To make itself a household word in Washington State, Keycorp's subsidiary there will pay $15 million to put its name on the renovated basketball arena in Seattle.

The home of the National Basketball Association's Seattle SuperSonics is to open at the end of October as Key Arena. Key Bank of Washington will pay $750,000 per year, with 4% annual increases, for 15 years. The rights include putting the Keycorp logo atop a four-sided cupola on the 135-foot- high building.

Key Bank's name will also be on arena entrances, and it will have the right to buy space on scoreboards and billboards inside.

The bank has also agreed to be a SuperSonics sponsor, spending an undisclosed amount per season for other merchandising opportunities. This deal may include the right to put automated teller machines in the 17,100- seat sports center.

Keycorp, a relative newcomer to Washington State, decided to buy into the $74 million arena renovation to enhance its image in a highly competitive banking market, said Deborah Bevier, chairman and chief executive of Key Bank of Washington.

Key is the No. 2 commercial bank in the state, behind BankAmerica Corp.'s Seafirst subsidiary and just ahead of the U.S. Bancorp affiliate. Keycorp has been in Washington only since 1987, when it acquired Seattle Trust Co.

At that point, "we had a very small market share in comparison to our competitors," Ms. Bevier said.

In 1992, Key Bank of Washington added branches divested by Seafirst when BankAmerica bought Security Pacific Corp. More bulking-up came a year later, when Key purchased Puget Sound Bank of Tacoma.

"With the recent acquisitions, we did, in fact, become a statewide franchise," Ms. Bevier said. "The (arena) naming helps us to put ourselves out in the marketplace. We have a very competitive banking environment in the state of Washington."

Having its logo perched atop a professional sports arena should also help Keycorp nationally, in part through television exposure.

Bill Murschel, a spokesman at the parent company's headquarters in Cleveland, pointed out that Keycorp has a banking presence in 15 states with NBA teams. "This is a strategic opportunity," he said.

Although putting its name on the Seattle arena is a creative marketing step for Keycorp, it is not a first for a bank. Shawmut National Corp., soon to be acquired by Fleet Financial Group, has paid $30 million for 15- year naming rights on the new home of the NBA's Boston Celtics.

That arena will likely be named Fleet Forum, Fleet said.

Similarly, the basketball-hockey arena in Inglewood, Calif., is called Great Western Forum, after Great Western Bank, the nation's second-largest thrift.

This is also a popular route for airline companies: America West, Delta, United, and USAir are all associated with major basketball arenas.

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