A BRAND New Day in the WNBA.
This afternoon, the WNBA announced its first "marquee partnership" between a team and a corporate sponsor -- in this case the Phoenix Mercury and LifeLock, a Tempe, Arizona-based company that sells identity theft protection.
What sets this deal apart from other corporate-team sponsorships is that this three-year deal centers around the first-ever "branding [of] the jersey." As modeled by Mercury stars Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter at today's press conference in New York, the team's jerseys will now have the LifeLock name and logo emblazoned on the front where "Mercury" used to be. ("Mercury" gone!) The old name has been reduced to a small patch below one shoulder. And the LifeLock corporate logo will now also appear right on the floor of U.S. Airways Arena.
While this sort of corporate "branding" of teams is commonplace in pro leagues overseas, it is not (yet) common here in the USA. So this really is big news for an American pro sports league.
And now that the first WNBA franchise has taken this big step, others are likely to follow. How long will it be until the Verizon Center plays host to a game between the Nathan's New York Liberty and the Capital One Washington Mystics? Or the Netflix Mystics, or the Monistat Mystics? (Just hope we never ever see "Exxon Mobil" replace "Mystics"on D.C.'s jerseys!)> It's probably not that far off. And not just in the WNBA, either. Today's Wall Street Journal reports that "the day when corporate logos adorn NBA jerseys may be approaching."
We totally understand why the WNBA made this big move, particularly in the current economic climate. The WNBA has lost several teams in the course of its history, most recently the storied Houston Comets. So, if "branding" helps more franchises survive (and, hopefully thrive), it's hard to fault the league for blazing this trail. Nevertheless, we're finding it difficult to feel any excitement over this development. What we're feeling could better be described as a mild melancholy. There's something kind of sad about the increasing reality that just about every tangible space in America -- even our beloved WNBA jersey -- is now up for sale as a forum for corporate advertising.