by Shane O'Neill

In Pictures: Pro Sports Teeming with Tech Partnerships

Apr 27, 2010
Data Center

From football stadiums to tennis tournaments to promoting the Bing logo on basketball jerseys and the SAP logo on golfer Ernie Els' hat, tech companies are willing to spend big bucks to be part of professional sports. Here's a look at some of these unconventional teams.

Oracle Arena – Oakland

Recent rumors have Oracle honcho Larry Ellison, a basketball nut, considering buying the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. But for now Oracle just owns the naming rights to the Warriors’ home court.

Previously known as the Oakland Coliseum Arena, the venue took on the Oracle moniker in Oct. 2006 when the Warriors and Oracle signed a 10-year agreement that changed the name to Oracle Arena (financials of the deal were not disclosed). It is often referred to as “The O” and it has the largest seating capacity of any California NBA arena, holding 19,596 fans. That’s not surprising: Larry doesn’t do anything in a small way.

AT&T Park – San Francisco


AT&T Park, home to baseball’s San Francisco Giants, changes its name more than some people change their minds. On opening day in 2000, the stadium was called Pacific Bell Park; then it became SBC Park in 2003 when SBC bought Pac Bell. The AT&T name debuted when SBC Communications merged with AT&T in 2005.

Whatever the name, this is the yard where controversial slugger Barry Bonds smashed lots and lots of balls into McCovey Cove.

Seattle Sounders sponsored by Xbox 360


The Seattle Sounders debuted in Major League Soccer in the 2009 season as an expansion team (Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is one of the owners) and have a huge following in the Seattle area. Home games at Qwest Field are frequently sold out.

Microsoft quickly saw a sponsorship opportunity with Sounders and paid an estimated $20 million to plaster the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live logos on the front of the team’s jerseys. Game on!

Qualcomm Stadium – San Diego


In 1997, Jack Murphy Stadium, home of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers, was renamed Qualcomm Stadium after mobile phone chipmaker Qualcomm paid $18 million for the naming rights. The Qualcomm money went toward a $78 million renovation project underway in ’97 that added 10,500 seats, 34 suites, four club lounges, upgraded food service and two video boards. In return for footing some of the bill, Qualcomm got the stadium named after it. The naming rights deal expires in 2017.

Paul Allen, owner of the Blazers and Seahawks


Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is certainly a man about town in the Pacific Northwest. The founder of Seattle-based private asset management company Vulcan Inc. is an investor in many other real estate, media and technology companies. And then there are the sports teams. A minority owner of pro soccer team the Seattle Sounders, Allen has owned the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers since 1988. But that’s not all…

…Allen also owns the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, acquiring the team in 1997. What, no baseball?

The HP Pavilion at San Jose


Widely known as “The Shark Tank,” the HP Pavilion at San Jose is home to the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. After being called the San Jose Arena since 1993, the naming rights were sold to Compaq and the arena became Compaq Center at San Jose. When Hewlett-Packard bought Compaq in 2002, HP chose to change the arena’s name. Clever points go to HP for naming it Pavilion and not “arena” given that the HP Pavilion is one of the company’s most popular computer model names.

Ernie Els, the SAP man


Tech companies and professional golf have gone together for years, and enterprise business software vendor SAP paid top dollar in 2002 for South African pro golfer Ernie Els to be a one-man billboard out on the fairway. Els has been wearing the SAP logo on his hat and golf shirt ever since.

Tiger Woods to Star in Upcoming Windows 7 Commercials

Seattle Storm Wear Bing


This month, the WNBA’s Seattle Storm and Microsoft signed a multi-year partnership to put the Bing search engine logo on the team’s uniform. But we’re not talking about a discreet little logo here — BING will run across the front of the Storm’s game jerseys, a space usually saved for the team name. Neither party commented on the finances of the partnership, but Storm CEO Karen Bryant said it was the richest financial partnership in the team’s 11-year history.

Seahawks Practice with Bing


The Bing logo also finds itself on the Seattle Seahawks practice jerseys. The partnership was announced just before the start of the 2009 NFL season and entails the Seahawks wearing a Bing patch on the left chest area of their practice jerseys, which will also be worn by players at community appearances. This is the first time a company’s logo has been featured on the Seahawks’ practice jerseys.

The Sony Ericsson Tennis Open


Mobile phone maker Sony Ericsson sponsors the world’s fifth largest tennis tournament, held in late March in Miami. The Sony Ericsson Open is often nicknamed “the fifth grand slam” because of its size and the fact that it’s a combined event for both men and women. For 15 years it was called the Lipton Championships, until 2000 when it was renamed the Ericsson Open. In 2002, it became known as the NASDAQ-100 Open. In 2007, Sony Ericsson agreed to pay $20 million over the next four years for the naming rights. Game, set, match to Sony Ericsson.