2020 has been a year focused on adaptability for sports leagues, teams, and athletes. During the midst of uncertainty, the WNBA has taken the 2020 season as an opportunity to explode in growth, seeing an 68% increase in viewership. In April, the WNBA was the first league to host a virtual draft, in July they were the first league to dedicate their season to social justice issues, and they even started their bubble season before the NBA. Throughout this, WNBA players have been extremely active and vocal through social media to showcase their own personal brands, while also tapping into major supporters of the league with the orange hoodie campaign.
Big names and moments that immediately come to mind are the excitement of Sabrina Ionescu going first in the WNBA draft, Sue Bird winning her 4th championship in her 17th season, Diana Taurasi honoring Kobe Bryant, Te’a Cooper showcasing her love of fashion, and Candace Parker showing what it’s like being a mom while being on of the top players in the league. Let’s take a look at the Top 10 WNBA athletes on social this year:
Most Impressions: WNBA Top-10
Te’a Cooper | Los Angeles Sparks
Follower Growth: 616.38%
Candace Parker | Los Angeles Sparks
Follower Growth: 21.81%
Sabrina Ionescu | New York Liberty
Follower Growth: 699.30%
Sue Bird | Seattle Storm
Follower Growth: 26.66%
Liz Cambage | Las Vegas Aces
Follower Growth: 18.68%
Elena Delle Donne | Washington Mystics
Follower Growth%: 7.56%
Lexie Brown | Minnesota Lynx
Follower Growth%: 42.51%
Kelsey Plum | Las Vegas Aces
Follower Growth%: 2.84%
A’ja Wilson | Las Vegas Aces
Follower Growth%: 29.51%
Skylar Diggins-Smith | Phoenix Mercury
Follower Growth%: 3.00%
What do all of these women have in common? They tapped into their personal brands and shared their hobbies and behind the scenes of their personal lives that connected with their fans, capturing that fact that athletes are people too.
Rookies Te’a Cooper and Sabrina Ionescu took the leap into the big leagues seeing over 600% in follower growth. Both being players categorized as Gen Z, they understand how to use social media in a natural way that exemplifies their personalities and what they are interested in. Both of them have channels that are light hearted and fun. After a season ending injury, Sabrina brought a smile to the world when she shared hanging out with the Braynt’s and making Tik Toks and Te’a gave fans a full tour of the Wubble. Using platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram, they have been able to connect with the Gen Z audience and are helping to grow the game in the years to come.
Established stars of the league such as Sue Bird, Elena Delle Donne, and Candace Parker used their platforms to show all the fun they were having off the court. From baking, to family, to speaking about social issues they’ve been able to show fans there is more to life than basketball.
Athletes who are natural at showing what they are doing on and off the court through social media are naturals at having successful endorsement partnerships. WNBA athletes outperformed all other leagues when it came to branded content on instagram this season, with an average engagement rate of 6.9%.
Female athletes at natural marketers of themselves and their game. For years, women’s sports have had to go above and beyond to gain attention from fans. For example, Sue Bird has been one of the top players in the WNBA for 17 years, she is still marketing and growing her personal brand each day, seeing a 26% increase in her following this year. While, men’s leagues like the NBA have an established following and a breakout player like Tyler Herro will gain national media coverage and thousands of followers overnight from a few big plays.
The numbers don’t lie. Despite the challenges the COVID-19 crisis presented the WNBA, athletes of the league stepped up and used their voices to bring attention to everything that was happening on and off the court.