Databank Sports: WNBA shoots for online ballots

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Several recent studies have shown that the Internet has done a flip-flop in terms of its male vs. female population. Women seem to have overtaken men on the Internet, and how this affects online media is just beginning to be known.

Perhaps the WNBA, which is particularly popular with girls and young women, knows the answer. While sports advertisers targeted toward men still dominate, with AOL Time Warner's CNNSI, The Sporting News and WNBA's sibling NBA ranking No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 as advertisers in June, the WNBA, which is in the middle of its season, ranked fourth. As such, it bested such popular and high-ranking online sports advertisers as SportsLine.com and ESPN.com.

Much of the aggressive activity, according to a WNBA spokeswoman, was focused on the league's All-Star game, which was held last week in Orlando, Fla. The league used banner ads and skyscraper ads to lead users directly to online All-Star balloting on Yahoo!, which is a partner of the WNBA and which carried the heaviest advertising load of 36,282,000 impressions during the month of June; the league has also given considerable weight to a banner promoting live online audiocasts of all WNBA games, devoting roughly a quarter of its buy to that marketing cause. The WNBA regular season runs from May through August.

Other popular sites for the WNBA's advertising were sweepstakes-driven portal iWon, which is backed by Viacom's CBS, with 22,004,000 impressions and, as might be expected, the NBA site with 2,657,000. (The league has no immediately apparent ties to CBS. The TV broadcast games run on NBC and Walt Disney's ESPN and ESPN2.) The company also advertised on Oxygen and its own site, which might be considered redundant if the campaign's goal is to drive traffic.

If the WNBA's approach to online media is any guide, there's not much female traffic going to mainstream sports sites. The league paid lip-service to sites such as CNNSI.com and ESPN.com giving them only a fraction of the media it devoted to other online outlets.

The league also bought some media on the Web site of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the hometown newspaper of the All-Star game host city, and, strangely, the sites for Netscape and the Sci-Fi Channel.

Maybe the WNBA has insights into its audience that outsiders don't.

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