For the Valkyries, business is booming already

Outside Chase Center on Saturday afternoon, the Valkyries’ momentum was undeniable.

More than 3,000 fans formed a vibrant garden of violet, black and white in Thrive City for the new WNBA team’s inaugural block party event. Word spread in just four days after the May 14 rollout of the franchise’s brand.

E-40 performed. Kehlani hyped up the crowd from the stage. There were dance troupes and photo ops and family fun.

The event culminated in the Valkyries organization hitting a checkpoint, and that’s all it has done so far: hit every checkpoint any franchise in its infant stages could strive for.

A week since launching their brand, the Valkyries have secured over 3,500 additional season ticket deposits, pushing their total past 11,000. Merchandise is flying off the shelves. Their social media impression numbers are popping off the screen.

“I don’t know if we were quite ready to grasp the excitement that we did see (this past week),” vice president of marketing and communications Kimberly Veale told this news organization.

“But we were really excited to share this with the fans because it was something they were calling for, and really something they created.”

The Valkyries’ launch came at the right time, as women’s basketball is reaching an all-time high in popularity. On the same day the team launched its brand publicly, Caitlin Clark made her professional debut for the Indiana Fever.

In the 24 hours following the brand launch, the Valkyries’ social media channels earned 13.9 million impressions, 2.3 million video views and 720,000 engagements, Veale said. They had more social media reach than any other WNBA team that day, including Clark’s Fever.

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“There has obviously been a lot of excitement for WNBA basketball across the country, across the globe,” Veale said. “I think the fans in the Bay Area were demanding this team. They’ve been telling us they’ve wanted this team. There’s been extreme excitement.”

On the merchandise side, the team didn’t disclose public numbers, but likened initial sales to that of an NBA team after releasing new City Edition jerseys and corresponding swag. The Valkyries haven’t even begun selling jerseys yet — only lifestyle attire.

In the fan shop at Thrive City one afternoon last week, most of the foot traffic was focused on the Valkyries’ half of the store rather than the Warriors’. A store employee said fans have been calling to ask if they have more Valkyries merchandise in stock (they do, and are also restocking).

Ann Pieper, a Bay Area native visiting from Idaho, stopped by the store because she heard there was a new women’s basketball team coming to the Bay. She’s not a professional sports fan, but was drawn to the new team’s “on point” branding.

“Valkyries, first of all, great name,” Pieper said. “And I just love that there’s a women’s team for San Francisco and basketball.”

Fans buy Golden State Valkyries merchandise during the Golden State Valkyries block party at Thrive City in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, May 18, 2024. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

The season ticket deposit number is the most financially notable. It represents not just a blip in excitement, but a long-term commitment from fans t oa franchise that has yet to hire a coach, add a player to the roster or even hire a head of ticket sales.

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Those 11,000-plus deposits are non-refundable $25 seat reservations, many of which will be converted to season ticket bundles once pricing packages become available. For reference, the average WNBA game attendance last year was 6,615 — the highest since 2018. The defending champion Aces led the league with an average of 9,551.

So even if only half of the depositors become season ticket holders, the Valkyries would still be in strong shape to compete at the upper bounds of league attendance. The demand is clearly there.

In its inaugural NWSL season, Bay FC has ranked in the top five in attendance despite poor results on the pitch, clearly showing a regional interest in professional women’s sports.

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The interest in the Valkyries suggests that the market isn’t capped. The Bay has a storied history with women’s basketball, rooted in Tara VanDerveer’s legendary run at Stanford. But the region hasn’t had a pro team since the San Jose Lasers and the rest of the American Basketball League folded in 1998.

Warriors owner Joe Lacob owned the Lasers, and now owns the Valkyries. With the Valkyries starting in 2025, the Chase Center is about to double its basketball inventory. The WNBA season runs from May to September, picking up where the NBA leaves off and ending before the start of the season. The Chase Center box office is going to be up and running all year.

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The Warriors have sold out every home game since 2012-13 — the third-longest active streak in the NBA. There’s still a year before Lacob or anyone with the Valkyries can start thinking about starting a WNBA sellout streak.

But so far, through the brand launch, the organization has checked every box.

“Incredible week for Valkyries fans,” Veale said. “Incredible week for the WNBA, obviously with the season tipping off and of course the Valkyries brand coming to life. There’s a lot to do from here on out.”

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