ATLANTA, GA - Dec. 2, 2015 – At its Winter Meetings this week (Dec. 3-4) in Atlanta, National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) – the premier women’s pro softball league – will host team owners and GMs as they work with Commissioner Cheri Kempf to manage the ongoing success of one of the fastest-growing professional sports leagues in the country.
On the table will be issues that most fledgling sports organizations would love to be dealing with. Attendance is up. TV coverage and viewership is on the rise. The six-team league is expanding with new club franchises in major metropolitan markets like Houston. The stars of the league – the best fastpitch softball players in the world – are revered by fans. Women’s softball, as evidenced by record TV ratings each year for the Women’s College World Series, is more popular than ever.
All of which makes this Winter Meetings critically important. In her eight years as commissioner, Kempf has loaded the bases for the NPF, which is poised to have a breakout run in 2016. Kempf created NPF Media LLC to fund and oversee league operations, and partnered with CBS Sports Network for a TV package that grew to a league-best 59 network airings in 2015, with more expected in 2016. She has built event platforms out of the NPF College Draft, NPF Back-to-School Tour and NPF Championship Series, and worked with team executives to create a culture that successfully attracts the world’s top players.
“There is a passion for diamond sports in this country that the NPF is tapping into,” said Kempf, who also serves as the lead studio analyst for ESPN on NCAA softball coverage. “We are moving in the right direction – there’s still a lot of work to do to get revenues up to where they should be, but we’re getting there.”
Meanwhile, the league is growing. The Dallas Charge joined prior to the 2015 season. The Scrap Yard Dawgs in The Woodlands, Tex., a Houston suburb, will make their debut in 2016, joining the Charge, the Akron Racers, Chicago Bandits, Pennsylvania Rebellion (Pittsburgh) and USSSA Florida Pride (Kissimmee/Orlando). At the Winter Meetings, the development of at least two new teams for 2017 will be discussed. In addition, the NPF will determine the location for the 2016 NPF Championship Series, to be followed by an official announcement.
Also up for discussion is the role and responsibility of Major League Baseball, which became the Official Development Partner of the NPF in 2004. The MLB is seen as a critical piece of the marketing puzzle, one that could help drive attendance and generate sponsor revenues, which in turn will help boost player salaries and make fastpitch softball even more viable as a women’s professional sport. Following the NPF meeting, Kempf heads to Nashville to attend the Winter Meetings of MLB.
There is no debate about the popularity of pro softball. Total attendance for the NPF in 2015 was up more than 26 percent over 2014. The USSSA Pride set an attendance record at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World in Orlando, packing in 12,175 fans at the home field of the Gulf Coast League Braves, the Atlanta Braves’ AA team. Kempf and team executives are focused on monetizing that popularity by showcasing the league’s appeal to potential sponsors, and the market is responding.
New strategic partnerships with digital content delivery services iMobile and Privi are designed to generate viral awareness of both the NPF and its sponsor brands. iMobile and Privi are technology platforms that will enable mobile ticket sales, offer team and player alerts for fans, and allow players to distribute content and messaging directly to their followers on behalf of NPF sponsors.
“We have a terrific team of owners, GMs and marketing consultants that are bringing exciting ideas to the table,” said Kempf“We also have the best brand ambassadors in the world in our athletes – you don’t get any better.”
The NPF Winter Meetings gets underway on Thur., Dec. 3 at the Marriott Marquis Atlanta and conclude on Friday, Dec. 4.
About National Pro Fastpitch (NPF)
National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) is headquartered in Nashville, Tenn. The league, created to give elite female fastpitch players the opportunity to pursue a professional career in their chosen sport, has operated since 1997 under the names of Women’s Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL). NPF is the Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball in the category of women’s fastpitch softball and has been since 2002.