The Phoenix Mercury, one of the WNBA’s 13 currently-struggling franchises, have sold out to Tempe-based Lifelock in an effort to stay afloat. The identity theft protection corporation will pay the team $1M to replace the “Phoenix” and “Mercury” with the corporate logo on game jerseys. The Mercury are the first team to utilize a WNBA policy change, called the “Energizer Presents the Mattel Corporate Sponsorship Bill,” that will allow corporate sponsors a level of advertising currently unprecedented in U.S. professional sports (except golf, tennis, soccer, bowling, and auto racing).
At our friend AZCentral, one columnist suggests this is a harbinger for similar corporate access in “higher-profile” leagues. First of all, can you be a little more specific? The SoD Fantasy Football League has a higher profile than the WNBA, and we have no intention of selling out unless we are approached by Fender, Trojan, Bacardi, or Epic Failure itself. Second, and relatedly, what league follows the example of the WNBA? The WNBAD? Third, we’ve already seen the ironic horror that can occur when we let this happen, and we’re only one team in! Fourth, our high-profile leagues pride themselves on the history of their franchises and would not sully their reputations for money. HAHAHAHA!!! Get it, Sonics fans? I love that joke.
There are two places this type of sponsorship has reached a nationally-recognizable level: bowl games and soccer. The former is a disaster, reaching its peak of epic failure with the introduction of the Meineke Car Care Bowl. The latter works at an international level, but the jerseys are so indistinguishable as to render a casual soccer fan clueless as to which team he is watching. With the WNBA, we can only hope the move keeps the teams, and the league, afloat for the sake of all the fans. But we should not expect a sea-change to occur in leagues that are actually successful.