Selling Sex Does NOT Attract Men to Women’s Sport

14 05 2009

I just saw a short video as a result of a Twitter from the WNBA. The power of social media at work for one “opt-in” follower! The video is by Mr. Alex Chambers, a self-proclaimed avid WNBA fan who also Twitters, and blogs. Yes, I said “Mr”!

I’m posting this because Mr. Chambers is a prime example of my previous point that sex does not sell women’s sport, it sells sex (not sport) to young men….and alienates and/or offends female sport fans. If women’s professional sport leagues want attract the coveted demographic–young male sport fans–they have to do a better job of selling athletic competence.

Notice in Mr. Chambers’ video, not once does he mention how attractive, sexy, feminine, or motherly the players are. He loves BASKETBALL and he loves the WNBA. 0908jack-black-wnba200I agree with him there are more male fans out there like him….and more that would likely become women’s sport fans if it was marketed differently or deemed “cool” and acceptable by males in general (like if Jack Black pictured here were at a Sparks game…I’m not sure if he is or isn’t at a WNBA game). Keep up the good work Alex Chambers…I can’t wait to hear more about your “journey” this summer. On similar note, the WNBA is about to fully release their new marketing campaign “Expect Great”. The title sounds promising!

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7 responses

15 05 2009
Justin Gerber

I think that you are correct about there being more fans then known to be. I have reservations, however, about the WNBA becoming a main stream sport. As discussed in your Sports in a Diverse Society class we talked a lot about Power and Performance sports.

This concept is one in which I identified with and have seen proven in the media and elsewhere over and over again. It reinforces the dominate ideologies that are so prevalent in our culture. These ideologies include gender separation, something the WNBA is struggling with. For this reason I find it difficult to believe that the WNBA will be able to draw the attention of a larger audience.

The new marketing campaign you mentioned does sound promising, but I still believe if it is to become more popular it needs to appeal to the dominate ideologies it has the potential to appeal to. Gender obviously is not one, but basketball itself is classified as a power and performance sport. So as you mentioned, and hopefully I have supported, they need to further appeal to basketball fans and less to fans looking for sex or other forms of demeaning women to sell tickets.

I also see your point about needing to attract more men so that it is deemed cool to attend games. That is interesting, but as I think about the WNBA running campaigns featuring high profile men watching games I think that could be potentially harmful to the image of the WNBA. It could be further demeaning to women if that is the way approach they take. It will be interesting how this all plays out, I hope to see the WNBA last and become what it has the potential to become.

Keep up the critical thinking.

15 05 2009
Sarah S.

I’ve never really understood why many men see it as ‘below’ them to attend women’s professional sporting events. Maybe that’s just an assumption I’m making, but from discussions I’ve had with a lot of guys, I think there is a disproportionately large amount of men that think that way. For some of them it’s just ignorance, others it’s sexism, but for many men I think it’s a power issue.

Personally, I think the treatment of female professional sports as second-class, or inferior, to male professional sports all goes back to the media. Men are more often than not the ones in decision-making roles in the media, so ultimately they are the ones deciding who the athletes being covered will be, and what kind of coverage they will get. So why is it that when they do cover female athletes, they repeatedly chose to portray them in contexts that demonstrate their sexual physiques, instead of their athletic prowess?

Truthfully, I don’t think it’s because they are even concerned with using sex to attract men to women’s sports, rather I think they use sex to maintain society’s male hierarchical structure, and reinforce the doctrine that men are physically superior to women. If they put Candace Parker on the cover of ESPN Magazine flexing her arms and exhibiting a physique that many men don’t have, even while she’s pregnant, that would intimidate men. So instead they put her on the cover in a form fitting white dress, and in a submissive matronly pose, I think, to protect males from their own insecurities.

Unfortunately, female sports certainly have a long way to go before they can shake the double standard that allows for the objectification of female athletes. In order for this to happen, I think it will have to be males who step up and say enough is enough, because ultimately they are the ones in control, and that battle cry has been coming from the women’s side for years.

