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The NBA's forgotten demographic

Mar 23, 2010, 7:05 PM EDT

The NBA makes all kinds of concerted efforts to account for and appeal to their target demographics. There are ticket packages designed for families with young children, dance teams that draw in the ogling masses, and sponsorships that often speak to very particular audiences. The league is even willing to fiddle with its uniforms for a few nights as a celebration of Hispanic and Spanish-speaking fans all across the globe.

There are efforts to reach out, to celebrate, to embrace, to give back, to draw in, and to flat-out earn. But there’s a startlingly large population of fans that seems to exist between the NBA’s target audiences: female fans. So much of the professional sporting experience is tailor-made for the heterosexual male, because after all, sports are manly, and sporting events are where manly men like to go.

Only the NBA audience consists of a dwindling percentage of manly men, and a growing percentage of basketball-driven women. It’s not threatening, and it’s not an invasion. Hell, it’s not even all that new. Female fans have been enjoying the NBA game for years, and the only real flaw in the NBA’s massive and comprehensive master plan to lure in and entertain their audience is that they’ve failed to cater to a good chunk of their fan base.

Sarah Tolcser framed the female fan experience — or at the very least, her female fan experience — splendidly in a guest post for Hardwood Paroxysm (which, if I may disclaim, is a site I’m a contributor for). It’s not filled with bile or rage, but a legitimate query into why no one has bothered to account for 40% of the NBA’s fans:

The NBA has been way ahead of the other major sports leagues in
pioneering some things, such as social media. It’s time they show they
can get with the program when it comes to their female fans. As a
Hornets season ticketholder, I’ve taken surveys as a member of many
different demographic classes- including ticketholder, event attender,
arena food and drink buyer, merchandise purchaser, web content
consumer, and New Orleans resident. You know what I realize they’ve
never once asked me? What more they could be doing for me as a female
fan.

And you know, NBA, I would really like to be asked that question.
Because I have some things to say that might surprise you, things like,
“The answer is not more pink jerseys.” Things like, as a member of a
growing class of unmarried women ages 25-44,”family friendly”
promotions and cute distractions on court during the game entice me no
more than they entice male fans. Things like, some of the advertising
spots from your own sponsors have sexist overtones that make me
uncomfortable. Things like, when I go to your official website and see
scantily-clad girls on the front page, I can’t help feeling that the
NBA is not meant to be “for me.”

I don’t see this evolving into a movement or a protest, but if it were to do so, there could probably be no better slogan than “The answer is not more pink jerseys.” We’re to the point where adding sequins to things really isn’t getting the job done, and all of the tiny little flashy discs in the world shouldn’t deflect our attention from the fact that a real, relevant, and influential group of NBA fans are being completely ignored.

  

  1. GB09 - Mar 24, 2010 at 1:17 AM

    Rob,
    100% accurate………..I have been an NBA fan for 27 years, and think its bad business to ignore a huge demographic audience. I don’t like pink either. I love stats, halftime, and hating my rival teams. Guess powers that be dont want my money. Truly sad. I have sat at Carl’s Jr to watch games and they want my money , no problem–lol

  2. Drew - Mar 24, 2010 at 1:49 AM

    As much as the NBA wants to cover all their bases, let’s be realistic: they can’t satisfy everyone. Trying to placate one demographic may mean compromising another. The NBA has to be careful not to undermine its overall brand by watering it down for one segment. So, women don’t want pink uniforms. What would they like? More pictures of shirtless players on the NBA website? It’s a male dominated sport. Let’s face it, that’s the audience they’re seeking to attract and appease the most.

  3. Ralph Horner - Mar 24, 2010 at 7:01 AM

    The key missing item in this report is: What do you want the NBA to do to appeal to women?

  4. Dumb - Mar 24, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    So… watching a professional basketball game is not enough for the women? WHat else do you want? Scantily clad men dancing during halftime? The NBA puts the best players out on the court day in day out for your (man&women&kids) entertainment. This whining and crying in this country about any trivial thing is REALLy annoying. Just watch the damn games al-far-king-ready, aargh

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