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WNBA boss expands target audience



Published: Sun, July 10, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The 9-year-old league craves more media exposure.

NEW YORK (AP) -- An 8-year-old boy recently traded a WNBA basketball for a Diana Taurasi poster and Lisa Leslie card.

Jacob Orender is not just any boy -- he's the son of the new league president -- but he represents just one of the niche markets Donna Orender has focused on in her first three months on the job.

Orender played in the fledgling women's pro league of the late 1970s, then had the good fortune to market Tiger Woods during her 17-year rise to senior vice president of the PGA Tour. Now she returns to her roots in the WNBA, aiming to boost exposure and attendance while adding more teams.

Since she replaced Val Ackerman at the New York office on April 1, twins Jacob and Zachary have been working less on chip shots and more on jump shots in their backyard in Jacksonville Beach, Fla.

"I didn't recruit them. You know, it's so funny -- is it not generational?" asked Orender, a New Yorker who read the sports pages as a kid to talk sports with her dad. "Much like I wanted to please my dad, my boys are very in tune to what I'm doing."

Barnstorming the country

That means keeping up by cell phone while Mom barnstorms the country, much like she did as an All-Star when she played for the New York Stars, New Jersey Gems and Chicago Hustle in the Women's Basketball League (1978-81).

Orender recently finished her listening tour in 13 WNBA cities, meeting with management, players, sponsors and the media.

The common theme? The WNBA, in its ninth season, needs more exposure on TV, in newspapers, magazines and online.

"There's an excitement league wide to make it bigger and more successful," Orender said. "The fact that we have such great players, they'd like to see them in more places. They'd like to see the WNBA represented more broadly across all the media entities."

Some changes since Orender's arrival:

UAmerica Online and WNBA.com will share Web casting of all the remaining games this season;

UThe league was to feature a WNBA All-Star skills challenge on the Discovery Health Channel/FitTV from Saturday's game at Mohegan Sun Arena;

UThe MSG Network will add 12 more New York Liberty telecasts after the All-Star break.

Charismatic athletes

"One thing I really, really love about the WNBA is we have genuine, charismatic athletes," Orender said. "Our greatest upside is to be able to reach more people and get them into the arena. Once they do, it doesn't matter who they are, there's a connection."

Taurasi got her first impression of Orender at the NBA All-Star game.

"The energy, the view she has for the league is wonderful," Taurasi said. "She brings a different angle, more experience in marketing and media. She knows how to put the product out there."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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