Tip-Off for Sears, WNBA: Retailer Launches Sponsorship Programs

By Scott Hume

CHICAGO–Sears, Roebuck & Co. is backing its charter sponsorship of the Women’s National Basketball Association with a marketing program that mixes national and local elements.

The centerpiece is a 30-second TV spot from Ogilvy & Mather here. It was slated to break June 21 during NBC’s coverage of the league’s inaugural game and to air during subsequent game coverage on NBC and cable networks ESPN and Lifetime as well during other programming.

The commercial features seven WNBA players and applauds their efforts to gain a league of their own. The spot concludes with a voiceover message: ‘To all the players who stood their ground in a changing world and said, ‘Give me the ball,’ Sears proudly answers, ‘Catch.’ ‘

Print advertisements–in magazines and newspapers–will continue the ‘Catch the ball’ theme.

‘We’re constantly looking for unique ways to communicate with our key customer, the American female and family,’ said John Costello, Sears senior executive vice president of marketing.

‘(The WNBA sponsorship) fits well with that and is a continuation of sponsorship of women’s sports,’ he observed. ‘It also fits with our commitment to bring fun and excitement to our customers and our commitment to support positive role models for young women.’

In the eight WNBA markets–Charlotte, N.C.; Cleveland; Houston; Los Angeles; New York; Phoenix; Sacramento, Calif.; and Salt Lake City–Sears will build promotions around in-store player appearances. Other promotions include a ‘Be a Player for a Day’ sweepstakes and contests offering the chance to cover a WNBA game with a press pass.

‘Like politics, all retailing is local,’ Costello said. ‘We’re interested in properties that have national impact but local opportunities as well.’

Sears was a sponsor of the women’s basketball team that competed in last year’s Olympics and was interested in sponsoring the women’s professional league as soon as the NBA talked about creating it, Costello said. Although the popularity of the new league is unproven, he said he is confident it quickly will find its audience when the games begin.

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