Home Youth jerseys Candace Parker’s Chicago Title Highlights WNBA Progress, Obstacles

Candace Parker’s Chicago Title Highlights WNBA Progress, Obstacles

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Candace Parker finished her storybook on Sunday when she brought her hometown of Chicago Sky the team’s first WNBA Championship against the Phoenix Mercury, closing a 3-1 win in the final with an 80-74 victory.

The series, which capped the WNBA’s season-long celebration for its 25th anniversary, achieved record attendance and audience spikes that bode well for the league’s future, but also highlighted areas, such as playoff merchandising, where W’s business is still lagging behind. .

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Parker, a native of Naperville, Ill., Returned to Windy City after 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks, and like LeBron James in Cleveland, brought a title to his hometown. Chicago entered the playoffs as a No.6 seed after a 16-16 regular season, and Parker’s storyline helped the playoff box office. The series ended with back-to-back sold-out sales at the 10,387-seat Wintrust Arena, nearly four times the league’s average attendance. The two games in Phoenix, where the Mercury led the league in regular season attendance, also drew large crowds, with Game 2 surpassing 13,600 fans.

With matches on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2, viewership for the final also saw healthy jumps. While ESPN has yet to release full series data, Game 1 marked the most-watched WNBA Finals opener since 2017, and Game 2 was the second-most watched since the 2003 final, averaging 789,000 viewers and peaking at 1 million. Both increases followed a 70% increase in viewership for the semi-finals during the bubble season of 2020.

Ahead of the 2021 playoffs, the WNBA reported that its online store sales were up 50% from last year. And yet, fans expressed frustration over their inability to find Chicago Sky jerseys online throughout the final. Not a single jersey was available for purchase from the WNBA website as the team contested for a title, and the only Mercury jersey listed was a custom jersey.

The jerseys of just two of Chicago’s stars, Diamond DeShields and Courtney Vandersloot, were sold online at Dick’s Sporting Goods, which partnered in September as one of many 25th anniversary season sponsor additions, among which Google and Amazon Prime Video.

Parker’s jersey was the league’s sixth best seller this season, but it was not available to most fans during the playoffs. Even during the regular season, merchandise is only sold for a few players in the league. Of the league’s 144 players, fewer than 20 had jerseys available at the official WNBA online store this season, and even fewer had youth and adult versions ready for sale. To order the shirts of other players in the league, personalization is the only option, and it is a more expensive option.

Dick’s Sporting Goods and the W expressed a desire to put more gear in the hands of fans when the partnership was announced, wanting to make the goods more widely available across the country, but that didn’t seem to solve the problem. before the playoffs. Historically, the WNBA playoffs have seen the strongest growth in viewership and attendance, with their regular-season viewership generally remaining relatively stable. This season, however, marked the league’s most watched regular season since 2008. Audience has grown 51% from the 2020 bubble season among its TV partners (ABC, CBS, ESPN and ESPN2) .

That said, the regular season audience for the 2021 campaign averaged just 306,000 viewers on ESPN’s networks, a small jump of 24% from the last pre-pandemic season of the league in 2019.

Post-season games that aired in premium broadcast slots on major league partner networks typically contribute to these increases, but even game three of this year’s final series found itself relegated to ESPN2. .

Problems over the league’s travel policy and financial inequalities between owners also emerged in the playoffs, with Phoenix star Diana Taurasi highlighting some of the problems as she chartered her own plane home after a game of semi-final to return home for the birth of her second child. Some, including Joe Tsai, owner of the New York Liberty of the WNBA and the Brooklyn Nets of the NBA, say they are working with the WNBA to resolve the issues and find airline sponsors for the charter flights.

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