|Though the Los Angeles Sparks have thus far received little negative backlash for their decision to market to the lesbian community, don't expect any of the other women's professional sports organizations to take that as a hint to follow suit.
Ty Votaw, commissioner of the LPGA, is quick to point out that the WNBA and LPGA are different breeds. One is a 50-year-old organization with deep roots
and a long history, the other a virtual start-up still trying to prove itself.
Thus a difference in marketing priorities. While the WNBA is eager to build a fan base of any sort, he said, the LPGA's goal is to maintain its loyal following.
"We take more of a mass-market approach. You can target an audience better with a shotgun than a BB gun," Votaw said. "We go after golf fans. Whether they are red, purple, green whatever. We just want eyeballs. To market a group labeled as lesbian or Republican or Democratic, whatever, it's just not that meaningful to all of us."
Still, much as the WNBA allows each of its 16 franchises to organize its own local marketing plan, the LPGA allows each of its individual tournaments discretion to decide how to market their events locally.
If a tournament wants to advertise in an alternative magazine or newspaper, it has the ability to do that.
"That is up to the market that they are in and what they think will best market the event," Votaw said. "It's no different than the (San Diego) Padres
marketing the Latino community or something like that."
|Commissioner Ty Votaw says the LPGA won't market directly to lesbians -- or any other demographic.|
The WTA has a similar setup. Though the association's top executives would not comment, a spokesperson who asked to remain anonymous said the WTA does
not market to lesbians league-wide, but does allow individual tournament organizers to market events at their own discretion.
The WUSA, the new women's professional soccer league, does not market to the demographic in its inaugural season, either. Instead, it targets families with children who play soccer.
"The so-called soccer mom market is what we're going after," said Shaun May, the league's director of public relations. "That's where our focus is at this point."
The news is a bit troubling to Sandy Sachs, co-founder of Girl Bar, the Los Angeles-based lesbian club that organized a pep rally with the WNBA's Sparks.
For 11 years, Sachs has organized a weekend vacation package for lesbians to the Nabisco Championship, an LPGA Tour event in Palm Springs, Calif. In
recent years, the package has drawn more than 5,000 lesbians to the area, despite their being all but ignored, she says, by the LPGA.
"There's just so much homophobia there," she said. "They're willing to take the money, but not recognize these people."
Votaw clearly disagrees, saying the LPGA welcomes all its fans, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation.
"I'm not sure what the agenda is of the people that ask these questions," he said. "We don't treat people who are fans of ours better because of sexual
orientation. In no way should they feel unwelcome. But if they think we need to go overboard, then they have an issue."
Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories
||We go after golf fans. Whether they are red, purple, green whatever. We just want eyeballs. To market a group labeled as lesbian or Republican or Democratic, whatever, it's just not that meaningful to all of us. ”
||— LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw