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Represent: ESPN Helps Herald WNBA’s Season Start With #OrangeHoodie Push

The hashtag trended on Twitter as Lil Wayne, Naomi Osaka and scores of NBA and ESPN stars posted selfies wearing the symbolic sweatshirts

Clockwise from Top, Left: ESPN’s Sarah Spain; NBA star LeBron James; tennis star Naomi Osaka; NBA star Trae Young. (Photos courtesy of social media handles: @spain2323/Instagram; @NBA/Twitter; @naomiosaka/Instagram; @TheTraeYoung/Twitter)

The WNBA is more than just a league. It has transcended the sport into broader cultural conversations through its players and the individuality, inclusivity, and activism they exhibit both on and off the court.

More recently, the WNBA’s “Orange Hoodie,” featuring the WNBA logo, has been embraced by celebrities and fans. The distinctive hoodies have grown into something bigger than just a piece of apparel. It is a symbol and a show of support for what the league represents: world-class female athletes who are resilient, outspoken, and authentic.

To promote the start of the 2020 season, the ESPN Marketing team chose to leverage the symbolic orange hoodie to celebrate the WNBA’s return in what has been an already historic year for the league.

Rap star Lil Wayne (Photo courtesy of @LilTunechi/Twitter)

The #OrangeHoodie campaign seeded the hoodie with athletes, celebrities, and influencers, who posted selfies to social media using the hashtag on the first day of the season. The result: #OrangeHoodie trended on Twitter, with more than 16,400 mentions specifically related to the initiative – with a potential impression base of 623 million across social platforms – and 95 percent positive sentiment around the effort.

Rachel Epstein, senior director of ESPN Consumer Marketing, shares details on the creative development process and the overwhelming response from the sports community:

How did the idea for #OrangeHoodie originate? What were you looking to achieve?
It was an idea we shared with the league in a meeting we had with them when we were prepping for the official season (it turned out to be our very last in-person meeting) before everything changed. We saw the symbolic power of the hoodie when others wore it – most notably, Kobe Bryant – and knew it could be something to build on. As we looked to create as much awareness as possible for this unique season, we thought that seeding them with our own ESPN talent would be a great way to show support and create some buzz. And then we worked closely with Stacey Pressman (director, Talent Production) and her fantastic team, who helped us extend the campaign, seeding the hoodies with many athletes and celebrities. And it truly took off from there.

What kind of response did you get from it from athletes and celebrities, fans, and the league?
Nearly 200 athletes, teams, celebrities, and ESPN talent participated. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so much so that we have had over 50 additional hoodie requests come in since we launched the effort. The hoodies were also the top-selling item on Fanatics.com for two consecutive days. There was just a ton of enthusiasm to show support for this league and its amazing players and female athletes in general. The WNBA has said that the league stands for the power of women, and I think that’s the broader message here.

Any surprise hoodie wearers that you weren’t expecting?
We shipped over 140 hoodies to the [NBA campus in Florida]. We couldn’t believe how many [NBA] players ended up participating – LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, DeMar DeRozan, Trae Young, and so many others. There were also those outside the bubble like Michael Thomas, Naomi Osaka, Lil Wayne, Ninja, Julie Foudy, [ESPN MLB analyst] Jessica Mendoza, [SportsCenter anchor] Elle Duncan, [espnW writer, ESPN Radio host] Sarah Spain, and more. Drew Brees also recently reached out saying he wanted to participate, so we sent him one, too.

Watch the WNBA on ESPN2 Thursday: 6 p.m. ET Seattle Storm vs. Atlanta Dream; 10 p.m. Chicago Sky vs. Phoenix Mercury

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