New women's basketball league signs four multi-year sponsors
Dec. 19, 1996
NEW YORK (AP) _ The WNBA, one of two new women's professional basketball leagues, has signed its first four sponsors _ Lee Jeans, Bud Light beer, Champion sportswear and Spalding basketballs.
The sponsors each get national and local advertising time on WNBA game telecasts, courtside ad space in each of the league's eight arenas and rights to use the team and league logos in their own promotions as part of the deal.
The WNBA is owned by the NBA and begins its inaugural 10-week season on June 21.
The other women's pro basketball league, the American Basketball League, opened play in October with eight teams. Its season ends in March.
Both leagues are hoping that rising interest in organized sports for women, as reflected by the popularity of the U.S. women's team that won an Olympic gold medal in basketball in Atlanta, will help them succeed.
WNBA officials declined to say how much it cost to become a one of the league's marketing partners, but industry sources put the price at about $10 million for three years.
The league is discussing signing an additional four to eight deals with other sponsors in categories that could include soft drinks, automobiles, credit cards, cereal, hair-care products and cosmetics.
In most cases, the deals give the sponsors the right to be the only sponsor in their product category associated with the league. Lee Jeans, for example, will be the league's only casual apparel sponsor while Bud Light will be the only beer.
The lone exception to the exclusivity policy is expected to be in the sneaker category, where the league expects to have as many as three shoe sponsors.
Champion will provide uniforms for the players while Spalding will supply the basketballs. They will each be the official licensee for selling such merchandise to the public.
Gary Stevenson, president of NBA Properties Marketing & Media Group, said each of the sponsors will conduct promotions and events that will draw attention to the league and its teams.
The broadcast TV network NBC and the cable networks ESPN and Lifetime will telecast a total of 34 games the first season.
The American Basketball League has TV deals with the Sports Channel regional networks and Black Entertainment Television BET cable network.
The ABL's national sponsors include Reebok, Lady Foot Locker, Nissan, First USA Bank, Phoenix Home Life Mutual Insurance and basketball maker Baden Sports.