SBD/Issue 121/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Sony Ericsson Drops WTA Title Sponsorship, But Stays Onboard

Average Annual Fee Of Sony Ericsson
Deal Dropping Almost 40%

The WTA Tour and Sony Ericsson have reached a two-year extension of their existing partnership that will see Sony Ericsson become the lead global sponsor for the tour through '12. Under the extension, Sony Ericsson will retain prime net signage at the tour's 53 tournaments, along with television and digital media rights. Sony Ericsson becomes the tour's lead global sponsor instead of continuing its title sponsorship, resulting in a reversion of the tour's name to WTA Tour starting later this year (WTA Tour). Sony Ericsson Corporate VP and Head of Global Communications & PR Aldo Liguori said that the company's strategy has "changed since signing the initial deal in 2004," as the company then was "only three years old and needed the global brand exposure a title deal offered." SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Daniel Kaplan reports the tour is "essentially ripping up the final 10 months of its existing six-year deal with the company and creating a nearly three-year, $27[M] sponsorship contract." The old deal averaged $14.7M annually. But while the new deal's average annual fee is "dropping by almost" 40%, the development is "likely to be viewed as a great win for the WTA because most observers had written off the chances the financially ailing cellular phone company would stay on." Also, while the tour is "losing some of the assets that Sony Ericsson sponsored, it is also picking up new inventory to sell." The company is "dropping its title sponsorship of the tour's season-ending championship, so the WTA could recoup some of the loss by selling naming rights to that tournament." It also could "sell licensed merchandise around the WTA brand." Meanwhile, players whose apparel contracts "do not forbid it will still be required to wear a patch that incorporates the Sony Ericsson name in some fashion" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/8 issue). The FINANCIAL TIMES' Roger Blitz reports Sony Ericsson, which also sponsors Maria Sharapova and "will be involved in Sony's sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup," has "no plans for other sponsorship" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 3/8).

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