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Friday
Jul242009

WNBA Stars, Marketing Partners Ready To Shine At All-Star Game

July 24, 2009: There was no WNBA All-Star Game in 2008 due to the Olympics, where the USA went 8-0 and won the gold on a team that included Lisa Leslie, Fowles, Sue Bird, Cappie Pondexter and Diana Taurasi. But the league is ready to show off its stars this weekend in Connecticut when the 2009 game hits Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The game will air live July 25 on ABC, and the overall two-day event has the league excited.

"Our marketing partners have really shown their support for the league," said WNBA president Donna Orender. "Everyone is facing challenges right now, but our attendance is up, our receipts are up and sales of merchandise are up. So, given all the factors, I'd say the WNBA is in a good place [economically]."

Like all organizations in sports, the WNBA has had to make significant concessions to keep ahead of the current economic challenges. Rosters were reduced from 13 to 11, teams had to eliminate an assistant coaching spot and front offices were held to tighter budgets. Off the court, Taurasi had been suspended for two games by her team the Phoenix Mercury this month after being arrested for suspicion of DUI, but will be in the iine-up and make a return to the state where she became a collegiate legend at UConn.

Given the current economic climate, the WNBA may be faring better than most of its brethren. Earlier this year, the Mercury and Los Angeles Sparks broke ground (except in Major League Soccer and Nascar) by selling jersey-front sponsorships, to Lifelock and Farmers Insurance, respectively. Orender said more such deals will follow, but not until next season. As players will be wearing special All-Star jerseys, these sponsorship deals will not be part of the game itself.

In addition, despite the loss of the storied Houston Comets franchise, which had won four league championships, other cities are anxious to join. This past week, Orender was in Tulsa meeting with investors and city officials regarding possible expansion. "If the deal elements we all discussed are met we'd be ready to make that move," said Orender. "The enthusiasm is there, fan interest is there, suites are already selling and there is genuine excitement about the WNBA."

Beginning today (July 24), however, the center of the WNBA universe is Uncasville, Conn. Among the league partners activating behind the game are:

adidas, which is presenting a "Tweet-Up" viewing party at the NBA Store in New York and also sponsored the "iDesign Program," where a WNBA fan designed a T-shirt that will be worn by players.

• Toyota, which is presenting the pregame All-Star SKills Competition and Three-Point Shootout.

• Southwest Airlines, which ran a contest with a grand prize of four tickets to the All-Star Game and two nights at the hotel.

Gatorade, which will be presenting a WNBA All-Star highlights package that will run during the fourth quarter and will be branded as the “G Moments of the Game.”

Nike, which will be giving one row at the game a merchandise package .

• HP, which will have product integration courtside during the game.

• 1-800- Flowers, which will be providing product for hospitality events.

• T-Mobile, which was presenting partner of the all-star ballot and along with Kia is presenting partner of the NBA Nation tour. The NBA Jam Van presented by Doublemint is expected to be onsite with videogames and other activities.

Other WNBA marketing partners are expected to have a presence over the next two days, including General Mills, EA Sports, IHOP, PItney Bowes, Russell, Peak, Pitney Bowes, Sanofi Pasteur, Starwood and Spalding.

Players Voted To The Starting Line-Ups
EAST: Tamika Catchings (F) Indiana, Candice Dupree (F) Chicago, Sylvia Fowles (C) Chicago, Alana Beard (G) Washington, Katie Douglas (Indiana). Head Coach Lin Dunn (Indiana)

WEST: Swin Cash (F) Seattle, Lauren Jackson (F) Seattle), *Lisa Leslie (C) Los Angeles, Sue Bird (G) Seattle, Becky Hammon (G). San Antonio Head Coach Dan Hughes (San Antonio). *Leslie has an injury and is being replaced by Nicole Powell (Sacramento).

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