Mobile phone manufacturer Sony Ericsson has coughed up US$88m to become the worldwide sponsor of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour.
The six-year deal is the largest global sponsorship in the history of women’s sport.
Under the deal, Sony Ericsson will sponsor the end-of-season WTA Tour Championships held each November and featuring the world’s top eight singles players and top doubles teams. The phone maker’s branding will appear on nets and other on-court equipment. It is understood the company will also supply some technology, including handsets that will allow match umpires to post match scores live to the internet.
As men’s tennis has become labelled as ‘boring’ and dominated by power players – with rare exceptions such as current Wimbledon champion Roger Federer – the women’s game has been growing in popularity and is being seen as particularly attractive to advertisers and media owners. WTA Tour stars include such household names as Venus and Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Amélie Mauresmo, Anastasia Myskina and Jennifer Capriati.
“Women’s tennis is on the cutting edge between sport and entertainment, sport and fashion, sport and design, and this deal will allow us to promote that,” WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott commented. “They want to look at tennis as a platform to showcase how technology can bring fans closer to sports as entertainment.”
Miles Flint, president of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, a 50:50 joint venture between Sony and Ericsson, said the mobile phone firm would be looking at “opportunities that can integrate technology, design, music, sport and fashion into a compelling entertainment proposition for consumers”.
Sony Ericsson joins a long list of technology firms that have engaged in major sport sponsorships. Formula 1 motor racing in particular has a long tradition of partnering with big names in IT including Computer Associates, Hewlett-Packard, SAP and Siemens.
By Brian Skelly