On the Marquee: (Insert team name here)

Posted by Alex W.C. on 10:12 AM
Before the blog post, let's dispense with today's big news! The 2011 WNBA draft was held at ESPN today, and here's how the first round went down:

1 Minnesota Lynx - Maya Moore (No surprise there)
2 Tulsa Shock - Liz Cambage (Again, what was predicted)
3 Chicago Sky - Courtney Vandersloot (Not so expected, but a good fit)
4 Minnesota Lynx - Amber Harris (Minnesota was VERY happy with this)
5 Los Angeles Sparks - Jantel Lavender (As Rebecca Lobo said, youth on an older team)
6 San Antonio Silver Stars - Danielle Robinson (Stars got guards-a-plenty)
7 Tulsa Shock - Kayla Pederson (A good fit for any team)
8 Atlanta Dream - Ta'Shia Phillips (Gives the Dream a LOT of size now)
9 Indiana Fever - Jeanette Pohlen (Versatile guard, nice addition)
10 New York Liberty - Alex Montgomery (Good shooter & scorer)
11 Washington Mystics - Victoria Dunlap (Skilled defensive player)
12 Seattle Storm - Jasmine Thomas (PG backup, nice to have)

Check out the WNBA Draft site for all the details.

Next Monday's blog post will center more on the draft & season predictions once all the reactions have made their way out over the next week. Stay Tuned!


With the Washington Mystics being the fifth team in the WNBA to sign with a Marquee sponsor, (i.e. A sponsor who's name is featured on the front of the jersey.) it seems that the trend that the Phoeinx Mercury started just two short years ago has caught on quite quickly. Some say it is only a matter of time before this becomes standard practice in the league, as it provides much needed financial stability for a team.

However, not everyone seems to be happy with these changes.

Before we start talking opinions of said deals, let's go back to where it started.

On June 1st 2009, the Phoenix Mercury made history as the first team to sign with a Marquee sponsor; the Phoenix based company, Lifelock. The words "Phoenix" and "Mercury" were promptly replaced with the Lifelock brand on the uniforms and warm up jerseys as part of the agreement. In return, the Mercury received a guaranteed source of revenue for the next three years.

Not soon after, the Los Angeles Sparks followed suit with a similar agreement with Farmers Insurance. The following season, the Seattle Storm closed a deal with Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, followed by the New York Liberty swapping their team name for Foxwoods, a nearby casino. As stated before, the Washington Mystics, just a few days prior to the WNBA draft, signed with Inova Health System.

Two years and five teams later, the WNBA is just one team shy of having half the league in a Marquee partnership. Some say this is a good sign, while others are fighting fiercely against it.

I remember when this all went down in 2009, and many fans, myself included, were not happy to see the team name to be removed from the jersey. This unhappiness could come from a number of different places, most likely the public’s fear of corporate involvement. During a Q & A for season ticket holders, many of the fans expressed their dislike to the change in a series of quite heated comments. That is when Mercury GM Ann Meyers Drysdale, took the mic and gave a speech defending the deal, and speaking very highly of the benefits from partnering with Lifelock.

But I heard something different. I heard Ann give a speech that reflected her love, passion, and unwavering commitment for this team. When she began with, “I’m someone who knows about facing change…” she was all to right. Ann, of all people, wants many good things for the Phoenix Mercury, but above all else, she wants them to have an opportunity to play.

At that point, my mind was changed. I embraced the relationship between Lifelock and the Phoenix Mercury. I knew if I wanted to see my team continue to play, they would need all the support they could get.

So, how is a marquee sponsorship significant to a team, and to the league?

Revenue. In today’s economy, the stability of any business comes down to the money it makes and spends.

Many of the teams in the league operate at a loss, which means no profit at the end of the season. To this day, the only team to ever report a profit is the Connecticut Sun, albeit a moderate one. Businesses can only operate in the red for so long, as we’ve seen evidence of with several teams in the WNBA folding for financial reasons. A marquee sponsorship gives a financial shot-in-the-arm to a team, allowing them to have a stable source of revenue for the duration of the deal.

“Bottom line, we aren't profitable (we're close), but until we are, finding sponsors and new season ticket holders is priority number one.” Says Amber Cox, Phoenix Mercury COO. “The viability of our team and this league depends on us finding new, innovative revenue streams.”

