Bargnani hooks up with Ashley Madison

With his hands tied thanks to the prolonged NBA lockout, Toronto Raptors centre Andrea Bargnani might be taking his talents to Italy with help from an infidelity dating website.

Professional sports have changed dramatically over the years as society has become more and more habituated with companies grabbing at athletes in order to make a dollar off them.

However, it isn’t often, at least not in North America, that we see infidelity promoting websites flexing their corporate muscles in order to sponsor athletes.

For ashleymadison.com, which recently celebrated its launch in Italy, and founder Noel Biderman, trying to bring the Italian native back was just the opportunity they were looking for.

“It is true, I met with Virtus Roma and we are talking about a major sponsorship that would return Andrea Bargnani to Italy,” Biderman told SportingNews. “This is very important as we are talking about an investment of around one million and a half euros.”

Nothing is set in stone, but with no real sponsors to help them financially, approval from the team’s ownership may come sooner than later.

If Biderman is serious about this endeavor, which he certainly appears to be, the team’s sponsor will have to cover the cost of ensuring Bargnani’s NBA contract that has four years and somewhere in the neighborhood of $41 million (U.S.) left on it.

“This was a chance for some cross-promotion,” Biderman told the Toronto Star. “I’m going to try my best to help him…we’re 90 per cent of the way there.”

Continuing with the theme of having a corporate team name in European basketball, the Toronto-born businessman is close to a deal that would change the name of the club to Ashley Madison Roma and wants Bargnani to be a part of it.

“To get naming rights for a major city franchise, plus the guaranteed TV spots on their own would make marketing sense,” Biderman told the Star. “Add a homegrown NBA talent in to the mix and I think this could be the best idea since starting a dating website for married people.”

This isn’t the first time a dating website, including ashleymadison.com, has been pitched as a marketing scheme in sports, and it probably wont be the last.

The dating site for the married looking for more made an attempt to acquire naming rights to what ended up as MetLife Stadium, the home of the New York Jets and Giants, but was rejected.

If the deal that would send the Raptors’ current No. 1 centre to Italy is in fact successful, the 25-year old won’t have far to travel as he’s been in Italy during the off-season playing for his national team, where they were unable to qualify for London 2012.

Bargnani is just the latest on the list of many NBA players who have sought out teams overseas as this year’s season appears to be increasingly in doubt, including superstar Kobe Bryant who has also been rumored to have shown interest in playing, at least until the lockout is over, in Italy.