By Seth Dahle
Recovering from an ankle injury while playing overseas in China, Jewell Loyd watched the Super Bowl just like any other spectator.
But instead of watching the event on the big screen, Loyd gazed at her phone and caught the action via Twitter.
“I thought, ‘oh that’s interesting,’” said Loyd. “Being overseas, you’re online all the time, because it’s the only way to get closer to home. So I reached out and said, ‘hey, why don’t we put games on Twitter?’”
That simple, yet impactful idea found the ears of WNBA President Lisa Borders, who had actually called Loyd to check on her ankle and experience overseas. In addition, Borders sought ideas regarding the league’s audience and expansion, and that’s when Loyd suggested livestream via Twitter.
“I spoke to Lisa about it, and she took the idea and ran with it,” said Loyd. “Everything worked, we got a deal, and everything is good.”
On May 1, the WNBA became the first women’s professional sports league to ink a rights deal with Twitter. That agreement included a three-year contract to stream 20 regular-season games in each of the next three seasons. The contests will be exclusive to Twitter, and the social media giant will pay the league to stream the games.
It’s no secret that the presence of social media in sports is unprecedented. Its role as a connective medium between sport teams and fans not only bridges a gap, but it also improves the exposure of teams, the athletes and their skillsets.
Loyd said that fans can “change everything,” and it all starts with the relationship built not only in person, but on the way of social media exposure as well.
“You have relationships with fans, and sometimes you get to meet them and know their stories,” said Loyd. “That’s what motivates you as a player and as a team. Here in Seattle, our fans mean everything. You walk down the street and it’s amazing. They know who you are and know your schedule, and that’s a great feeling to have.”
In addition to greater exposure here in the United States, Loyd said the deal will also allow fans overseas to follow WNBA players they’ve grown to love.
“A lot of the girls play overseas, and so they have a lot of fans overseas,” said Loyd. “If those fans aren’t able to watch us when we play here, we want to branch out and go global. I think it’s something we’re definitely working on, and this is the start.”
And why wouldn’t anyone want to watch more of Loyd? In only two seasons with the Storm, she has emerged as one of the most lethal scoring threats in the league. She averaged 16.5 points and 3.4 assists per game during her sophomore campaign on the way to earning All-WNBA Second Team honors in 2016.
For the WNBA, the deal with Twitter is a step in the right direction, and as Loyd reiterated, it will only improve the intimate connection between fans and players.
“It’s great to have communication with your fans and have that personal relationship, because you really affect and motivate them, just as much as they affect and motivate you,” Loyd concluded.
2017 TWITTER LIVE STREAM SCHEDULE
Sunday, May 14, 6 PM ET — Dallas Wings @ Phoenix Mercury
Friday, May 19, 8 PM ET — Phoenix Mercury @ San Antonio Stars
Thursday, May 25, 12 PM ET — Dallas Wings @ San Antonio Stars
Wednesday, June 7, 8 PM ET — Phoenix Mercury @ Indiana Fever
Tuesday, June 27, 7 PM ET — Los Angeles Sparks @ Connecticut Sun
Wednesday, June 28, 12:30 PM ET — Indiana Fever @ Chicago Sky
Wednesday, July 5, 8 PM ET — Connecticut Sun @ San Antonio Stars
Wednesday, July 12, 12:30 PM ET — Dallas Wings @ Chicago Sky
Friday, July 14, 10 PM ET — Minnesota Lynx @ Phoenix Mercury
Wednesday, July 19, 3:30 PM ET — Indiana Fever @ Phoenix Mercury
Thursday, July 20, 8 PM ET — Indiana Fever @ San Antonio Stars
Sunday, July 30, 3 PM ET — Indiana Fever @ Connecticut Sun
Saturday, August 5, 8 PM ET — Seattle Storm @ San Antonio Stars
Tuesday, August 8, 7 PM ET — Seattle Storm @ Connecticut Sun
Saturday, August 12, 8 PM ET — Atlanta Dream @ San Antonio Stars
Wednesday, August 23, 7 PM ET — Dallas Wings @ Connecticut Sun
Friday, August 25, 8 PM ET — Minnesota Lynx @ San Antonio Stars
Wednesday, August 30, 7 PM ET — Minnesota Lynx @ Indiana Fever
Friday, September 1, 10 PM ET — Connecticut Sun @ Phoenix Mercury
Sunday, September 3, 4 PM ET — Atlanta Dream @ Phoenix Mercury