Monday, June 1, 2009

Corporate Sponsorship Reaches New Heights With Mercury

Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter show off their new duds.

Well, it has definitely happened. LifeLock, the intentity protection company based out of Tempe, Arizona, has just finalized a deal that is "worth at least $1 annually" with the Phoenix Mercury.

What did LifeLock get for its cash? The right to have its company logo displayed prominently on the Mercury jersey. As a matter of fact, the logo obscures the name completely, replacing the name "Phoenix" and/or "Mercury" on the front. The Mercury name has been transformed to a small insignia with a stylized "M". My understanding is that the name "Mercury" will not appear on the least not for the next three years.

What was the reaction? WNBA fans were enthralled. As for WNBA haters, they filled the blogs out there with long, long posts about how much they hated the WNBA for doing this, and how much they were steadfastly refusing to pay any attention whatsoever to the WNBA. Sometimes they hit 1000 plus words on the subject. (Cue Gertrude, Hamlet, Act III Scene II.)

Why were WNBA fans enthralled? Simple. With the deal, the Phoenix Mercury can pay its salaries for the next three years. With niche sports threatened with the economic downturn, the survival of the Mercury is made that much more a certainty. As one blog implied, if this deal had been in place in Houston we might still be talking about the Comets chances in the Western Conference.

LifeLock thinks it will be a good deal: supposedly, women are 26 percent more likely to be identity theft victims than men, and LifeLock obviously see this move as advertising to a core demographic. (With LifeLock, I'd get the money up front, though. I'm just saying.)

I expect other WNBA teams to rapidly follow suit. Suppose you're a WNBA owner and someone wants to pay you $3 million dollars to you to wear the name of their company on their jersey. And you're going to turn it down? Are you crazy? Hell yes. Hey, if Phoenix can pull $3 million the Liberty or Sparks ought to be asking at least $5 million for the naming rights.

Furthermore, suppose you're a corporation that wants to look like they respect women and women's sports without too much effort. Hey, throw some club $3 million dollars and get your name in the paper as a Friend of All Women Everywhere. (TM)

This, however, raises the question: what are the Mercury to be called? I've always been of the opinion that someone should be called whatever they wish to be called - unless it just beggars reason (*) - but for young viewers turning to a WNBA game, they're not going to see "Phoenix" or "Mercury" anywhere on the court. All they will see is "LifeLock".

I'll still be calling the team the Mercury in the blog. However, we might see a trend to calling WNBA teams by their city names (Phoenix, Atlanta, et. al.) or by the combination names known in Europe - LifeLock Phoenix, for example. Of course, English football clubs are given nicknames despite the fact that none of them have true "mascot" based names. Arsenal is still called by its fans "The Gunners" even though "Gunners" is nowhere in the club's official name. I suspect that even if there's no trace of Mercury left in the Phoenix uniform, and even if the WNBA abandons club names completely, they'll always be known as the Mercury. But in the meantime...Go LifeLock!

UPDATE: That's a fast update. Guess who might be next with the sponsorship thing? The Liberty.

(*) - There was an episode of the Simpsons where Homer asked someone to "Call me Pope Homer" and the response was "I'm sorry...I just can't."

1 comment:

Ethan said...

Arsenal is still called by its fans "The Gunners" even though "Gunners" is no where in the club's official name.FC Dallas is dubbed "The Hoops" even though they have no official mascot name (ie "The Atlanta Falcons") because of their horizontal stripes on the jerseys. (Such jerseys are called "hoop" jerseys. FYI.)

So too with the "Gunners". Logo = cannon. Thus gunners. Chelsea Blues = blue uniforms. Officially, they're just Chelsea FC. Etc etc.

Since the Merc are using the soccer/football/futbol approach to sponsorship (prominent corporate logo, diminished "shield") they're still the Phoenix Mercury. The Chicago Fire is still the Fire despite having a huge "Best Buy" logo on their jersey fronts.

That is, unless The Merc has eradicated any and all mentions of their prior team/mascot name. I haven't looked around yet. If they do, I'll just call them "Prince".

Dig if you will, the picture...