This added revenue has many benefits: It gives the players job stability, helps offset the operating costs, and with money in the bank, teams can focus on the one reason why many of us love this league; Quality Basketball. In addition, it also allows teams to support community events, such as youth camps, and other local organizations.

One group of people not complaining are the players. I would figure that if anyone had a right to have a differing opinion, it would be the ones who have to wear the jerseys to work. Basketball is their job after all. Yet, after several seasons overseas where marquee sponsorships are common, many of the WNBA players reactions have been along the lines of, It’s about time.

I think it's very important," Taurasi told The Associated Press in 2009 when Phoenix was the first to seal the deal.

There is something much more noteworthy here, not just the money it self, but who is choosing to invest in a WNBA team. Lifelock, Farmers, Bing, Foxwoods and Inova Health System all have one thing in common; they are multi-million dollar companies with hefty advertising budgets. It cannot be ignored that when these companies put their advertising dollars in the WNBA, it is a sign of a growing support for women’s basketball.

“Finding companies who believe enough in the Mercury to spend substantial dollars is not an easy task.” Says Cox

They could always take their money elsewhere; I’m just saying.

Yet, still, I see too many still take a negative view of the marquee sponsorships.

To those who do, I ask this question: What would you rather have – corporate branding on a jersey, or no jersey at all? I say no jersey at all, because without financial support, there would be no team. I know that sounds extreme, but it is also reality.

Let’s face it, you can put whatever you want on a uniform, but it does little to change the spirit, heart and skill of the athlete that wears it. Your Favorite Player in any other jersey, is still Your Favorite Player.

The teams still retain their names, and although some still believe different, (I’m looking at you Adena Andrews) they are not known by their corporate sponsors. The Storm are not called the “Bings” and the Sparks are definitely not referred to as the “Farmers”. Kip Helt belts out “Your Phoenix Mercury!” at every game I’ve been to; I’ve never heard him refer to them as the “Lifelocks”.

Although If I were to ever start a band, that would be kind of a cool name…

Not to mention the Marquee sponsors so far have had very little involvement with the team, with regards to selection of coaching staff, players, roster moves, trades, etc. So much for corporate corruption. This really makes sense though; what company would want the added responsibility? So far we have seen no evidence that, other than the branding and it’s placement, sponsors want to have any kind of input with the team - unlike a UConn donor who wanted his three million back because he wasn’t allowed to have any say in who was hired for the coaching staff.

The most important people wearing these jerseys are the players. If they’ll wear them, then I’ll wear them. To support the companies who invest millions in the WNBA, is supporting the WNBA itself. It takes a lot of work to secure deals like this, and fans of the WNBA, in my humble opinion, should be happy that teams are doing so.

Want to support other buisness that support the WNBA? Then head on over to Jamba Juice to find a location near you. Last year, Jamba Juice signed a multi year sponsorship deal with the WNBA. These are the kinds of big sponsorships that are important to the league. C'mon, in the summer, who doesn't love a smoothie?

So, the next time you are at a game, look around to see the signage of the businesses who buy advertising space. If you ever happen to find yourself at said business, mention to them that you appreciate their support of the WNBA. The more they know that their investment is making a difference, the more they'll likely be to give more support in the future. Not to mention that other businesses may take notice.

If you still are against this, this is a free country, and you are entitled to your opinion. However, you may find yourself wearing your teams jersey with the team name prominently across the front...and no game to go to.

This blog was not brought to you by any sponsor, but hey, if there is anyone out there interested...

Here are some other pics of newly redesigned jerseys with the Marquee sponsor name.


Just because the name on the front of the jersey has changed, doesn't mean the play of the players have changed. If more people would support the WNBA, then there will be no need for teams to have sponsors like they do. For the people that are against this idea, why don't they help support the league more. If this is what it takes to keep the league going I am for it. Basketball is Basketball.

I'm fine with sponsors, I just wish the team name/logo was a little more prominent. In that Parker pic you can't see the Sparks logo at all (it's under her hair).

Hi Alex,
I'm OK as well w/having sponsors, I just wish the personality & former colors were a part of the new jerseys. We've kept "Sun" & "Connecticut" on the front but the orange & sunshine design is gone!
Did ya see (I'm sure you have by now) how the Sun traded for Kalana Green from NY? Can't wait for the mojo she, Tina & Renee had on the UCONN team to formulate with the rest of the team under "T"! GO SUN!!

Great article. Couldn't agree more! It's not like teams are changing colours to match sponsors.

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