NEW YORK -- Following the lead of international sports, the Phoenix Mercury have become the first WNBA team to put a sponsor's name on their jerseys.
Under the three-year deal with LifeLock announced Monday, the identity theft protection company's name will replace the "Phoenix" and "Mercury" across the road and home uniforms, respectively. The team's logo will appear above the "LifeLock" on the left side.
The Mercury are the first team to finalize an agreement under the league's new initiative aimed at increasing revenue and marketing opportunities. WNBA president Donna Orender expects more teams to reach similar deals.
"There are very positive discussions going on in the marketplace right now and I would estimate there could be another one this season," she said.
NBA commissioner David Stern believes such agreements are important to the continued growth and success of the WNBA.
"This groundbreaking deal represents the next step in the financial health of the WNBA," he said, "and it serves most importantly as a blueprint because I'm sure there will be more, for other teams to assure their financial health."
Mercury star Diana Taurasi stressed the confidence the deal showed in the future viability of the WNBA.
"I think it's very important," Taurasi told The Associated Press. "Things are down, people are struggling. You don't have many companies venturing out and doing different things. For LifeLock to step up and recognize the WNBA is something they can invest in and be very positive and productive in women's sports is huge."
In addition to its name on the jerseys, LifeLock's logo will also be displayed on the Mercury's home court and on the team's Web site, and the company will be featured in e-marketing campaigns and on social networking sites.
Also, WNBA season-ticket holders will be eligible for a free one-year LifeLock membership valued at $110.
"I don't think that's ever been done before by a marketing partner, and we really are excited to be the first ones," Mercury president and chief operating officer Jay Parry said.
Existing jerseys with the Mercury's team name on the front will continue to be sold, but once they run out, only ones bearing the LifeLock name on the front will be available.
Phoenix coach Corey Gaines played in Europe for 12 years, so he is used to having corporate names on jerseys.
"Let's take, for instance, the stadiums of baseball, football and basketball," Gaines said in Phoenix after the Mercury practiced. "They changed the names, and I remember everybody was all mad about it. 'We want our old stadium names back.' They forgot about that faster than you could sneeze."
LifeLock CEO Todd Davis said the Tempe, Ariz., based company was looking forward to the unique opportunity.
"It really gives us an opportunity for people to hear our message," said Davis, who is seen in television commercials and on advertising signs boldly displaying his social security number. "And when you understand what we're all about, our mission is to go protect all things personal. This gives us an opportunity to showcase that mission ... And we're doing it not only with the WNBA's fans, with a team, but their most personal and valued assets -- the players themselves.
"We are very proud and honored to be a part of both the WNBA family and our hometown Phoenix Mercury," Davis added. "We expect this to be an extremely successful partnership and a long-term partnership together."
Ladies and gentlemen, the WNBA.
I know this is very common outside of the United States, but I wouldn't like to see this trend continue to spread. Although in this economy, who knows what can happen.