WNBA Rivalries Drive Economic Boom: How Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese are Changing the Game

Published on June 10, 2024

The Clark-Reese rivalry is breathing new life into the WNBA

Rivalries bring excitement and energy into sports, captivating fans and driving interest to new heights. The rivalry between Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese is a perfect example of how personal competition can bring a surge of attention to the league.

The storyline between Clark and Reese began during the 2022-2023 women's college basketball season when Caitlin Clark's 40-point games for the Iowa Hawkeyes drew in over 5 million viewers. The media buzzed with controversy as Clark and Angel Reese of the LSU Tigers exchanged on-court taunts, launching viewership to 9 million. Their rivalry hit a peak when 18.8 million viewers tuned in for the Iowa vs. South Carolina championship game, which saw Angel Reese claiming the title.

Even in the 2023-2024 season, despite neither team winning the championship, the rivalry remained. Clark triumphed over Reese in the Elite 8, but both players were destined for bigger stages. The interest in these players carried over to the WNBA on April 15 2024, when Caitlin Clark was drafted #1, and Angel Reese was drafted #7, sparking immediate fanfare. Reese's jerseys sold out online within days, and ticket sales for Chicago Sky games spiked. Meanwhile, the Indiana Fever has already seen their attendance surpass last year's total after just five games since drafting Caitlin Clark.

The new wave of superstars making the WNBA a fan favorite

This rivalry isn't just about personal competition — it's a catalyst for growing interest and engagement in women’s basketball from the college level to the WNBA. Sports analysts argue that the Clark-Reese rivalry is doing for the WNBA what the Larry Bird and Magic Johnson rivalry did for the NBA in the 80s.

Adding to this momentum is a new class of social media-savvy women’s college basketball players who are adept at capitalizing on their own name, image, and likeness (NIL) under new laws. These players are using their personalities to connect with fans on social media, build their brands, and generate excitement around their matchups, propelling their popularity ahead of WNBA Drafts. The combination of on-court rivalries, off-court social media engagement, and record-breaking brand deals is bringing the WNBA to new levels of popularity, visibility, and economic impact. 

The 2024 WNBA season is boosting local economies

It’s a great rookie season for the WNBA with stars such as Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, Rickea Jackson, Cameron Brink, Alisa Pili, and more bringing in strong viewership, attendance, and local spending for their games. 

The 2024 season began on May 14, and so far, the games have drawn continued interest and impacted local economies:

Upcoming WNBA games:

Fans are clearly drawn to the drama, the talent, and the unpredictability that rivalries bring, making the games must-watch events. As star players like Clark, Reese, and their peers continue to captivate audiences, the league's influence will undoubtedly keep rising.

Don’t miss out on the next WNBA-driven demand surge

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