Dec 24, 2009 at 01:18 PM
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WTA Celebrates Sponsors; Looks to '10

In its Top 10 list of trends and topics from the past decade, the WTA made sure to mention the involvement of sponsors, noting:

Early sponsors of the Tour were trailblazers, risking money and reputation for a new concept, and over the years companies such as Virginia Slims, Kraft, Corel and Sanex have been vital to its evolution. But the biggest corporate commitment to date was forged in 2005, when then-CEO Larry Scott presided over a six-year, $88 million sponsorship deal with Sony Ericsson, the biggest in the history of women's sports. Significant support has also come from Whirlpool and Dubai Duty Free, as well as the many tournament-specific sponsors that keep the Tour on the road. (Indeed, during Scott's tenure overall sponsorship revenues leapt 500 percent.) In 2009, the players battled for a total prize pool 34 percent larger than the previous year - not bad considering the global economic environment - and Serena set a new single-season prize-money record of $6,545,586. None of this would be possible without sponsors.

A wise move, what with, Sony Ericsson's $88 million commitment expiring in 2010. While renegotiations of the relationship have begun, some are doubtful that Sony Ericsson will be able to re-up given the economic climate and the state of its business.

New CEO Stacey Allaster remains hopeful telling last month:

We are currently in discussions with Sony Ericsson. Our sponsorship has provided excellent return on investment for Sony Ericsson and we remain cautiously optimistic of a renewal and expect a decision in the near future. If Sony Ericsson were to not continue as a global sponsor of the Tour after 2010, given the strength and quality of the women's tennis product, I am confident that we would find a replacement. That said, I am of course hopeful that Sony Ericsson will want to continue and working with Sony Ericsson remains our priority.

As for Sony Ericsson's decision, the mobile handset-maker remains mum on the status of its possible renewal.

"We haven't taken a view on whether we'll continue or not but it is something we need to be looking at in the coming months," Calum MacDougall, the company's director of global marketing partnerships, recently told Reuters.

"It would be pre-emptive of me to say anything. There's a lot of analysis we need to do and understand the value we've got so far from the potential value we can have moving forward."