Mayo Clinic is going beyond the role of sports trainer on the bench and is stepping onto center court with its latest business play.
The Mayo Clinic name is now prominently emblazoned across the front of the jerseys of the Minnesota Lynx professional women's basketball team, part of a huge sponsorship deal announced Monday.
Mayo's name will appear above the player's number in the spot where the team name used to be located. Boost Mobile, which sponsors the entire league, has its logo below the number, as it did in previous years. The Lynx logo now appears as a small patch near the collar of the jersey.
No financial terms of the multiyear deal were released.
The Womens National Basketball Association began allowing "branded" or "marquee" jerseys in 2009. The Lynx are the sixth team to lock down such a sponsorship. In 2010, Microsoft’s Bing search engine paid more than $1 million to place its name on the WNBA jerseys of the Seattle Storm. People familiar with WNBA sponsorships estimated the Mayo Clinic deal is at least "seven figures."
The sponsorship is part of "a strategic collaboration" with the Lynx and the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves that includes the development of a new training facility and sports medicine center to be called Mayo Clinic Square.
"This is another block in the relationship we're building," said Dr. John Wald, Mayo Clinic's medical director for marketing and public affairs. "From our perspective, this is one of the key components in this relationship that allows us to move out into the Twin Cities, raise awareness and build more relationships."
The agreement also includes Mayo Clinic's name on the Lynx practice jerseys and signage at the basketball court. In 2015, Mayo Clinic will become the medical provider for the Lynx. TRIA Orthopaedic Center will continue to serve as the team's official medical team until then. TRIA also provides care for the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Wild and the Minnesota Twins.
Wald emphasized that the sponsorship displays Mayo Clinic's expertise in sports medicine and training, and the Lynx organization is a good fit with Mayo Clinic's values.
"We believe it was the right thing to do to put Mayo Clinic's name on those jerseys," Wald said.
Mayo Clinic is certainly not the first non-profit medical center to have such an arrangement with a professional sports team. However, none of the top four professional leagues — NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB — allow sponsors' names on game jerseys.
IEG, a leading sponsorship consulting firm, reported in 2013 that of all sponsorship deals made by hospitals, about 72 percent involved sports. About 12 percent were for arts/entertainment, and 8 percent were for "causes."
The Mayo Clinic-Lynx collaboration comes as the WNBA league hit its best game attendance and television ratings in team history at the end of the 2013 season.
The 2014 season begins in May and runs through August. The Lynx are scheduled to play six games to be televised by ESPN2.