In a significant shift, the W.N.B.A. is promoting not simply those who fit a traditional marketing profile but its top talent, like Minnesota’s heavily tattooed star Seimone Augustus, who burst on the scene with an abundance of personality and has been widely embraced.
“Sometimes it wasn’t the best players who were being promoted, but the best image,” Holdsclaw said. “I see the league getting away from that and saying, hey, we want to promote the players who are the best players.”
Closely related, Holdsclaw said, is the W.N.B.A.’s acknowledgment of its significant gay fan base, an effort that sets it apart from its male counterparts.
“The league realizes that it has to support and have a place for its gay community,” Holdsclaw said. “A lot of gay people love sports and want to support the W.N.B.A. You have players, some star players now, who openly identify as being gay. Early on, the league would not market them because of that. That has changed. You have to be honest with your product and with the athletes that you’re dealing with. And get support from wherever you can.”