February 15, 2024 

How WNBA is leveraging NBA All Star Weekend like never before

WNBA CMO Phil Cook shares how the weekend plan came together

The WNBA has created a stage where fans can recreate the experience of being selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. This experience will occur at the NBA Crossover event during the 2024 NBA All-Star Weekend at the Indiana Convention Center from Feb. 16-18 in Indianapolis.

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Last year, the NBA hosted a crossover event featuring player appearances, live performances, and activations for fans for the first time during the All-Star weekend in Utah. WNBA Chief Marketing Officer Phil Cook emphasized that promoting the WNBA during the all-star weekend could be a way to attract more fans to the league.

“Last year was our first year dipping our toe into that experience in Salt Lake City, we did something that was disruptive and unique,” Cook told The Next. “We did some customized apparel, it was great, and everyone had fun. And it was relevant, and it was authentic to our league. And we can say it was a successful experience for fans for the W check a lot of boxes. This year, the approach was we need to be back there; we recognize that Indiana fandom and their knowledge of the game of basketball is unlike pretty much any other state. So you’re crazy not to be where basketball was part of DNA against and facing we want to be fan-facing; we want to make sure that basketball fans are aware of all the things that the WNBA delivers.”

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Basketball fans will be able to enjoy a unique and personalized experience with the help of a tablet stand. They can simulate the feeling of being selected as the top pick in the draft. Moreover, all the details chosen by the fans for the No. 1 pick will be displayed on TV screens and projected on the stage.

The stage for Draft Day will have a luxurious look with a blend of WNBA and Indiana Fever branding. The activation will feature all 12 teams in the WNBA, and fans will have an opportunity to participate in trivia games testing their knowledge of the WNBA Draft.

The Indiana Fever secured the first overall pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft, which will take place on April 15, last December. This marks their second time and first time in franchise history having consecutive no. 1 picks. One of the prospects, Caitlin Clark of the Iowa Hawkeyes, could be eligible for the upcoming draft and is eight points away from surpassing Kelsey Plum to become the all-time scoring record in NCAA women’s basketball history.

“The idea of red-threading this opportunity to what else we want to hit on or what else we want to elevate and amplify throughout the season was really the start of the derivative of the idea,” Cook said. “What can we do at this event where there will be tens of thousands of fans to promote what we want to do the rest of the season? How do we take a moment to tell our story this year if the WNBA is on a roll? And it will only get better because of the pending influx of great talent coming from the NC two-way that is garnering a ton of attention. How do we bring these things to life?

“Then serendipity falls into place and says well, isn’t it awesome? That first pick overall in the draft is the Indiana Fever, which isn’t it awesome as our draft, and our first big moment of the season is just six or eight weeks away. So these things start to fall into place. And then you say, ‘Well, why don’t we just promote draft, but in a cool and fan-facing way at the NBA crossover for their fans, and remind them that, ‘hey, the Indiana Fever have first pick overall,’ and I’m sure the quality of talent that that is potentially entering the draft.”

2024 NBA All Star Weekend logo. (Tony East photo)
2024 NBA All Star Weekend logo. (Tony East photo)

The Indiana Fever selected forward/center Aliyah Boston as the no. 1 overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft after a successful collegiate career with the South Carolina Gamecocks, in which she led the team to a national championship in 2022. Boston won the Rookie of the Year award after averaging 14.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 blocks per game and was named an All-Star for the first time in her career.

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“[Aliyah Boston]’s the most authentic example of the relevance of this moment,” Cook told The Next. “Having her authentic voice, she’s unanimous pick overall going into the draft, and then unanimous pick for rookie of the year. You see how the future of an organization can turn on a couple of those in Indiana’s right into in that crosshairs right now. Their organization is about to take a very dramatic turn for the better, with a second back-to-back first overall pick, and this is how organizations are built, right from savvy drafts and fortune coming their way. This is what the beauty of sport is the ebb and flow of teams that are successful and teams that are rebuilding Indiana’s on that second piece, but, their future was very strong, very high. As illustrated above, amazing basketball for a long time in the future. And we’re expecting that the incoming draft pick is going to deliver at the same level or better.”

Sabrina Ionescu, guard for the New York Liberty, and Stephen Curry, guard for the Golden State Warriors, will compete in a three-point contest on Saturday. This marks the first time an NBA and WNBA player will face off in this type of competition.

“We’ll have Sabrina and the three point contest against [Stephen Curry],” Cook said. “It just shows just how good these athletes are and who they are. Having some of our all stars who were just going to be there, they’re invited by your partners in because whether it’s a sneaker partner or another brand that they’re affiliated with, representing those brands that. One of the biggest moments of the basketball fans world, you can see that we’re now in authentic part of basketball, sport and basketball culture. And that’s really the breakthrough we’ve had over the last couple of years is that our athletes are in the conversation when you talk about excellence and influence.”

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WNBA players, including A’ja Wilson from Las Vegas Aces, Rhyne Howard from Atlanta Dream, Jewell Loyd from Seattle Storm and many others will be present at the NBA Crossover event to promote the development of women’s basketball throughout the weekend. Furthermore, a panel discussion featuring WNBA professionals will be included in the set of events.

Tony East contributed reporting to this story.

Written by Aya Abdeen

Aya Abdeen is a student in sports journalism at Arizona State University and has been a contributing writer for The Next since December 2022. She is also a sports reporter for the Sun Devils’ women’s basketball team for The State Press. Her work has also appeared on AZPreps365.

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