NEW YORK -- Call it the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.
The cell phone maker is paying $88 million to be the global title sponsor for the women's pro tennis circuit over the next six years in a deal
It's a sign of resurgence for the tour, which had been without a global sponsor for the 2003 and 2004 seasons, relying instead on regional deals.
"It's something that was well-deserved and maybe a little bit of time in coming,'' No. 1-ranked Lindsay Davenport said in a telephone interview from
"We've had a lot of sponsors come in and out the last couple of years. It's nice seeing a huge global company come in behind us. To have a company as
large as they are really put in their money and stand behind us is really a huge boost of confidence.''
What won't get a huge boost, right away anyway, is tournament prize money. There will be no changes this season.
"The money really has not been earmarked for anything in particular,'' tour spokesman Darrel Fry said. "The key is going to be to use it in ways that
are going to continue to promote women's tennis and benefit our players, tournaments and key stakeholders.''
Sony Ericsson -- a joint venture between Sweden's LM Ericsson and Japan's Sony Corp. -- will get to put its logos on the nets at tour events starting
Monday at the Sydney International. Its name will appear on the net posts and net judge chair.
The deal will also bring the company's technology to the sport, including handsets that chair umpires will use, allowing scores to go live to the
"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,'' tour CEO Larry Scott said.
Under the new deal, the season-ending event will be called The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Championships, and the sponsor presumably would have a say in
where it's played in future years. The tournament has been in Los Angeles since 2002.
In an interview with the AP in May, Scott cited three recent regional sponsorship deals worth a combined $15 million over five years, and said, "We
haven't been more successful from a marketing perspective than we have in the past three months.''
Those deals will stay in place along with what the tour is calling the largest global sponsorship in the history of women's sports.
"These are not just great athletes. These people are fantastic cultural icons. They have tremendous crossover appeal,'' said Dee Dutta, Sony
Ericsson's head of worldwide marketing.