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WNBA pushes forward with more offseason marketing deals for players

The WNBA pays players to skip offseason jobs with foreign teams to stay home and tout women's basketball at public events and on social media.
WNBA pushes forward with more offseason marketing deals for players
Posted at 11:01 PM, Jan 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-11 23:02:24-05

2023 marked a slam dunk season for the WNBA, with more fans tuning in to catch a game in more than two decades. And fans also filled the seats, breaking the WNBA's previous 2018 attendance record.

The league wants to drive that momentum forward ahead of the May start of the 2024 season with the help of player marketing agreements, or PMAs. Under these PMA deals, the WNBA pays players to skip offseason jobs with foreign teams to stay home and tout women's basketball at public events and through social media and ad campaigns.

"We wanted to be able to provide additional opportunities for players to earn income throughout the year," said Bethany Donaphin, the WNBA's Head of League Operations.

The PMA program was created in the 2020 collective bargaining agreement and it took on extra importance in 2023 as players looked for alternatives to playing abroad after Brittney Griner's nearly 10-month imprisonment in Russia.

"It's also kind of the overall growth of the WNBA as a brand and a business," Donaphin said.

The program requires the league to spend $1 million on PMA contracts per season.

"We're hoping that it allows them to build their brands to explore their other interests and to their brand partnerships," Donaphin said.

On Thursday, the league announced six players participating in the program:

Aliyah Boston, Indiana Fever

Brionna Jones, Connecticut Sun 

Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm

Rhyne Howard, Atlanta Dream 

Shakira Austin, Washington Mystics

And Arike Ogunbowale, a Dallas Wings guard, WNBA all-star MVP and scoring leader.

"The opportunities are really limitless," Ogunbowale said to Scripps News.

This marks Ogunbowale's second year in the PMA program. She says the partnerships help her in expanding her influence on younger generations and in bringing in new WNBA fans.

Ogunbowale was featured in an advertisement for Google last year along with a handful of other WNBA players.

She said the PMA income also allows her to rest before the season kicks off, something that she felt was impossible when she played overseas.

"A lot of us go overseas, because you can make really, really good money overseas. So with that, it also makes you end up playing usually 11 months out of the year, 12 months out of the year," Ogunbowale said.

SEE MORE: National Women's Soccer League lands major TV rights deal

WNBA players in the U.S. make significantly less than NBA players.

According to Sportrac, their average annual pay in the 2023 season was around $116,000, with the highest earning just over $242,000. While players can make more than that through the PMA program and other endorsement opportunities, NBA players have a minimum salary of around $1.12 million.

This is the third offseason the league has run the PMA program. The inclusion of six players marks a middle ground, as the first year included just three players, while last offseason's program included ten.

Donaphin, the WNBA league operations head, told Scripps News that they weigh a range of factors for which players can participate in the program, including "accolades that they've gotten for ... performing really well in a season, whether they're a number one draft pick or they make it and they're named an all-star."

But a program like this has players like Ogunbowale already thinking about the next business opportunity.

"Maybe in the future, I'll try to align with a brand or try to grow my own fashion brand," Ogunbowale said.


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