SBJ/October 24-30, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

USA Basketball signs MetroPCS as sponsor

MetroPCS has signed on as the latest sponsor of USA Basketball, with a deal running through the 2012 London Olympics.

The sponsorship gives the cellular service brand some Olympic equity and its first national sports platform, fitting well with MetroPCS’s recent marketing, which touts its coverage across the country. MetroPCS is the fifth largest cellular service brand in the U.S. based on its more than 9 million subscribers.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Dallas-based company becomes the official wireless partner of USA Basketball. AT&T was the last brand with USA Basketball wireless rights. Those rights expired after the 2008 Olympics.

MetroPCS will activate in 14 markets next year with a USA Basketball legends tour, along with in-store promotions and courtside signage. The tour will begin in Tampa and proceed then to Dallas.

“The two specific purposes are to elevate our brand and connect it with a nationalistic platform,” said Tom Keys, president of MetroPCS, which has been an active sponsor of late. MetroPCS is a founding partner of the New Jersey Nets’ Barclays Center, which is set to open in Brooklyn next year, and it has a team deal with the Orlando Magic.

The NBA handles marketing and sales for USA Basketball, which is chaired by Jerry Colangelo. Richards Sports & Entertainment brokered the deal and is handling activation for MetroPCS.

The NBA recently replaced T-Mobile with Sprint in the wireless category (SportsBusiness Journal, Sept. 5-11 issue). Sources said MetroPCS was also negotiating for NBA wireless rights and did not leave those negotiations with positive feelings for the league after Sprint emerged with the deal. So MetroPCS securing USA Basketball rights is curious, as is Sprint not including them in its extensive NBA/WNBA package.

Still, sources said initial discussions about the USA Basketball package with MetroPCS started at the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles in February, well before negotiations for the league packages heated up in June.

“These are separate deals, bifurcated down different hallways,” Keys said.

Other USA Basketball partners are Cisco; Nike; Gatorade; State Farm Insurance; Tiffany & Co.; JA Apparel Corp., owner of the Joseph Abboud brand; the Milk Processor Education Program, better known for its national “Got Milk?” campaign; and Las Vegas Events.

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