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Sears jumps through hoops for WNBA

Sears is shooting to boost its share of female customers with a multiyear marketing deal supporting the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), whose first game tips off June 21....
May 1, 1997

Sears is shooting to boost its share of female customers with a multiyear marketing deal supporting the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), whose first game tips off June 21.

‘We have partnered with the WNBA as another way to connect with our female customer,’ says Sears, R’ebuck and Co. spokesperson Lee Antonio.

Sears is targeting its WNBA efforts at women and their daughters, says Antonio. ‘Teens are [also] a very important audience for us.’

This alliance follows previous efforts by Sears, such as its sponsorship of the 1996 USA Basketball Women’s National Team, to reach its female customers through sports.

The NBA’s previous relationship with Sears convinced the sports franchise that the retailer would provide strong support for the fledgling WNBA. ‘They’ve been a great supporter of women’s sports and women’s basketball in particular,’ says Hilary Cassidy, manager of marketing communications with the NBA.

Also to Sears’ advantage, says Cassidy, is its strong brand recognition.

As the only retailer on board as a marketing partner of the WNBA, Sears, along with the six other partners Champion, Spalding Sports Worldwide, Nike, Lee Jeans, General Motors and Bud Light gains rights to advertising on NBC, ESPN and Lifetime during every regular season and playoff game and in WNBA print media, national and local promotions using the WNBA logo, team names and team logos, courtside signage and player appearances for in-store events. The deal d’es not exclude the WNBA from working with other retailers to distribute its products.

For its part, Sears will promote the women’s league and sell WNBA-branded products in its 129 stores in the eight markets that will be home to WNBA teams, including Charlotte, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Ph’enix, Sacramento and Salt Lake City. To date, Sears has no specific plans to announce.

‘In each market, we’ll be doing a lot of local stuff,’ says Antonio. For example, one way to get teens involved with the WNBA at the local level could be to tie in to girls high-school basketball teams.

But the WNBA is proceeding slowly with the rollout of product. ‘We want to make sure that we do everything in a quality way and that everything is presented well,’ says Cassidy. During the first year, Champion the exclusive apparel licensee for the first three years of the league will offer mostly women’s apparel, with a limited line for youth. Spalding Sports will produce the 28.5-inch basketballs that are used by the WNBA teams for sale at retail.

Sears plans to increase its efforts in support of the WNBA as the franchise rolls out to other markets.

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