* Sony Ericsson loses Tour naming rights
* Tour sees it as opportunity for growth
(adds details, byline, quotes)
By Miles Evans
LONDON, March 8 The WTA said a new, reduced
sponsorship agreement with Sony Ericsson in which the mobile
handset maker loses its naming rights to the women's tennis Tour
would give the governing body greater flexibility to grow.
The Women's Tennis Association and Sony Ericsson gave no
financial details of the contract announced on Monday which
extends their agreement to the end of 2012.
Their initial six-year, $88 million contract expires at the
end of the year. Media reports put the new deal at around $27
million for the completion of this year and the next two years.
"The net profit is not too far off the average of the
existing agreement," Stacey Allaster, CEO of the WTA Tour, told
Reuters on Monday.
"In this new, restructured three-year agreement we will
transition at some point this year where we will separate our
two brands and we will become the WTA Tour. They will remain our
number one global partner."
Sony Ericsson forgoes naming rights to the Tour and also to
the end-of-season championships to be held in Doha in October
and in subsequent years when the event is staged in Istanbul.
"To have that leverage, for us to have our own brand back
will give us new opportunities to attract revenues. By getting
some rights back we can grow further," Allaster said, adding
they would seek a new title sponsor for the season ender.
Allaster said the agreement put the women's tour into line
with the men's ATP Tour in which Barclays sponsor the
end-of-year tournament and Mexican brewer Corona is the Tour's
main global sponsor.
Aldo Liguori, Sony Ericsson's head of global communications,
dismissed claims the fallout from Serena Williams's foul-mouthed
outburst at the U.S. Open last year had played any part in the
delay in coming to a fresh agreement with the WTA.
"Not at all," he told Reuters.
"Even though initially we had to get back to the WTA by the
end of last year with a new CEO, he needed time to understand
the business and then to really engage with various activities
including where we take the tennis sponsorship forward."
Liguori said Sony Ericsson would continue with its
sponsorship of the co-hosted WTA/ATP Miami Open, but had decided
against continued backing of the Doha season ender as it did not
fit in with overall strategy.
"From a market point of view Miami is an important hub for
us, one foot in the North American market, one in the Latin
American market so from our business point of view where we want
to strengthen our presence, it's spot on."
(Editing by Alison Wildey; To query or comment on this story