May 16, 2024 - News

Caitlin Clark and the economics of women's sports

Animated illustration of Caitlin Clark shooting a jump shot.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios; Photos: Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As the Fever return to Indianapolis for Thursday's home opener against New York, they're bringing along a growing number of often-overlooked sports fans with significant spending power.

Why it matters: Winning the Caitlin Clark sweepstakes in the 2024 WNBA draft immediately made Gainbridge Fieldhouse one of the hottest venues in all of pro sports, and experts say fallout from the "Clark effect" is expected to bleed into Indianapolis' restaurant, bar and hotel sectors.

Driving the news: According to research from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), women's sports fans have higher engagement rates than men's sports fans.

By the numbers: Fans who follow women athletes are three times more likely to attend games, and one in three women's sports fans attend multiple games per season, per PwC.

  • Women's sports fans who attend games are nearly three times more likely to purchase apparel.

Case in point: Clark's Explorer edition jerseys are completely sold out and only available for preorder on the WNBA store.

Zoom in: Lori Bistis, a PwC deals partner and a leader of the firm's sports practice, told Axios these fans also tend to be younger, wealthier and more active in their communities.

  • PwC finds that 33% of women's sports fans watch to foster connections with others, which translates into gathering and spending money at local restaurants and bars to cheer on their home team.
  • "Their behavior is very passionate … you can see the linkage between when their team is playing or when a particular player is playing, and how that impacts all their other viewing and buying activity," Bistis said.

Between the lines: Women athletes are also leveraging their personalities to connect with fans — and sponsors — on social media.

  • "Caitlin Clark is definitely a catalyst right now. What she's done to elevate women's basketball is something we haven't seen for a long time," Bistis said.

The big picture: As women push for equality in pay and accommodations across pro sports, the next generation of fans will likely join them in the fight as they grow older and realize their favorite players are making so much less.

  • Bistis said her 8-year-old son, for example, is growing up amid the hype for this WNBA season and sees an equal level of excitement around both women's and men's basketball.

What they're saying: "He's growing up with that idea that they're all exciting. You've got a generation that's growing up with excitement around women's sports being more prominent, and that will only grow as those kids now become your real consumers in 10 years," Bistis said.

What we're watching: If the Fever bounce back from a rough first game of the season that saw Clark break an unfortunate WNBA record — most turnovers in a WNBA debut.

  • In the Fever's 92-71 loss to Sun, Clark had 10 turnovers to go along with her team-leading 20 points.

If you go: Thursday's game starts at 7pm.

  • Resale tickets start at $8.
  • Standard tickets start at $54.
  • You can watch it at home on WTHR-13, or stream it via Amazon Prime.

💌 Email us at [email protected] to tell us where you're watching games this season!

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