and Gen Xers.

  • With a host of collegiate megastars set to enter the league this year, the WNBA is well-positioned to capitalize on the swelling cultural relevancy of women’s sports and bolster its brand profile even further.

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The WNBA draft on April 15th marks the informal start of the league’s 2024 season, which Morning Consult’s Brand Intelligence data suggests is poised to be a breakthrough one.

After flying under the radar of mainstream pop culture for decades, the WNBA’s brand profile has been growing across a number of metrics in recent years, from total awareness and positive buzz to weekly users. It’s a trend that should continue as the league welcomes an all-star class of college athletes who — thanks to the advent of the name, image and likeness (NIL) era in the NCAA — are already bonafide brands in their own right, including Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso. 

The data also reflects an even broader phenomenon: Women’s sports are growing in cultural relevance, and women’s basketball is helping to lead the way. 

Buzzing about women's basketball 

U.S. adults' awareness of the WNBA grew six percentage points from 73% to 79% between Jan. 2022 and Dec. 2023. That might not seem like a big difference to those unfamiliar with survey research, but our large sample size — 34,132 responses gathered over the period — means the margin of error is +/- 0.53 percentage points.

The detainment and then ultimate release of WNBA star Brittney Griner by Russia garnered heavy media coverage throughout much of 2022, likely contributing to increased awareness. However, these gains were no doubt also driven by an increase in unrelated, organic conversations online. 

Positive buzz — or the share of respondents who said they have seen, heard or read something positive about the WNBA recently — hit all-time tracking highs in the second and third quarters of 2023 for nearly all consumer groups.

Positive Buzz About the WNBA Peaked During Its 2023 Season

The share of respondents who said they have seen, heard or read something positive about the WNBA within the past two weeks:
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Morning Consult Brand Intelligence

The fever pitch coincided with the end of the 2023 NCAA Women’s March Madness tournament, which featured a much-discussed national championship matchup between two future WNBA prospects — Iowa’s Clark and LSU’s Reese — and the start of the 2023 WNBA season. That said, high positive buzz levels largely sustained through the end of the year, notable because the WNBA concludes in early October. 

And while women’s basketball chatter is on the rise for U.S. adults of all ages, it’s worth highlighting that Gen Z and millennials have long been talking about WNBA at higher rates than their older peers. This can be explained, in part, by the game’s unique appeal to young people. Still, the WNBA has made some buzzworthy, youth-focused moves as of late, including innovative partnerships with “it” brands like Glossier and Kim Kardashian’s SKIMS. 

America is starting to engage with the WNBA 

In more good news for the WNBA, consumers aren’t just talking the talk, they’re walking the walk, too. The share of respondents who said they engage with the WNBA at least once weekly grew across every major demographic between the start of 2022 and the end of 2023 — and, in many cases, reached all-time highs.

Weekly Engagement With the WNBA Grew in 2023

The share of respondents who said they engage with the WNBA at least once weekly:
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Morning Consult Brand Intelligence

Boomers have seen the least overall movement on engagement. But among young people, it’s clear that the WNBA is making quite meaningful progress: As of the end of 2023, nearly 1 in 5 (17%) Gen Z adults reported engaging with the league on a weekly basis. 

Morning Consult’s Brand Intelligence data also shows that users of some of today’s most culture-driving platforms are interacting with the WNBA at notable rates too. Snapchat and X (formerly Twitter) users are more likely to engage with the WNBA than the average U.S. adult. When it comes to streaming, the same is true of Max and Apple TV+ users. While Amazon Prime Video just extended its rights deal with the league, those platforms would be wise to seek out other ways to create additional content around women’s basketball given their users' penchant for it. 

Beyond social and streaming, gamers (those who play PC or console games) and podcast listeners also regularly engage with the WNBA relative to the general population — evidence that the league’s hearty embrace of both channels is paying off.

The future of the WNBA — and women’s sports — is bright

With advocates populating so many of the hottest marketing mediums — and upwardly mobile TV viewership and game attendance — the WNBA is primed for all sorts of increasing brand investment, and is well on its way to occupying cultural touchstone space previously only reserved for men's professional leagues.

Of course, sports marketing has always relied on starpower, and the WNBA has a huge influx of just that headed its way. The league’s expected 2024 draft class features some of the biggest stars that collegiate athletics, men’s or women’s, has ever seen. 

Players like Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso, whose college careers’ peaked while NCAA athletes were able to profit off of their name, image and likeness for the first time, will bring millions of social media followers and a roster of blue-chip brand partners with them to the next level.

But it doesn’t end there. These women are already commanding features in Vogue. They’re getting the meme and thirst trap treatment on every social media platform. Legends like Lebron James and Shaquille O'Neal are repeatedly shining spotlights on their prowess. Simply put, they’re being platformed in a way that’s rarely been seen before in the context of women’s sports. 

Ultimately, women and sports — whether they’re playing or watching them — are having a moment right now. The WNBA can turn it into a movement by continuing the prolific promotion of these next-up athletes, alongside its existing stars. 

A headshot photograph of Ellyn Briggs
Ellyn Briggs
Brands Analyst

Ellyn Briggs is a brands analyst on the Industry Intelligence team, where she conducts research, authors analyst notes and advises brand and marketing leaders on how to apply insights to make better business decisions. Prior to joining Morning Consult, Ellyn worked as a market researcher and brand strategist in both agency and in-house settings. She graduated from American University with a bachelor’s degree in finance. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected].

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