Caitlin Clark’s Arrival: The Future of the WNBA

March 5, 2024 Caitlin Clark’s Arrival: The Future of the WNBA

Caitlin Clark has been the center of the sports world for the last few weeks. On February 28th, Clark became the highest scorer in women’s NCAA basketball history, passing Lynette Woodard’s 3,649 points.

But she didn’t stop there. On March third, Clack passed the legend “Pistol” Pete Maravich, becoming the all-time leading scorer in NCAA basketball history with 3,685 points and counting.

Her incredible skill and electric playstyle have led to incredible viewership, ticket price, and attendance numbers for her Iowa Hawkeyes. The get-in price for the game where she passed Pistol Pete was $491 dollars, making it the most expensive game in women’s basketball history, WNBA or NCAA!

Clark has broken attendance records in all but two of her games this season! Iowa’s matchup against DePaul, in which Clark dropped a triple double, set the all-time attendance record for NCAA women’s basketball with 55,646 in attendance.

On March 4th, Clark officially announced that she would not be taking her extra year of eligibility and would declare for the 2024 WNBA Draft, where she is all but confirmed to be the first overall selection to the Indiana Fever.

It is indisputable that Clark will bring more attention to the WNBA than any rookie in recent memory, but will the league take full advantage of Caitlin Mania? Here are three ways that the WNBA can capitalize on the Clark Craze:

  1. Negotiate a Significantly Larger Media Rights Deal

Clark’s arrival could not come at a better time for the WNBA, whose media rights deal is up for negotiation in 2025. The league currently makes around $39 million annually from their TV deal, with their deal with Disney and ESPN accounting for $25 million of that.

The “W” saw record viewership numbers last year, reaching a 17-year high on ESPN with an average of 440,000 viewers for all regular season matchups. Adding Clark to the mix, who’s Hawkeyes set all-time best NCAA women’s regular season viewership numbers on ABC, Fox, NBC, FS1, and the Big Ten Network this season, would give the league negotiating leverage that they have never had before.

Taking all the factors into account, it is being reported that the league could nearly double their media rights deal to a value of $75 million annually.

  1. Align Individual and Team Sponsorships

It was announced yesterday that Clark has reached a deal with Gainbridge, who just so happens to be the naming rights partner of the Fever’s home arena: the Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Fever partners are already aligning themselves with Clark as they look to get in on the country’s Clark obsession. Once she joins the team, could the Fever look to target brands that sponsor her?

Clark already has a wealth of sponsorship deals including massive brands like Gatorade, State Farm, Nike, Bose, Topps, Goldman Sachs, and many, many more. Her draw as the potential new face of the WNBA will create endless sponsorship opportunities for the Fever franchise once she officially joins the organization.

The Fever should jump on this chance to align their sponsorships with Clark’s existing portfolio. Many of the brands would likely love the chance to sponsor Clark’s professional team, a team that will undoubtably be in the upper echelon of viewership in the WNBA (if not #1 right away). Clark’s future franchise would be able to guarantee brand exposure that other WNBA franchises just cannot reach.

  1. Follow the Lead of the NBA

When I think of the future that the WNBA is heading towards, I am reminded of the 1980’s in the NBA. The arrival of stars like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird lifted a struggling league up towards the highs we know today. This could and should be emulated by the WNBA.

The league is already reaching a larger audience than ever before thanks to young stars like Sabrina Ionescu and A’ja Wilson, but the 2024 draft could lift the league to even higher heights.  Massive media draws like LSU’s Angel Reese, Stanford’s Cameron Brink, and, of course, Clark are joining the league in the 2024 Draft, with UConn’s Paige Beuckers set to arrive in 2025.

The league can follow the lead of their “big brother”, the NBA, and capitalize on the intense draw of these young stars to help build up the league as a whole. Imagine future finals matchups between Clark and Reese or Clark and Wilson! These theoretical matchups will soon be a reality for the league.


The WNBA is eagerly anticipating the arrival of these young stars. “This will certainly be a moment we’ll look back and say you know it was a game-changer for us. There are a lot of great players coming out,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said when asked about the league’s future. “It’s great to have household names, rivalries, and games of consequence. And that’s what we’re going to have this year. It’s going to be great.”