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Sabrina Ionescu Talks WNBA Charter Flights, Signature Shoe Sequel & Tissot Partnership

The New York Liberty All-Star spoke with Boardroom about becoming the first female hooper to face the Swiss luxury brand, expectations for this season, and much more.

Sabrina Ionescu is the first WNBA player to partner with Tissot.

Already ascendent through a signature shoe deal at Nike and TV spots for Bodyarmor, the timely agreement with the Swiss luxury label lends itself to a moment where Sabrina’s sport is exploding.

“It’s at an all-time high,” Ionescu told Boardroom. “The buzz around women’s basketball? The time is now and people are finally starting to realize that.”

Clocking in right ahead of the 2024 WNBA season, big brands are finally formalizing big deals that match the big buzz around women’s basketball.

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Tissot – a Swiss watchmaker approaching its second century in business and boasting over 240 boutiques worldwide – is leaning into Ionescu and the W through thoughtful campaigns and eye-catching collabs.

These lauded looks – often reserved for models, entertainers, or male athletes – see Tissot and other W partners investing in the opportunity to make female athletes auteurs of taste and influence.

Having long-laced NBA icons with endorsements and even powering pro basketball’s storied shot clock, the Le Locle luxury brand has expanded its marketing towards the ‘young and ambitious’ as wristwear reenters the chat where clout, drive, and direction are concerned.

At the intersection of energy and inspiration, personality and professionalism is the WNBA. Numbers are up all across the board regarding eyeballs though TV contracts and annual salaries are yet to catch up.

For Sabrina and her peers looking for more visibility and eventual income, the investment from Tissot is indeed perfect timing.

“It’s not a one-off thing,” Ionescu said. “What’s been going on in this league and women’s sports in general is a long time coming. You see gradual increases in attendance and viewership.”

In Ionescu, Tissot touts an All-Star athlete with extreme fanfare on both US coasts.

Fittingly, Sabrina’s Tissot displays will appear across the brand’s boutiques this summer in New York City, ranging from the famous 5th Avenue locale to the world-renowned Times Square.

Online, social posts from Tissot’s massive 1.7 million audience will reach her college campus in Euguene while the brand’s big footprint from France to India allows an opportunity to introduce Ionescu and the WNBA to international markets.

Fittingly, a former NBA player of foreign descent had a hand in pulling the partnership together.

“I was able to get familiar with Tissot when I was out in Paris for the NBA game,” said Ionescu. “I met with Tony Parker and he talked really highly about the company. To me, it was a no-brainer.”

PARIS, FRANCE – JANUARY 11: Tony Parker, Tissot CEO Sylvain Dolla, and Sabrina Ionescu attend Tissot Live Bar during the NBA Paris Game 2024 (Photo by Kristy Sparow/Getty Images for Tissot)

Known for championship hardware and Swiss wristwear, Parker knows a thing or two about the global power of sports marketing.

Just the same, Tissot’s leading lady is clocking in when and where it matters most.

Ahead of the 2024 WNBA Tip-Off, Boardroom caught up with Ionescu to hear about expanding women’s basketball through strategic partnerships like Tissot, how charter flights will impact the game, and what the goal is for her second signature sneaker.

This interview has been edited for context and clarity.

Ian Stonebrook: How does Tissot’s reach as a massive international institution grow both you and the WNBA?

Sabrina Ionescu: There are so many international players and with the Olympics being in Paris? There’s this need and desire for our sport to be viewed and have an impact all over the world, not only in the United States.

That’s a big part of it. It’s not only in the States, it’s across the world. That’s something that my league is continuing to push forward. Obviously, the NBA does a great job of that. The WNBA is still finding ways to turn into this global game and we’re at the turning point now.

IS: What does it mean to you for a company like Tissot to invest in the profile of WNBA athletes and the league at large?

SI: It’s really nice to see a global partner take that initiative and take that step to push our league forward.

Seeing all the buzz around the WNBA watch? All these partnerships, and this one in particular, are so important. This is just the beginning, I’m really excited to see what the future has in store.

IS: A big theme in the Tissot campaign is adversity. How did it feel to lose in the Finals last season and how did that shape your mindset in the offseason?

SI: It’s understanding there’s going to be times when you win and times when you don’t. It’s that continuous drive of wanting to better and showing up the next day and putting your best foot forward.

That’s what I’m doing. Having that dedication and passion for success and wanting to be the best that I can.

I’m very excited for this season knowing that I was able to learn from last season. To become a better basketball player and a better person and being able to showcase that this year.

