By Craig Kwasniewski
Trying to make ends meet in tough economic times the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA is putting a sponsor on the front of their jerseys. My first reaction? Well this is the WNBA, do I care? No really, do I care???? Of course they need to make money because in this economy the NBA is no longer subsidizing the WNBA and this looks like a last ditch effort to make ends meet in the fledgling women's league. I get it.
But then I thought about it a little more... every major professional sports league has jersey sponsors except for the big three and a half (hockey of course) in the US. Times are tough and the league is facing the first salary cap reduction ever and many of the non-playoff teams saw huge drops in attendance. Television money is maxed out so a good way t make extra revenue is to sell jersey sponsorship. Major League Soccer was able to pull it off with very little backlash so why not the other sports? The timing is perfect especially with all the new exposure in places like China and Europe. The NBA sold literally millions of jerseys in China the past 3 seasons, just imagine the exposure if the jerseys are sponsored.
So really this Mercury thing looks more and more like a test run from the NBA front office. Let's see what kind of exposure and revenue this generates. Will the very few WNBA fans fork out the dough and pick up the new jerseys? Will the Phoenix Mercury be able to survive this season with the extra money? It's all a test.
The way I see it, this will be a MAJOR bargaining chip in the upcoming CBA. Will the NBA do revenue sharing or is this a team by team basis? If so, will this create financial imbalance the likes of the English Premier League? How much will this be shared with the players? Will they continue to raise the salary cap? And most importantly, how will fans react when they see traditional jerseys like the Celtics, Bulls, Knicks and Lakers with say AT&T slapped on the front instead of the team name?