In the biggest corporate sponsorship in the team's 10-year history, the Chicago Sky have expanded a relationship with Deerfield-based specialty steel distributor Magellan that will include putting the company's logo on the upper left shoulder of game jerseys.
The Magellan logo will show in addition to an ad for Boost Mobile, whose logo will remain below the number on the front of the jersey under terms of a leaguewide jersey sponsorship deal signed in 2011.
Financial terms of the Magellan deal were not disclosed. But it is presumably worth as much or more to the Sky than its share of the Boost Mobile sponsorship, which as a multiyear, eight-figure agreement from which all 12 WNBA teams share revenue.
Only six of those teams had their own jersey sponsorship deals to supplement the Boost Mobile logo last season: Washington, Indiana, Tulsa, Minnesota, San Antonio and Phoenix.
Sky owner and commercial real estate executive Michael Alter called signing a jersey sponsor the franchise's "top priority" in marketing when the team put its brand in front of more viewers with a five-year local broadcasting agreement in 2013 with WCIU-TV/Channel 26.
The team has struggled to attract major corporate attention beyond a "Legacy Partner" program under which sponsors commit to paying $5,000 a year for five years in exchange for various marketing opportunities. But the Sky's profile has risen over the past couple of seasons thanks to the emergence of star forward Elena Delle Donne and the team's first appearance in the WNBA Finals last year.
The Magellan sponsorship helps legitimize the Sky as a worthy platform for sports marketers, said Sky CEO Adam Fox.
"It's a big deal," said Fox, who confirmed that the agreement marks the largest financial commitment from a sponsor in Sky history. "This is the kind of thing that serves notice to others in town that there is value in working with us not only for the return on investment, but in being a great corporate citizen."
Under the agreement, Magellan's logo will be on the backdrop during news conferences, and there will be in-arena promotion for a handful of charitable groups Magellan supports, including La Rabida Children's Hospital, the Old Town School of Folk Music, Gilda's Club and the DuSable Museum of African American History.
The deal further establishes Magellan as one of the most prominent team sponsors in Chicago.
The company is perhaps best-known locally for its logo on the backdrop at Chicago Bulls new conferences. It also recently signed a major four-year sponsorship with the Chicago Fire soccer club, partners with the Chicago Blackhawks, has naming rights for the Magellan Scout Seats behind home plate at White Sox games and sponsors a "military moments" promotion during Cubs games at Wrigley Field.
The company, which had a small-scale sponsorship deal with the Sky last season, is a subsidiary of cargo ship management conglomerate Seatrade Transport International and operates more than 40 oceangoing vessels that ship industrial steel products used in factories and on machinery. More than half its shipping business originates in places like Vietnam, Australia, Greece and Brazil.
That means Magellan isn't seeking exposure among Chicago consumers.
But the company takes advantage of sponsorship perks, using its access and hospitality at games to entertain clients who are in town. Having prime seats and access to Sky games will provide similar benefits.
"Our ongoing partnership with the Chicago Sky has yielded an excellent return on investment and, just as importantly, has provided us with the opportunity to promote some of the Chicagoland charitable organizations we support,” Magellan President Bob Arthur said in a statement.
The Sky open the 2015 season June 5 at Allstate Arena against the Indiana Fever