IS: You reshared the news last week that the WNBA is finally getting charter flights. Can you break down what that means for you as a player?

SI: The performance on court is going to be better. There’s a lot of talk about privacy and convenience but for me? It’s that the product on the court is going to be better because we’re going to have time to recover.

We’re gonna have less time spent in airports, delayed flights, and trying to catch connections. That’s going to make the product on the court a lot better which is going to make our league better as a whole.

IS: Heading into the season, the excitement and energy around the league feels different. As a player, have you experienced that even in preseason play?

SI: Every year the talent has gotten better. I hear there are sellout crowds in almost every arena. It’s an exciting time to be a part of that and move that in the right direction.

IS: Speaking of energy in arenas, the crosstown Knicks have been making a lot of noise. Have you been able to keep up with the NBA Playoffs amidst training camp?

SI: I’ve definitely been watching and I want to get out to a Knicks game soon. The atmosphere there? We want to see them win and it’s fun to be part of that New York basketball buzz.

There are so many people that can’t wait for our season to start and feel that energy that they felt in the playoffs. The fans also understand there’s a team across the city that we’re cheering on as well.

IS: Last season you set the record at WNBA All-Star Weekend in the 3PT Contest, setting up a cross-league competition with Steph Curry at NBA All-Star Weekend. Will we see a rematch with Steph in Phoenix?

SI: I’m not really sure if I’m going to do it again to be honest. Being able to finish with a record of 37 is going to be tough for me to beat [laughs] so it might be a one-and-done situation for me. Until someone comes around and breaks it, then I might have to come back and get even better than that.

But being able to see the excitement that was created at the NBA All-Star Game with Steph and I? It’s really exciting. Hopefully, we’ll get to see a lot more in the future.

IS: From reaching the 2023 WNBA Finals to the energy headed into the 2024 WNBA Season, the stakes feel higher. How has your off-season training evolved?

SI: I trained with a lot more purpose. Previous offseasons? I was trying to get healthy, and that takes away from really being able to work on my craft.

This offseason I was a part of USA Basketball for three camps and went against the best players in the league. To be able to evolve my game was a big part of my development this offseason.

[It’s] getting the opportunity to come together as a team and put your differences aside. We’re so used to competing against each other and obviously, there are rivalries, but when you wear USA across your chest? You’re competing for the same goal: to win Gold.

IS: What are the takeaways or opportunities from training with Team USA?

SI: We’re all pushing each other to be better individually and collectively. Iron sharpens iron, we’re able to compete and go at it, and that in turn makes you a better basketball player.

IS: We’ve heard from your conversation with our friend Greydy Diaz that the Nike Sabrina 2 is coming. How do you top the original?

SI: That’s the goal: continuing to create a better product every time. I can’t speak too much about it yet, but we’re headed in that direction and I’m excited to hear what people have to say about it.

IS: By the time this interview runs, another WNBA star will be named a signature athlete. What’s it like to see female hoopers rise in the sneaker game?

SI: It’s exciting just having that conversation. Even five years ago, that wasn’t even a topic that women in sports were having. [The idea of] being a signature athlete, particularly in basketball.

Just understanding how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time? It’s crazy to even say. I’m so excited to see the continuous growth. Someone else’s dreams are going to come true to become a signature athlete. I’m always supporting and so excited.

IS: Whether with Tissot, the Liberty, or Team USA, what are your goals headed into this season and this summer?

SI: Being the best version of myself. It’s a lot bigger than me and I want to leave the game in better hands than I found it.

Year by year, I want to be the best version of myself and just continue to inspire the next generation.

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Ian Stonebrook

Ian Stonebrook is a Staff Writer covering culture, sports, and fashion for Boardroom. Prior to signing on, Ian spent a decade at Nice Kicks as a writer and editor. Over the course of his career, he's been published by the likes of Complex, Jordan Brand, GOAT, Cali BBQ Media, SoleSavy, and 19Nine. Ian spends all his free time hooping and he's heard on multiple occasions that Drake and Nas have read his work, so that's pretty tight.

About The Author
Ian Stonebrook
Ian Stonebrook
Ian Stonebrook is a Staff Writer covering culture, sports, and fashion for Boardroom. Prior to signing on, Ian spent a decade at Nice Kicks as a writer and editor. Over the course of his career, he's been published by the likes of Complex, Jordan Brand, GOAT, Cali BBQ Media, SoleSavy, and 19Nine. Ian spends all his free time hooping and he's heard on multiple occasions that Drake and Nas have read his work, so that's pretty tight.