SBJ/August 22-28, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

WNBA lands Boost Mobile as top sponsor

Deal will put logo on jerseys of 10 teams

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

In one of the more lucrative, and certainly the most comprehensive, sponsorships in its history, the WNBA has signed Boost Mobile as its sole “marquee” partner in a deal that will put the company’s logo on most WNBA team jerseys.

The deal puts Boost Mobile jersey patches on 10 of the WNBA’s 12 teams, excluding the Phoenix Mercury and the San Antonio Silver Stars, franchises that already have wireless sponsorship deals in place. The Mercury has a team deal with Verizon; the Silver Stars have a sponsorship with AT&T.

WNBA
Teams will debut the new jerseys this week.
The marquee level is a new top marketing tier for the league, and this deal includes much more than the jersey inventory. Boost Mobile becomes the title sponsor of the WNBA All-Star Game as well as the presenting sponsor for this year’s WNBA playoffs and Finals.

League officials would not disclose financial terms, but sources confirmed it is a multiyear, eight-figure deal.

Irvine, Calif.-based Boost Mobile, a prepaid wireless service provider owned by Sprint, also gets floor, pole pad and courtside signage in WNBA arenas, and it becomes the presenting sponsor of the WNBA Tip-off season-opening platform and a partner of the WNBA draft. A media buy on WNBA national television broadcasts begins this season. Boost Mobile also will be the presenting sponsor of the WNBA’s Top 15 Moments program, which includes a special to be aired on NBA TV on Friday and an online fan vote for the reminder of this season, its 15th.

The deal’s size and its scope make it one of the most significant sponsorships in WNBA history. Among previous deals, Discover Financial Services had its corporate logo on WNBA courts during nationally televised broadcasts and issued a league affinity card. Discover ended its WNBA deal in 2009.

“[The Boost Mobile deal] is transformative in its size, scope and breadth,” said Laurel Richie, president of the WNBA. “Our focus is making the partnership as robust as we possibly can, and while I know there will be a lot of attention to the jersey component, we will be doing a ton of other activation programs.”

Five WNBA teams already have jersey sponsorship deals: Phoenix with LifeLock; New York with Foxwoods Casino; Los Angeles with Farmers Insurance; Washington with Inova Health System; and Seattle with Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

The league’s deal with Boost Mobile means those teams, with the exception of Phoenix, will share jersey advertising space with their respective partners. Other WNBA teams will still be able to sign their own local marquee deals, which include jersey sponsorships. “The Boost Mobile deal is good for the league and good for the teams,” said Greg Bibb, chief operating officer of the Washington Mystics, the most recent team to sign a local jersey sponsorship. “It will raise awareness of the league, and of the Mystics, which ultimately raises awareness of our local jersey partner.”

The Boost Mobile jersey patches will be located below the numbers on the front of the team jerseys. WNBA teams will debut the new jerseys this week.

The Boost Mobile deal comes during Richie’s first season as WNBA president. She joined the WNBA in May, but league-level marquee talks already had begun under the league’s sponsorship department led by Mark Tatum, executive vice president of global marketing partnerships for the NBA.

“The WNBA had been thinking about this for quite a while,” Richie said. “The process was well under way before I got here.”

The addition of Boost Mobile gives the league 15 corporate marketing partners.

For Boost Mobile, which along with Virgin Mobile is one of two prepaid brands owned by Sprint, the WNBA deal represents a way to get its brand broad exposure at a good value. Boost Mobile has sponsorship deals with the UFC and is a sponsor of the Travis Pastrana-Michael Waltrip NASCAR Nationwide Series car. The company last season also was New York Knicks sponsor.

“When we looked at the all the assets of the deal, from the jersey visibility to the court visibility to the overall stature of the Boost Mobile brand, it is a great alignment,” said Steve Gaffney, Sprint vice president of corporate marketing. “This is a cost-effective way to align with a premier women’s sports brand.”

Octagon is the agency of record for Boost Mobile.
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