By Barry Janoff
March 15, 2016: The WNBA, fast approaching the start of its historic 20th season, has made its second major move in a month, signing a deal with Verizon to become a league-wide marquee partner.
Verizon replaces Boost Mobile, which signed with the WNBA in 2011, as the league's lead marketer.
The alliance comes about a month after Lisa Borders was appointed as its new president.
Borders, who most recently was chair for The Coca-Cola Foundation and vp-global community affairs at Coca-Cola, replaced Laurel Richie, who resigned as WNBA president this past November after five seasons in the position.
Via the Verizon deal, Borders signing and other moves, the WNBA seeks to re-energize itself coming of off a season of low attendance figures and soft TV ratings.
The Verizon deal encompasses a multi-platform activation, starting with WNBA Tip-Off 2016 presented by Verizon, which consists of 12 games over nine days — May 14-22 — including the home opener of every team; and jersey-front branding on the front of ten of the WNBA's 12 teams.
The jersey placement includes the Atlanta Dream, Chicago Sky, Dallas Wings (relocated from Tulsa), Indiana Fever, Los Angeles Sparks, Minnesota Lynx, New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury, Seattle Storm and Washington Mystics.
The other two league teams are the Connecticut Sun and San Antonio Stars, both of which have team deals with rival AT&T (the Stars also play in AT&T Center).
As part of the alliance, for which financial details were not shared, Verizon will become the presenting partner for the WNBA Playoffs and WNBA Finals, and a partner of the WNBA Draft, which is being presented by State Farm.
In addition, the company will serve as a partner of the annual WNBA Inspiring Women Luncheon — which recognizes individuals who have blazed new paths on the court, in the boardroom, and in the community — as well as one of the event’s key awards.
Throughout the season, Verizon will also bring fans “WNBA Top 20 Moments presented by Verizon," a digital program highlighting some of the most memorable moments from the league’s history.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with the WNBA, especially during a milestone like their 20th year," John Nitti, chief media officer for Verizon, said in a statement. "It’s a great way to connect our customers to the excitement these athletes bring every time they step foot onto the court.
“These women always inspire, striving to push their performance to the next level and at Verizon that’s our focus, always pushing to deliver on our promise of ‘Better’ to our customers.,'" said Nitti.
The league's average attendance in 2015 was 7,318, the lowest in its history. That average was down 3% from 2014 and down from a one-season high average of 10,864 in 2009.
The downturn included a 37% decrease in average attendance for the Stars, which had to move from its AT&T Center home venue to the smaller Freeman Coliseum due to renovations.
TV ratings on ESPN and ESPN 2 fell about 14% from 2014, averaging an estimated 202,000 viewers, according to industry analysts.
WNBA marketing partners also include adidas, American Express, BBVA Compass, Anheuser-Busch (Bud Light), Cisco, Diageo, Gatorade, Harman, Kaiser Permanente, Kia, Nike, PepsiCo, Sansung, SAP, Spalding and State Farm.
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