S.O.S.: Support Our Storm (Save Our Shirts!)


Local sports fans may have noticed that this season Seattle Storm jerseys say "Bing" on the front instead of "Storm." No, it's not an homage to Tacoma native Bing Crosby. Last month, the Storm announced that the Microsoft Bing logo will replace "Storm" and "Seattle" on home and away jerseys as part of a new multiyear sponsorship deal between the professional women's basketball team and the corporate giant.
I understand that a locally-owned sports team like the Storm needs these corporate sponsorships to survive, but do they really need to sacrifice the team name on the uniform? In a Seattle Times article, Danielle Tiedt, general manager of Bing marketing at Microsoft, said, "We're constantly...looking at ways outside of traditional advertising to connect with people to bring the Bing brand to life for people in new and interesting ways."
I would love to respond to this corporate-speak, but I'm not sure how to spell a Bronx cheer in print.

Uniform troubles
Unfortunately, replacing team names with corporate logos seems to be the future of professional sports uniforms. The Storm is the third WNBA team to do it, and WNBA president Donna Orender was quoted in the Seattle Times that the other nine teams in the league are looking for similar deals.
This practice is the norm in professional soccer leagues around the world. Microsoft also sponsors the Sounders, Seattle's Major League Soccer men's team, whose players wear Xbox logos, another Microsoft brand, on the front of their jerseys.
Replacing team names or using other types of advertisements directly on uniforms hasn't happened in the big four professional men's sports of baseball, football, basketball and hockey yet, but that possibility may come soon for struggling leagues and teams. Many minor-league teams in those sports have ads on their uniforms now, and the logos of uniform manufacturers have been growing in size and prominence on the uniforms for years.
You may have noticed that the Reebok logo is almost as large as the Seahawks logo on the sleeves of their jerseys. Like bad grass stains, once corporate logos and advertisements start appearing on professional sports uniforms they'll never come off.

Pick-and-role models
Karen Bryant, chief executive officer of the Storm, predicted in the Seattle Times that fans would be happy with the new jerseys. "For our fans it's about the ability to keep watching Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird and Swin Cash perform at their highest level," she said. She may be right; Storm fans may not care what the uniform says as long the team keeps playing in Seattle. Sounders fans don't seem to mind purchasing and wearing Xbox jerseys all over town.
Maybe, like a lot of people these days, I'm just in an anti-corporate mood right now. I wish the Storm could succeed in Seattle without having to resort to marketing tactics like this. I know that without this Microsoft partnership the Storm could dissipate right before our eyes. Ultimately, professional sports teams are a business - just ask former Sonics fans.
But I guess part of me still wants to remain an idealist. I can't help it; I work for a newspaper company after all. I think there is a traditional bond between a professional sports team and its city, and because of that, they shouldn't have removed "Storm" and "Seattle" from the jerseys. I'm sure they could have found room for a Bing patch somewhere else on the uniform and the cameras still would have found it.
The Storm market their games as a family-friendly environment, and there's no doubt they have successfully achieved that. The Storm players are positive role models for young girls who can identify with professional athletes who have ponytails just like they do. The players are also positive role models for boys, too, who may view women in a different way after watching them play a professional sport.
And I do think it's important for those girls and boys to see the words "Storm" and "Seattle" on the players' jerseys, so that they make the connection that the team and the players represent our city and our community, and, in turn, us - not some private corporation.
I just wish the WNBA, the Storm, and Microsoft didn't have to see the Storm players and their uniforms as one more "new and interesting" advertising opportunity.[[In-content Ad]]