Google and the WNBA have agreed to a multi-year partnership that will make the internet giant one of the league’s top-level “Changemaker” partners and the presenting sponsor of the WNBA on ESPN. To kick things off, Google will work with the league and its television partner to deliver 25 nationally televised games—24 regular season contests plus the All-Star Game—across ESPN’s networks (ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC) to celebrate the WNBA’s 25th season, which starts May 14.
ESPN carried 37 regular season games last year from the league’s bubble in Bradenton, Fla., the network’s largest regular season WNBA schedule ever.
“For too long now, women’s sports have been underrepresented in the media,” Google CMO Lorraine Twohill said in a release. “The WNBA has worked tirelessly to change that and has been at the forefront of progress for gender equity, racial justice and sport…. It’s important to us that our product experiences are equitable for all genders, and we want to make sure our media spend is equitable too, bringing more women’s content to television. With the WNBA and ESPN, we can help ensure women athletes get the recognition and media time they deserve.”
As part of the multifaceted agreement, Google will also serve as a presenting partner of the WNBA playoffs and a supporter of both the league’s annual All-Star Game on ESPN and WNBA Commissioner’s Cup, introduced in 2020 as an in-season contest to heighten competition and increase earning potential for players through prize pools. Opportunities for additional compensation were a key focus in the league’s eight-year collective bargaining agreement, signed in 2020.
Google, the Official Trends and Fan Insights partner of the WNBA, will also become an official marketing partner and technology partner of the league. Accordingly, the company has committed to helping the W develop new marketing initiatives, build out its storytelling side through community-driven programming and create enhanced Google product experiences for fans.
Financial details of the deal were not disclosed, but it does make Google the WNBA’s fourth Changemaker partner, alongside AT&T (the league’s marquee partner and inaugural Changemaker), Deloitte (where current WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert served as the company’s first female CEO from 2015 to 2019) and Nike. The agreement also marks a continuing investment in women’s sports by Google, which signed on as an NWSL sponsor in June 2020 ahead of the soccer league’s inaugural Challenge Cup.
The Changemakers partnership platform launched last year as an avenue for the league to find sponsors able to provide direct support for the W’s business development efforts in areas like marketing, branding, and player and fan experience. Changemakers is focused on finding supporters with shared values such as gender, racial and LGBTQ+ equity in order to support social change, in addition to league growth.
“When we launched our WNBA Changemakers platform at the beginning of 2020, we issued a call to like-minded companies to join us in elevating women’s sports, and Google has answered that call,” Engelbert said in a release. “Google’s support will be instrumental in driving our business transformation forward and demonstrates a commitment to the values we both stand for—including building sustainable equity.”
On the ESPN side, Google will support several of the network’s initiatives outside of the WNBA, including upcoming ESPN Films projects, like the 30 for 30 franchise, espnW events and SportsCenter highlight segments starting this month. ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said the new collaboration further extends the network’s “mission and dedication to elevating women’s sports.”
ESPN was a founding telecaster of WNBA games when the league debuted in 1997.