Fostering loyal engagement with the WNBA amongst
young athletes through personal, relatable storytelling
MOBILE APPLICATION + BRAND STRATEGY
MyWNBA is an application that helps young athletes discover women’s basketball through personal, relatable stories of pro WNBA players, by creating a holistic experience wrapped in the context of a WNBA game. This application help foster a positive fan base culture, grounded in empowering WNBA players to be recognized in their own right, rather than being compared to their NBA counterpart.
Phoebe Joy Lim
EXPERIENCE DESIGN - PROJECT OVERVIEW
Proposed client: Women's National Basketball Association
Description: Senior Academic Project
Project timeframe: 4 weeks
Role: Concept Strategy, Visual Design, User Testing
My role in this project was designing layouts, UI elements, and interaction workflows. I conducted meaningful user testing to validate design decisions.
Nov - Dec 2017
Attendance and viewership of WNBA games have been on a dramatic decline since 2010, ultimately leading to a lack of money and resources to spend on training players and creating a stronger fan base. Almost all players must play abroad during the off-season to earn extra income, resulting in burnt out players during the regular season. This reinforces the negative perception that WNBA games are less exciting when compared to the explosive gameplay and success of the NBA.
WNBA players are overworked and burnt out due to the lack of money and resources, which stems from a decline in game attendance and a negative perception when compared to the NBA.
We saw an opportunity to highlight each player, their skills, and revealing their stories outside of basketball in more digestible, engaging ways, in order to foster a stronger connection between them and our target audience.
“There is something there for everyone – we have 144 of the best athletes in the world, surely you can find something that is relevant to you. The stories are incredible.”
— Lisa Borders, President of the WNBA
We saw an opportunity to make WNBA content more engaging and easily-digestible, in order to promote a stronger fan base.
The density of the current website provides an overwhelming barrier to information that should be accessible and easy to digest. To ease the process of learning more about the players, we explored various ways of presenting the players' narratives to make them more approachable.
We reached out to people who were involved with the SFU Women’s Basketball team, including coach Bruce Langford, sports reporters, and basketball enthusiasts. To get a better idea of the existing culture of women’s basketball games, we also attended an SFU Women’s Basketball game.
We conducted 7 interviews in this process, and gained the following insights:
FAMILIES STRENGTHEN CULTURE
Tickets to the WNBA are relatively cheap and encouraged to be bought in groups. This is why many families attend games as a form of entertainment and place to bond.
SPORTS AS A NARRATIVE
The NBA is largely successful because of their ability to make players into celebrities, making players relatable not only for their skill, but also their personalities.
EMERGING ATHLETES FOR GROWTH
Through team-hosted basketball clinics and the WNBA Fit program, the WNBA is making moves to target emerging athletes, providing mentorship and training.
Taking these insights into consideration, we reframed our initial goal of trying to create and gain more fans, to retaining and engaging young athletes who have the potential to be loyal fans. We are targeting younger athletes that we've deemed "rookie fans," or those who are interested in the WNBA and have attended one or two games, but are not yet committed to the league.
We are not solving directly for the issue of increasing ticket sales nor aiming for a quick return. Rather, we hope to build a future generation of fans who grow up inspired by WNBA players with the ability to relate to them in their daily lives, thus resulting in long-lasting committed fans. This led us to our final re-frame question:
How might we build a culture around the WNBA and its players by turning rookie fans into invested, loyal fans?
We created two personas which were both informed by our research methods thus far. This helped us understand our users from a more personal perspective, identify possible motivations for going to a game in the first place, and gain insight on how basketball fits within their daily lifestyle and values.
Specifically, we decided to target young athletes between the ages 9 to 14 and their parents. It was important for us to consider the parent, as they are still involved in what content their child is consuming.
Using collectibles to enhance the value of the WNBA games and encourage continual game attendance.
We created a journey map outlining the experience of attending a live game, to identify the appropriate entry points for our intervention. We decided to focus on the entry and extend stages, as this is where the young athlete may want to find out more about the players, and later may want to know more about the player’s life outside of basketball and watch highlights after the game.
During our ideation process, we were fortunate enough to test our early prototypes on friends and family that fell within our target group. In total, we conducted product walk-throughs and think-aloud tests with 7 children between the ages 9-14 and 4 parents, all of whom had been involved in a sport or attended a sports game in the past. We came away with the following takeaways:
To inform our UI decisions, we looked at three precedents that were significant within sports culture.
Trading cards are a popular symbol in sports, and also a popular design interaction for chunking content. It makes flipping through information as easy as flipping through a pack of cards.
We wanted to take the personal touch a signature has and utilize it in our app to make something more treasured, more precious, because it’s been signed by someone our young athlete can admire.
We abstracted the idea of the locker room and what is discussed in this space; an intimate environment that houses fairly topical issues in sports and sexism today, we wanted to flip the negative connotations of “locker room talk” to a more inclusive space where individuals are free to share and bond.
"There's a lot of room to grow, and the women who believe they're worth it are the ones who are going to make good things happen.
SUE WICKS - FORMER WNBA PLAYER
The most significant challenge in the earliest stages of our concept design, was identifying the appropriate target audience for which to design for. Our initial secondary research was largely centered on college basketball culture within the United States, and how this directly fed into the WNBA. When attending the SFU Women's basketball game, the college basketball culture was vastly different from what we had studied. Eventually, we decided to focus on children, as Little Leagues and young fitness programs seemed consistent across Canada and the United States.
There were many times during this project where the team felt very doubtful and unsure as to whether our design decisions were valid, and how it would come across to the teaching staff. For myself as a designer, I learned that there comes a certain point in a project where you simply have to follow your gut and stand by your decisions.
In terms of personal skills, this project really helped me get a solid grasp in using Sketch as a prototyping tool. Before this, I had very limited experience with the program as I had been mostly using Illustrator to create my UI assets. This project gave me the opportunity to practice churning out low-fidelity mock-ups that were made ready to test, and then take those up to a high-fidelity level.
Through the research I did in regards to designing UI for children, specifically pre-teens, I discovered how very little documentation exists for this age area. Going forward, I am interested in learning and doing more research into the nuances of designing meaningful digital products for children and pre-teens, that would promote positive growth and learning.