SBD/Issue 168/Franchises

WNBA Storm Seek Attendance Boost With Ad Campaign, Bing Deal

Storm Hope Last Month's Deal
With Bing Will Help Team Profit

The WNBA Seattle Storm hope an "expanded ad campaign and new partnership with Microsoft will help ... reverse last season's dip in attendance," according to Greg Lamm of the PUGET SOUND BUSINESS JOURNAL. The team last season saw attendance fall 5% at KeyArena. Storm CEO Karen Bryant said there is a "degree of underexposure in the market," and the franchise "added three top executives in the off-season to head up sales, marketing and communications." Storm officials hope to have a "new local broadcasting deal in place by the season opener that will put more games on TV," and they have increased ad spending by about 15% and plan a "pre-season blitz of billboard ads as well as print, TV and radio spots." Meanwhile, the Storm last month signed a multiyear deal to put Microsoft's Bing logo on game jerseys this season, and even with the sponsorship, the Storm are "not yet profitable." Terms of the deal were not announced, but Bryant said that she views the partnership "as a seven-figure deal based on revenue, exposure and co-branding opportunities with Microsoft." The Storm face a "down economy and a local market with a half-dozen professional and college sports teams competing for fans and corporate sponsorship dollars," and Bryant said that those factors make the Bing deal "so important" for the Storm. The franchise "wants to build fans through social networking tools," and Bryant said that "that's where the Bing deal can help." Microsoft is "working with the Storm to develop a digital strategy that incorporates popular sites such as Facebook and Twitter" (PUGET SOUND BUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/7 issue).

FACE OF THE FRANCHISE: WNBA Minnesota Lynx officials said that season-ticket sales "already are up" 30% over last year, and the presence of G Lindsay Whalen, who played at the Univ. of Minnesota, "has locked up both new and returning corporate sponsors." In Minneapolis, Rachel Blount noted the Lynx acquired Whalen in a January trade with the Connecticut Sun, and her presence has "helped secure sponsorship renewals from Verizon, Target, Best Buy and U.S. Bank." Lynx COO Conrad Smith: "With the buzz she's created, even in the offseason, there's an excitement I haven't seen before in my time here. ... She understands how things work from a marketing and PR standpoint." Smith anticipates that the Lynx "could surpass last year's sales figures for group tickets, which was second-best in the WNBA," and he is "eager to see Whalen's impact on single-game and walk-up sales." The team already is "selling Whalen T-shirts and jerseys, as well as a ticket package" called the "Lindsay's Back! Pack." Whalen-centered promotions include a "bobblehead giveaway in August and a celebration of the Gophers' 2004 season, and she is doing in-arena promotions for the Girl Scouts and Explore Minnesota" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 5/12).

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