|Lehrer Featured In Business Journal|
Wolfpack pawing for more dollars to flow women’s way
By Amanda Strickland
Photo Steve Wilson
RALEIGH For 15 years, a recurring theme of Nora Lynn Finch’s annual evaluations to the athletic department was the need for a full-time marketer of North Carolina State University women’s basketball. The senior associate athletic director’s persistence paid off three months ago. Barbara Lehner was hired by Wolfpack Sports Marketing to solely promote women’s basketball, increase game attendance and increase revenues for corporate sponsorships. Wolfpack, which is an independent business, handles marketing for all N.C. State sports.
“In the 23 years I have been here, N.C. State has ebbed and flowed with support for women’s basketball and women’s programs,” says Finch. Since Lehner has come on board she has scored a $20,000 sponsorship with Winn-Dixie, a partnership with Glaxo Wellcome for Coach Kay Yow’s 25th anniversary and helped increase attendance by nearly 50 percent over last year, says Finch. “We want to be like the men’s programs,” says Lehner. Corporate athletic sponsorships generate about $1.5 million for N.C. State, says Charlie Cobb, associate athletic director in charge of marketing.
Women’s basketball accounts for only about $100,000 to $125,000, but Cobb says the plan is to double that amount by next year. Lehner moved to North Carolina from Merritt Island, Fla., last year. But in the Triangle, Lehner is dribbling into foreign territory.
“ACC schools have typically not promoted anything other than men’s basketball and football,” says Finch. But all three ACC schools say they have seen corporate interest in women’s basketball surge in recent years. “Sponsors are looking for the tie into the family and women’s athletics are more family oriented,” says Scott Yakola, Duke University’s assistant director of promotions and marketing.
The University of North Carolina is moving toward focusing more attention to women’s basketball, but like Duke, it doesn’t have a person solely assigned to that role. A few years ago one employee was in charge of UNC’s sports marketing. In the fall of 1998, the 26 sports were split between two people. Now, about five people are in the department.
“This is a special time for the growth of woman’s basketball with the WNBA and soccer,” says Jim Ervin, who’s in charge of marketing football and women’s basketball. He says that is evident by last year’s sell-out crowd of 10,000 for the UNC-Duke women’s basketball game at Carmichael Auditorium.