WNBA’s Merchandise Shortage Must End! League Is Missing Exploding Revenue Source Generated By Arrival Of Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese

This Caitlin Clark Effect is still going strong. Whether you think its overkill or enjoy basking in the glory of the new women’s basketball savior, everybody has an opinion on the new batch of women superheroes who are invading the WNBA next season. 

NBA players would from time to time, attend WNBA games to support the players, particularly if there was a WNBA franchise in the same city. Most times, it was a call to duty on the part of the NBA players. 

The shortage of WNBA apparel has been a longstanding complaint of WNBA fans and players. One that the league is slow in addressing. (Indiana Fever IG/CS)

Starting next season, however, WNBA games will be the place to be, especially for those franchises lucky enough to have Caitlin Clark or Angel Reese as their headliners.  

NBA Players Love Caitlin Clark

In a recent survey conducted by The Athletic, NBA players voted Clark as their second favorite current non-NBA player, and their favorite women’s basketball player. Women hoopers were collectively named on 12.2% of all ballots. 

This was second only to NFL players, who dominated the poll with 39.1% of the vote.

Clark’s position as the second most popular non-NBA athlete, accrued 6.1% of 115 votes cast, providing further insight into the meteoric rise of women’s basketball as a popular brand. 

Clark’s unprecedented appeal continues to build on the heels of her historic eight-year, $28 million Nike deal, which made her just the third women’s basketball player to get a shoe deal with the apparel giant.

“She’s unreal,” said one NBA player said about Clark “I’m excited to see how her journey pans out and what she does for the women’s game.”

The poll, which ran from March 5 through April 11, saw participation from 142 NBA players, representing nearly a third of the league.

Caitlin Clark Has Top-Selling Jersey Ever For Fanatics

It’s definitely the Caitlin Clark show. She’s officially made it cool to rock WNBA jerseys. Clark’s jersey sold out on Fanatics shortly after the inevitable occurred and the Indiana Fever made her the No. 1 overall pick. Fanatics said it was the top-selling jersey ever for a draft pick. That’s kind of crazy. 

Not to be overshadowed by Clark Mania, Angel Reese and her millions of social media followers cleaned out her stock of Chicago Sky jerseys over the weekend. 

“My jersey already being sold [out] is crazy,” Reese wrote. “I love yalllll.”

The team also unveiled a sky-blue “Rebel” jersey last week, that will surely be popular if the W can get this mass production ramped up.

WNBA Jersey Shortages Are Nothing New  

Whenever there’s an increase in demand, sometimes companies don’t have the production speed to keep up with the growing demand. WNBA merchandise has always been understocked and, to be honest, undervalued and largely inaccessible to fans.

It’s not surprising that Clark and Reese jerseys sold out right away, but what’s disappointing is that the league and its distributors didn’t have the foresight to keep the shelves stocked and capitalize on this peak of popularity and marketability.

The shortage of WNBA apparel has been a longstanding complaint of WNBA fans and players. One that the league is slow in addressing. To put it simply; they are leaving a lot of money on the table. 

It will be interesting to see how the WNBA handles this explosion in popularity of several players that has already influenced the league with cities changing to larger venues to accommodate the crowd that is already buying up tickets and selling out venues to see certain WNBA superheroes play.

Chicago Sky Has History Of Merch Shortages

The 6-foot-3 Reese and 6-foot-7 teammate Kamilla Cardoso enter the W with a fan base that transcends basketball. Both were 2024 draft picks of the Chicago Sky and have already been anointed the “Twin Towers” on social media.

The Sky traditionally has had merchandise problems, which was highlighted in a 2021 article by The Athletic, when the W, was celebrating its 25th anniversary season and a Sky championship season.

Candace Parker jerseys were in high demand and when fans can’t get their hands on merchandise when the player is hot and the moment is ripe, then the WNBA definitely loses on all fronts. 

According to the Athletic:

“It’s a frequent problem at Sky games, where there’s only one small kiosk in the arena selling limited Sky merchandise and nothing with hometown favorite Parker’s name on it. The cashier told fans they’ve been sold out of most jerseys since April and won’t have more available, even online, until the winter holiday season — long after the WNBA season ends.”

There are also nightmare stories of some fans having to wait up to four months after ordering a jersey online. 

“It’s a small number but big for the brand because it helps you grow,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert told The Athletic. “That’s more important than the numbers. The brand part of it out-sizes the revenue.”

Englebert is right. Brand reliability, consistency and integrity creates fans for life. The W has been very inconsistent in all three areas as it pertains to merchandise across the league.

How Much Does WNBA Make In Merchandising?

The league hasn’t disclosed how much team and league apparel, and merchandise generates annually in revenue, but overall WNBA revenue in recent years has been estimated at $60 million with merch likely bringing in less than $10 million per year.

The popularity of the orange WNBA hoodie in 2020 was popularized by social media influencers which also boosted sales.

In the recent NBA player’s poll, Clark wasn’t the only women’s basketball player mentioned. 

Other stars such as Sabrina Ionescu, Kelsey Plum, Reese, JuJu Watkins and A’ja Wilson also received mentions. 

With Clark departing from the college hoops spotlight, the vacuum should be immediately filled by USC sophomore Watkins. One NBA player was especially fond of her game and impact saying:

“Her game is so pretty to watch. She’s so fluid, smooth. … watching her against UConn the other night, she definitely made a big fan out of me.”

The swift jersey sales indicate the exploding popularity of incoming WNBA stars, but the development also demonstrates a gaping hole of lost revenue with the manufacturers’ inability to keep a sufficient supply of merchandise.

That’s one area of revenue that the WNBA hasn’t attacked, and it had to see this coming and needs to be ready to capitalize on it. Anything less would be an incredible disaster. Limited merch has frustrated WNBA fans for years, so this could provide a loud call to action.

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