August 10, 2023 

How the Minnesota Lynx keep growing their audience

Inside the significant jump in attendance, TV ratings this season

If you’ve been anywhere near the Minnesota Lynx in 2023, then you know it’s been a momentous season for several reasons. The team’s silver anniversary season brought together all of the franchise’s legends in celebration of the All-25 Team. In that same weekend, Sylvia Fowles’s No. 34 jersey joined Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Brunson, and Seimone Augustus in the immortality of the Target Center rafters. This past weekend, saw the formal celebration of Whalen’s enshrinement in the James Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame,

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That’s a calendar heavy with celebrations for a team supposedly turning the page into a new era.

“I was starting to feel a little underappreciated,” Whalen began her opening remarks before Minnesota’s last home game. “It’s been two months since I’ve been honored.”

The historic milestones have been a clear joy for a franchise proudly standing on the history it’s built. The on-court product has the Lynx in clear playoff position almost three quarters of the way through the season, a fact that may surprise #WNBATwitter, but not anyone in the Lynx locker room.

There’s been plenty to celebrate behind the scenes as well, making 2023 a season to remember. The two data points that really pop are the team’s television ratings on Bally Sports North are more than double what they were a season ago, and in-person attendance is up over 1,000 per game with averages above 8,200 over the season’s first 11 games.

“Obviously, some would say I’m biased, but I do believe we have the best fans in the WNBA and they’ve proven their loyalty time and time again,” Minnesota Lynx President of Business Operations Carley Knox said in an interview with The Next. “Of course, we’ve all been spoiled. You referenced our dynasty winning four championships in seven years, being in the playoffs for eleven years in a row, that is one special franchise to be a part of.

“Our fans not only appreciate that, but they also appreciate being part of the larger movement that we’ve talked about before, to use sports as a vehicle for change to fight for all marginalized groups. Our fans, our players, our coaches, and our staff are all bought into those same values. It’s so much bigger than basketball and the wins and losses.”

MN Lynx vs Connecticut Sun, Lynx crowd with Pride hats on June 22nd, 2023 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota (photo credit John McClellan)

Not even the 0-6 start scared fans away. As the Lynx turned their season around on the court, Napheesa Collier’s superstardom became impossible to ignore. The flashes of brilliance from exciting young players Diamond Miller and Dorka Juhász started to show more frequently and consistently. Combine an exciting new-look team with consistency, such as a consistent television home for Lynx basketball and it’s not surprising to see the growth from a season ago.

“To talk about that relationship (with Bally Sports North), we were so incredibly excited about that partnership and it was really trendsetting in the WNBA to have Bally Sports North cover every home and away game that’s not on National TV,” Knox said. “If you are in the Bally Sports North market, you know that you can go watch a game or stream a game, since they have the streaming platform as well. I think that was hugely impactful and important for our fans to have accessibility if they weren’t doing cable. But it was trendsetting, so many teams were like, how did you do that? It’s amazing. To have that homebase for our fans and consistency, I think was really important and can speak to us, kind of doubling ratings, and then (it’s) also people’s excitement around this young team.”

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In addition to Minnesota’s always exuberant fanbase continuing to show up and show out, it’s been a very productive season for the Lynx’s corporate partnership staff as well. The Lynx have announced a total of 14 new partners and counting in 2023. A combination of local Fortune 1000s and also national brands showcasing the value companies are seeing in women’s basketball. 

A complete list of Minnesota Lynx partnership activation in 2023:

  • Pentair
  • Tytus Grills
  • Post Consumer Brands
  • Stackwell
  • UnitedHealthcare
  • Microsoft
  • Minnesota Dept. of Health
  • Jack Daniels
  • CARE Counseling
  • Wicked Foods
  • M&Ms
  • DICK’S Sporting Goods
  • Stilly Spirits, LLC
  • Tom’s Watch Bar

“We talked about before the incredible trend around supporting women’s athletics and so many companies wanting to invest not only in diversity, equity inclusion, but also our social justice work that we’ve always authentically been a part of and lead the way in,” Knox said. “Companies want to be aligned with our values and our brands. We’re seeing that more and more, which we’re really excited about.”

Written by Terry Horstman

Terry Horstman is a Minneapolis-based writer and covers the Minnesota Lynx beat for The Next. He previously wrote about the Minnesota Timberwolves for A Wolf Among Wolves, and his other basketball writing has been published by Flagrant Magazine, HeadFake Hoops, Taco Bell Quarterly, and others. He's the creative nonfiction editor for the sports-themed literary magazine, the Under Review.

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