31 07 2009
BurnBrother

It’s interesting to me that poor WNBA attendance is somehow “men’s fault”. Back in the 70’s the feds passed Title IX to give women’s sports equality with men’s (among other things). So women have been getting their equal treatment for almost four decades now. You would think that in that time they would have been able to get WOMEN interested in attending WNBA games. What gives?

Regardless of whatever the true believers want to think, most serious guy sport fans rightfully believe that the WNBA product is subpar. You will find very few men who competed in basketball at the high school level or higher that can stomach watching a WNBA game. They just aren’t that good. Sorry. Anyone who is knowledgeable and says something else is pandering to the WNBA and their supporters.

Why should men be expected to support this product when women as a group, other than the well documented Lesbian fan base, aren’t going to games?

In fact the WNBA continues to enjoy it’s “Pro Version” of Title IX courtesy of NBA Commissioner David Stern’s ongoing check writing skills which is the ONLY reason the WNBA is still in business. The difference is that unlike the government, even Stern will not continue to write checks forever, so the WNBA better get it together.

Blaming men because they don’t support a below average product won’t get it done. How about lining up some of that legendary “Girl Power” and hoist the WNBA on your strong feminist backs and carry it to both popular and financial success. Seems fair to me.

@ Sarah S. – Trust me when I say this, no matter how much Candace Parker flexes I don’t see guys getting intimidated. At least not any guy I know.

4 08 2009
nmlavoi

Burn Brother,
Thanks for your post. I’m not saying that the league should count on men/boys for survival, in fact my point is that this is NOT a viable strategy for the very reasons you point out. Men in the coveted demographic (age 18-35) aren’t interested in the WNBA!, so I think the league should stop trying to market to them by selling sex, because when they do so, they risk alienating a lot of their core fan base.
-nml

4 08 2009
BurnBrother

I appreciate your position. I was frustrated with the tone of the second post. As you note, we can’t “wish” something to reality.

You clearly understand the world of women’s sports better than I. From the outside looking in I’m curious as to why womens pro basketball seems to work quite well in Europe, but can’t get traction in the U.S. as a business, even with WNBA salaries being lower (in general) than those in Europe. With all of your connections and sources I’m hoping that you can solicit an informed opinion on this issue.

Seems like to me that the target WNBA “expansion” market would be (1) Fathers with Daughters and (2) Hetero Women. Based on everything I’ve read the WNBA seems to be pretty highly penetrated in the Lesbian market.

I hope the WNBA can succeed. I see this morning that the Arena Football League will most likely be shutting down. It appears their average attendance over the past several years was around 12,500 fans per game. The WNBA looks like it may be averaging around 8,000 fans per game. Of course there are other variables including overhead and the total number of games in a given season. That said, it seems that they have a long way to go financially justify the league.

I am frustrated that a league that averaged over 50% higher per game attendance is going out of business and the WNBA, due to it’s NBA subsidy is still out there. But as they say “That’s Life” and actually “That’s Capitalism”.

18 03 2010
Ralph DeMattia

Why oh why are liberals and women so afraid of the obvious? Women’s sports are BORING! Just about everything they do, a man or men can do it better! I would LOVE to see the top NBA team play the top (if there is one) WNBA team. It would make the Little BigHorn seem like a success. It’s a simple fact- Most people would rather see the best they can get, and if you’re going to ask a family of four to shell out upwards of 2 to 3 hundred dollars for an event, they don’t want to watch a bunch of women trying to act like men. And as far as the WNBA goes, it’s nothing but a way for the NBA to lose money through so they don’t. And whoever wrote that crock about the Williams sisters(?) COME ON! Joe Frazier had more sex appeal 10 minutes after Clay beat the snot out of him than they do! They are two of the ugliest human beings on the planet! And did you catch the one sister’s performance whan a call didn’t go her way? What a lady! Women’s sports are and always will be the next best thing, femnazis. Face it!

18 03 2010
nmlavoi

Ralph-thank you for posting your perspective, unfortunately for those of us who do care about women’s sport, you are not alone in your opinions. -nml

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