Branded Jerseys Come to the WNBA
CNBC Sports Business Reporter
Corporate logos are already on NASCAR firesuits and on MLS shirts, so when will the mainstream leagues allow teams to sell space on jerseys?
If Monday's announcement by the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury is any indication, it might be coming sometime soon.
On Monday, the Mercury will announce that it has signed a deal with LifeLock, the identity theft protection company, to feature the LifeLock name on the front of its jerseys and warmups through the 2011 season.
Lifelock — which is based in Tempe, Ariz. — will also receive in-arena signage and branding on the court and will activate its sponsorship by offering a complimentary membership (valued at $110 each) to all WNBA season ticket holders.
Over the years, we've seen plenty of leagues embrace corporate jersey sponsorship from European soccer to Major League Soccer in this country to the Arena Football League.
We've seen the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic wearing Best Buy patches on their uniform sleeves and corporate logos (Ricoh and EMC) even get an experimental try when Major League Baseball teams opened the season in Japan.
But aside from the Reebok logos that appear on the front of NFL jerseys and on the back of NHL jerseys, the major sports leagues haven't allowed teams to sell jersey space to corporate America.
The next natural step for the NFL might be putting logos on practice jerseys, which has been explored. But the LifeLock deal, and perhaps subsequent WNBA deals, might serve as a good experiment for the NBA.
It's not necessarily clear, however, that the NBA is going to be the first to eventually try out this form of advertising. Unlike the NHL and the NFL, NBA jerseys don't have the official uniform supplier's logo — adidas — on its official jerseys. The adidas does appear on the practice jerseys.
It's also not clear if now is the right time for corporate logos on jerseys. In this economic environment, sports marketers have found it harder for companies to brashly put their name in high-profile places, including on stadiums for naming rights deals.
LifeLock has spent much of its sports marketing dollars in NASCAR, sponsoring the LifeLock 400 in June, buying advertising in race broadcasts and agreeing to put its logo on Kasey Kahne's car for a few races.
LifeLock's CEO Todd Davis famously gives out his own social security number (457-55-5462) in advertising to prove the effectiveness of his company's service.
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