If you follow sports and haven’t been living under a rock over the last week, then you know the WNBA approved the sale of the San Antonio Stars to Las Vegas mega-corporation MGM Resorts International.
The sale sends the Stars to the adult playground capital of the world, where their home arena will be the Mandalay Bay Events Center. WOOOOO! Someone pass me a rubber duck and some champagne for the pool!
But seriously, for the first time in recent memory, the WNBA has made a great move. With the correct promotion and stewardship, this team could be the most profitable WNBA franchise ever. Here are five reasons why.
- Everyone in Las Vegas is NOT from Las Vegas
It’s no secret that women’s basketball is huge overseas. The salaries are bigger, as are the crowds and the notoriety.
According to data released by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, approximately 40 million people from around the world visit the desert city yearly for its casinos, iconic hotels and world class entertainment.
Overseas visitors would potentially jump at the opportunity to watch their favorite players, without having to deviate from their current travel plans. In addition, Vegas draws crowds not only for vacation and entertainment purposes, but also for business, such as conferences.
Having a major sports team in the area during the summer months provides business travelers with a relatively inexpensive client entertainment option.
2. Star power and marketing
Las Vegas, and MGM Resorts in particular, are known for their high-quality entertainment options. Having a WNBA team on the Vegas Strip that markets themselves as the “ultimate entertainment venue” forces the team and the WNBA in general to step up their game.
This is not the time to play it safe. It is time to pull out all the stops and market this team in as many creative ways as possible.
The NBA grew from humble beginnings, and is still driven by their larger-than-life star power. University of Washington superstar Kelsey Plum, whom San Antonio took with their No. 1 draft pick last April, has a huge West Coast fan base. With her playing ability and likeability, she has the potential to own Vegas if she’s marketed correctly. Add to that equation popular Stars guard Sequoia Holmes, who is a Las Vegas native, and you have a marketer’s dream.
The NBA’s summer league in Las Vegas draws hundreds of sponsors and companies that want their piece of the audience the league reaches. Proximity is a key in building relationships, and the WNBA and the Stars can position themselves to partner with these companies, which will generate new eyes on their products, as well as dollars in pockets.
Due to the nature of the travel involved in my career, I’ve had the opportunity to go to numerous WNBA games in different cities, and I will say that each team experience is a bit of a wild card.
You have some game experiences that are out of this world, like the show the Seattle Storm always puts on. Then there are venues where, the entertainment is, quite frankly, amateur hour.
The Stars – or whatever they will call themselves – have the opportunity to create the standard of WNBA entertainment.
3. Clean up between LA, Seattle and Phoenix
Las Vegas is the sweet spot in the West, being close to everything but still far enough that if you lived in Vegas, you’re going to think twice and plan before patronizing even the closest WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury.
Putting a team in Vegas is the answer to fans’ prayers who are geographically located “in-between.”
Women’s basketball fandom is strong in the West in general, so the team should have a solid fan base starting off.
Three words: Trickle down effect. Or in this case, trickle around effect.
Remember those 40 million people who visit Las Vegas annually? When the party is over, they all have to go back to their respective home cities.
It is not just a league executive talking point during nationally televised game interviews.: it is a fact. After experiencing a WNBA game in Las Vegas, visitors are bound to continue to follow the league online and become interested in patronizing their home teams.
Having a franchise in Las Vegas makes testing the WNBA game waters easier and more appealing to those who typically wouldn’t follow the league because, after all, its another Vegas attraction, and why not take it in while being there.
5. Casino fans
The the WNBA fan base tends to be older. And according to data from Statista, 58 percent of Las Vegas casino patrons are between the ages of 50-75. If data is consistent with the rest of the league fan demographics, this team can expect strong support from the locals.
If the WNBA maximizes the opportunities they have in place with this new team, it could mean not only a successful franchise, but a more successful league.