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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Fever Keeping Plans Quiet (for Now), Unlike Spurs and Blackhawks

  • The Fever’s business approach differs from recent rookie phenoms in the NBA and NHL.
  • Quietly, though, Clark’s expected WNBA team says ‘excitement and interest in tickets has been significant.’
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Even before college basketball phenom Caitlin Clark becomes a professional, there is a WNBA economy rapidly developing around her. But Clark’s expected team, the Fever, is thus far one of the more publicly restrained participants, marking a significant departure from the business of recent rookie phenoms in other leagues. 

The Fever have the No. 1 pick in Monday night’s WNBA draft, and they are widely expected to select the Iowa superstar. In rising anticipation of that, the league is entering a broad-based inflection point of business growth, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert (above) is aiming to double the league’s media rights, tickets for many opposing teams are soaring on resale markets, and the Fever are slated for national broadcast exposure in 36 of their 40 regular-season games in 2024. 

But what about the Fever franchise itself? The team’s sales strategy thus far has been comparatively muted. Indiana has created a presale of two games per day over a 15-day period leading into Monday. But the team has not yet been marketing Clark by name, hasn’t disclosed any ticket sales metrics, and has only loosely discussed her impact on business operations, only saying there has been a “spike in ticket inquiries.”

“Since we won that first pick in the draft lottery, excitement in the team and interest in tickets has been significant,” Danny Lopez, Pacers Sports & Entertainment vice president, tells Front Office Sports. The company operates both the Fever and NBA’s Pacers. “We continue to field inquiries every day and are excited about the crowds we anticipate for games this season.”

Not So With Wemby, Bedard

The Fever’s approach to date differs from how the NBA’s Spurs operated leading up to their selection last year of Victor Wembanyama, and how the NHL’s Blackhawks did before drafting Connor Bedard. Both of those players, selected No. 1 in those respective drafts, are now leading favorites to win Rookie of the Year awards this year. 

The Spurs openly disclosed their initial season-ticket influx, as well as their organizational excitement, after winning the draft lottery and the right to select Wembanyama. So, too, did the Blackhawks, which sold $5.2 million worth of season-ticket packages in the first 12 hours of winning the 2023 NHL draft lottery.

Regardless of approach, Clark’s arrival is set to elevate the Fever significantly at the gate, where the team averaged 4,067 per game last year, 11th in the 12-team league, and 39% below the league average of 6,615.

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