Nike announced that it has joined other backers in investing in the U.S. Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). The total investment by all parties is $75 million, making it the largest capital raise to date for a women’s sports organization.
In addition to Nike, which has been a commercial partner of the league since its first season 25 years ago, investors include current owners in the WNBA and the National Basketball Association (NBA) such as Joe and Clara Tsai (New York Liberty and Brooklyn Nets), Ted Leonsis (Washington Mystics and Washington Wizards), Micky and Nick Arison (Miami Heat) and Bill Cameron (Dallas Wings). Additional new investors are Dell Technologies (CEO Michael Dell, who also hold a minority stake in the San Antonio Spurs); Laurene Powell Jobs, philanthropist and widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs; former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; and Linda Henry, who with her husband John Henry is an owner of the Boston Red Sox and English soccer club Liverpool.
Nike said that through this partnership, it would work with the WNBA to grow the league by deepening WNBA storytelling to bring more visibility to WNBA athletes and inspire more girls to play basketball through additional grassroots opportunities. “Nike’s investment is not only a signal of how strong the movement around women’s sports is but also a sign of support for the WNBA’s vision and that it’s time to redefine what it means to support women’s basketball,” said WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert.
Proceeds from the transaction will be used for brand enhancement and marketing, globalization, innovation, digitization, customer touchpoint growth, human capital and operational optimization. “WNBA players should feel the benefits of the increase in capital and capacity at the league level — now and in the future,” Nike wrote in a press release.