Within the last five years, the NBA has watched women become more than 38 percent of its fan base. Sixty-nine percent of females over the age of 14 consider themselves basketball fans.
‘I love watching the Lakers play,’ says basketball fan Jasma Shead. “When I was little, I knew I was going to be the first woman in the NBA.”
In the 2011-2012 season, an estimated 72 million women tuned in to watch the NBA on television and about 215,000 women attended the games. According to ESPN’s NBA Attendance Report, an average of 16,106 people attended the games for the season.
The vast increase in women fans has led the NBA to try to discover new ways to boost their involvement. The NBA’s latest endeavor is trying to impress women with new apparel.
“I paid $30 for a Chicago Bulls cheetah print skully,’ says Kiara Manuel. “The clothes on the website are so cute. It’s hard to resist.”
The NBA has strayed from its male-dominant, oversize apparel to give women their own body hugging, shape-friendly sportswear.
Nike Activewear, Old Navy and Adidas have partnered with the NBA to create a clothing line highlighting sportswear to support the teams and fit women’s bodies. Women can identify themselves as fans, while looking and feeling good in their form-fitting apparel.
“It’s a great market and great business,” says NBA marketing representative Marjorie Coulding. “Women want to look and feel like women. It’s a man’s sport; doesn’t mean we want to look like one.”
Upon moving forward with the women’s clothing idea, the NBA surveyed a diverse group of women about what kind of things they would be willing to buy.According to NBA marketing representatives, last year the league racked in $2 billion from consumer purchases. The NBA is unable to give figures on how much was attributed to women apparel sales.
Advertising takes a front seat in the success of women’s apparel with the masses. The NBA has found that getting women’s most adored celebrities to advertise products is a sure way to make the sales.
Stars like Rihanna, Cameron Diaz, Miley Cyrus and Sanaa Lathan have been spotted courtside repping their favorite NBA teams and so have the fans who love them.
“When I saw Miley in that cute Lakers crop top, I kid you not, I went looking for it for weeks,” said fan Courtney Lowe laughing. “It was so cute on her. I wanted it so bad.”
The advertising campaigns feature A-list women celebrities from Zoe Saldana to Jennifer Hudson. The campaigns appear in sports magazines and fashion magazines.
Similar to the NFL, the NBA has also opened pop-up shops to let women fans know about the different options and designs in sports apparel. Women are treated to “the works” while they browse new merchandise or merchandise they’ve never seen.
“It’s like a high-end Tupperware party just with the plastic boxes traded for clothes,” says consultant Deb Polcaster. “It’s everything that girls like: glitz, glamour and fun.”
The NBA is in discussions now to decide the next move for women’s apparel and sportswear.
Tonesha Townsel covers entertainment and the business of sports.