A-B, LEE ARE AMONG FIRST SPONSORS OF WNBA

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The Women's National Basketball Association has signed four brands, including Anheuser-Busch's Bud Light beer and Lee Apparel Co.'s Lee jeans, to exclusive, fully integrated sponsorship pacts that include print ads in women's fashion magazines with which the WNBA has struck marketing alliances.

3-YEAR DEALS

The three-year sponsorships provide category exclusivity in everything the WNBA can offer: TV time on game broadcasts on NBC, ESPN and Lifetime Television; in-arena signage; player appearances; and promotional rights. The value of the deals varies: A-B says it will spend well over $10 million on WNBA inventory over the next three years.

NBA Properties, marketing agent for the NBA-backed women's pro league being launched June 21, has 40 national units to sell in each broadcast.

It also said it has reached deals with two unspecified women's fashion magazines. The agreements and their contents won't be disclosed until January, but they do give NBA Properties ad pages to package into deals.

The other two marketers are Champion Sportswear and Spalding Sports Worldwide, both NBA licensees. WNBA wants eight to 12 sponsors by its launch, and Nike is close to a deal.

Tony Ponturo, A-B's exec VP-corporate media and sports marketing, said his company will use the sponsorship to target female consumers.

SEEING MOMENTUM

"We saw that we needed to look for credible marketing programs that target women more directly," Mr. Ponturo said. "We came out of the 1996 Summer Olympics seeing a great deal of momentum behind women's sports and, specifically, women's basketball, which is why we pursued the WNBA."

A-B will have DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, develop dedicated WNBA-themed creative for Bud Light; Lee plans to air spots in a new general campaign from Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, breaking this spring.

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