WNBA Wants to ‘Make It Easier to Be a Fan’ Says Growth Officer: ‘More Important Now Than Ever’ (Exclusive)

Ahead of the season's start on May 14, the WNBA and DICK'S Sporting Goods announce a new collection of girls apparel

<p>WNBA</p> Colie Edison, Chief Growth Officer at WNBA; DSG x WNBA Collection


Colie Edison, Chief Growth Officer at WNBA; DSG x WNBA Collection

Coming off of its most-watched season ever in 2023 and a new draft class of stars like Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese, the WNBA is preparing for the upcoming season to be its biggest yet — in more ways than one.

Ahead of the season's start on May 14, the league announced its first-ever collaboration with DSG, a DICK'S Sporting Goods brand, for a new collection of girls' apparel.

Colie Edison, the WNBA's Chief Growth Officer, tells PEOPLE, "For us, it's really important to create products specifically for girls because we're trying to focus on keeping girls in sport. The research shows us that girls drop out at a rate of two times faster than boys by the time we're 14. So finding ways to keep girls in sport, to empower them, is really important to the WNBA."

Edison, who has been in her role since Jan. 2022 and describes the league as "a small team with really big ambitions," says that the W's work is "more important now than ever" — from the on-court product to its fan experience — "because we have more eyes on us."

With interest increasing exponentially, Edison says, "It's our job to meet the demand of our fans and meet our fans where they are, and we also want to make it easier to be a fan, and through corporate partnerships and media partnerships and collaborations like we're doing with DICK'S, we're able to do that."

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Just having WNBA merchandise available on the floor at store locations is a considerable stride for fueling the momentum of this season and the "Caitlin Clark effect" that's taken the league by storm. It also gives the league a clearer picture of how they'll funnel the current momentum into tangible changes that players have been asking for, like higher salaries and charter flights, the latter of which the league announced would begin this season.

"So, just think about it as the entire ecosystem that needs to invest in us in order to support the growth of the league, but ultimately to enhance that player experience," Edison explains. "Whether that's coming from corporate partnerships or media partnerships, it allows us to ultimately increase player salary and increase the player experience. It's not going to be one person alone or one company alone. It really has to be that entire ecosystem working together."

<p>WNBA</p> DSG x WNBA Collection


DSG x WNBA Collection

Melissa Christian, VP of Youth Apparel at DICK’S Sporting Goods, tells PEOPLE that the sporting brand "really wanted to think about how we can leverage our influence as the largest sporting goods retailer in the U.S. to drive growth within women's sports and with the W specifically," with the new collection for girls. "It's formally been in the works for over a year or so, just in terms of thinking about what we wanted to do and then designing the product," says Christian.

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Christian says they wanted the collection to be "what a young fan would want to wear to represent and show their love for the W," in a way that's different from "licensed jerseys and player-specific tees."

"It uses the orange color from the W, but also the print and pattern you see within the collection is actually a combination of all of the colors from all teams just to bring that total league perspective," Christian shares.

<p>WNBA</p> DSG x WNBA Collection


DSG x WNBA Collection

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Edison says the collection, which is now available in DICK's Sporting Goods stores and on their website, highlights the WNBA and Dicks' "shared mission to promote women's sports and especially youth participation," and the launch is in many ways symbolic of the league's new level of success.

"I think what we hope is that this can expand and widen the aperture to bring in more fans into the WNBA fandom," Edison explains. "We could be looking at our future superstars who are coming in through the pipeline, but it's also the future fan. Right now we live in a post Title IX world. We live in a world where these girls are growing up watching the WNBA. And now for one of the first times, our rookie class grew up watching the WNBA. So they always have WNBA stars as their role models."

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