On Thursday (Feb. 3), the WNBA broke the news of its first capital raise. The league received $75 million from a slew of powerful investors, including former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and tech entrepreneur Michael Dell. However, the biggest name of the round was Nike, whose contribution functions as proof of the Swoosh’s quarter-century commitment to the Women’s National Basketball Association.
And thanks to the raise, the WNBA closed the day with a valuation of over $1 billion.
“Women’s sport is one of the best investments, with great potential to impact and grow the next era of basketball,” said Sonja Henning, VP, NA Leagues Partnerships, NIKE, Inc. “Nike has always been more than a sponsor with the WNBA — we’re a strategic partner. And we’re proud to be part of a movement that is redefining sport for a new generation — for WNBA players, fans and girls.”
Former Deloitte CEO and present WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert noted how Nike’s financial backing was a verifiable testament as to how the world of women’s sports is changing for the better. “We couldn’t be more grateful to Nike for its steadfast support of our league and the current and next generation of WNBA stars,” she said in her statement, “and we look forward to building on our longstanding relationship in an exciting new way.”
Engelbert also appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box to discuss what the deal means for the development of the WNBA. “We’ve all seen the reports that less than 5% of all sports media coverage and less than 1% of all sponsorship dollars go to women’s sports, so access to this capital… when you’re trying to grow a business is really going to help us move the needle.”
The list of investors includes other former WNBA and NBA players, including Baron Davis, Pau Gasol, and Swin Cash. “We have so much opportunity to globalize the game, expansion,” Engelbert added. “We have opportunity to blow up our digital footprint and think about what direct to consumer means.” The funds will be used to deepen the league’s marketing capabilities and help make it the sport’s league of choice for future generations of women basketball players.