Elena Delle Donne has won WNBA games, collegiate volleyball matches and an Olympic gold medal.
On Monday, she addressed a shoe-related victory.
Appearing at South by Southwest, Delle Donne recalled a meeting about an upcoming line of Nike shoes. During a pitch, Delle Donne was told her shoes would be marketed for girls. The idea irked Delle Donne since young boys would ask for her autograph and tell her they chose their jersey number because she wears No. 11.
“We (ended up having) a gender neutral-sized shoe, which was such a win,” said Delle Donne, the WNBA’s MVP in 2015. “Why do women athletes only have to reach out to young girls? Why can’t we reach out to young boys as well?”
Delle Donne was speaking at SXSW’s “Will the Future of Sports Mean Equality for Women?” panel. She was joined by Big East Conference commissioner Val Ackerman and journalists Christine Brennan and Nina Mandell. Speaking in front of a crowd that included former Texas basketball coach Jody Conradt, the four panelists discussed men coaching women and why the dominance shown by the UConn women’s basketball team is viewed as a bad thing.
Going off Delle Donne’s story, Ackerman talked about the importance of marketing in women’s athletics. Ackerman noted that a lot of options exists in the sporting world, which leads to a competition for fans’ time and money.
Citing ads for the 1999 World Cup, Ackerman also said that women’s athletics could benefit from humor-based marketing.
“Marketing in this day and age to me is as important as ever to let you know when the games are being played, where you find it on the dial, where you can buy that shoe,” Ackerman said. “I think it’s actually more challenging now because there’s so many of those offerings in the different sports.”
Monday’s panel opened with the panelists being asked about what women’s sports would look like in years to come. Brennan said a summertime photo best explained why she was confident about the future.
Last year, swimmer Katie Ledecky threw out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game. Fresh off of the Rio Olympics, Ledecky had star outfielder Bryce Harper hold her five medals (four gold and a silver) while she fired off a strike.
“Twenty years ago, 15, maybe only 10 years ago, the top baseball player in the National League probably would not have known the name of his female counterpart, much less want to join her and allow her to bask in the glow of his platform,” Brennan said. “That is why I’m bullish on the future.”