On Wednesday, Athletes Unlimited aired its 2022 softball draft on a platform no other draft has had before: the ESPNW Summit.
The draft was shown as part of the Summit’s virtual livestream and between panels at the in-person event in Brooklyn, New York.
The partnership is part of the new multiyear media deal between Athletes Unlimited and ESPN, which now has exclusive broadcasting rights to the league’s softball and lacrosse seasons. It was also, however, a strategic attempt at elevating Athletes Unlimited’s league to an audience of potential new fans.
“What’s great about the ESPNW Conference is, obviously, it also reaches non-endemic fans, people who are interested in women’s sports across sports,” Athletes Unlimited co-founder and CEO Jon Patricof told Front Office Sports at the summit. “People who are involved in the industry, but also who are fans of women’s sports more broadly.”
Patricof said the move was “part of our audience growth strategy. We want to attract softball nation… but we’re also very focused on broadening and widening the aperture beyond that.”
The league will launch its third softball season on July 29. It will also hold a new two-week tournament this June.
The league, which also runs women’s basketball and volleyball leagues, is structured so that players rotate teams, with one player crowned champion at the end of the season. During Athletes Unlimited’s inaugural softball season, players made between $10,000 and $35,000.