WNBA Gives Sponsors Shirts on Players' Backs

Stern's Move to Allow Logos on Jerseys Could Set Precedent

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- David Stern has signed off on putting sponsor patches on uniforms -- but for the WNBA rather than the NBA.

Mr. Stern, the National Basketball Association commissioner, has taken the possibly precedent-setting move of allowing franchises in the Women's National Basketball Association to put sponsor logos on team jerseys for the WNBA season that begins June 6.

JERSEY GIRL: Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury sports Lifelock logo.
JERSEY GIRL: Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury sports Lifelock logo.
The league's Phoenix Mercury will be the first team to incorporate the logos. The Mercury cut a deal with Tempe, Ariz.-based LifeLock, the identity-theft-prevention company best known for using CEO Todd Davis' Social Security number in its advertising. People with knowledge of the agreement say it is a three-year, $3 million deal that includes the LifeLock name featured prominently across the front of the jersey, a presenting sponsorship of the team, on-court signage, the logo on warm-ups and other team paraphernalia, and a deal in which LifeLock is giving all WNBA season-ticket holders a free year's membership to LifeLock valued at $110.

Messrs. Stern and Davis, WNBA Commissioner Donna Orender, and officials from the Phoenix Mercury will make the formal announcement today at the NBA Store in New York. Ms. Orender said "discussions are ongoing" for similar agreements between other WNBA teams and sponsors.

"Companies are looking to have an edge in the marketplace. They're looking for ways to be noticed, for ROI, to touch people authentically," Ms. Orender said. "The time was right to do this."

NBA next?
Other than Major League Soccer and Nascar, sponsor logos on team uniforms have generally been considered taboo by American sports fans. Mr. Stern could not be reached for comment, so it is unknown, at least before this afternoon's press conference, if he considers this a "test run" for putting marketer patches on NBA uniforms.

"We know the NBA will watch this and see what happens," said Jay Perry, president and chief operating officer of the Phoenix Mercury. "Let's face it: We're taking our most valuable asset -- the players -- and connecting it to another brand."

Rick Welts, president and CEO of the NBA's Phoenix Suns, said the deal was driven by the current economic environment and the need to generate more revenue.

"We'd be kidding if that wasn't the primary objective," he said. Mr. Welts, who worked at the league office in New York for 17 years, added, "[Sponsor logos on uniforms] are commonplace in Europe. Europeans would find this discussion humorous. It's business as usual for the rest of the world."

Mr. Davis said the agreement between LifeLock and the Mercury is his company's second-largest deal after its Nascar sponsorship. "Nascar fans are brand loyal, and we believe there is the same kind of affinity in the WNBA," he said.

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