By Barry Janoff
August 21, 2014: Are you ready for some tennis? Marketers and players certainly are.
The fourth and final Grand Slam of the year, the U.S. Open, hits New York from Aug. 25-Sept. 8, with the requisite plethora of sponsors, marketing and multi-level activations.
The game itself is relatively healthy. Worldwide spending on amateur and professional tennis tournaments, leagues and sanctioning bodies is expected to hit a record $739 million in 2014, up 4.4% from 2013, according to a just-released report from sponsorship and marketing research firm IEG, Chicago.
The report has good news and bad news, however. The increase exceeds the projected 4.3% increase in overall sponsorship spending but is below the 4.9% increase in sports spending.
The really good news for the category is that worldwide tennis sponsorship spending has gone up every year since 2010, when it totaled $600 million.
The most active companies in tennis are topped by Anheuser-Busch, which sponsors 34% of all properties reporting a partner in the malt beverage category, according to IEG Research.
The Top Ten also includes Amer Sports Corp. (21%, with brands that include Salomon, Wilson, Atomic, Arc’teryx, Mavic, Suunto and Preco), Xerox (19%), FedEx 19%), Rolex (18%), Emirates Airline (175, including the Emirates U.S. Open Series), BNP Paribas (16%), LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (16%) Head (14%) and Ricoh (14%).
The Top Ten most active categories in the sport are sports apparel-equipment, alcoholic beverages, non-alcoholic beverages, banking, automotive, watches-jewelry, office equipment-supplies, airlines, insurance and hotel-resorts, per IEG.
Most of the major companies in the sport will gather at The Tennis Show 2014, being held in the Grand Hyatt in New York on Aug. 24, a day before the U.S. Open gets underway.
Held in conjunction with the Tennis Teachers Conference, The Tennis Show 2014 will be highlighted by the 7th annual Tennis Industry Assn. Tennis Forum and the Tennis Industry Hall of Fame induction.
The Tennis Show, which is managed by the TIA, will show off the newest gear, products, technology and services from more than 50 companies and organizations. (See details and the full list here.)
According to Jolyn de Boer“, executive director for TIA, "We’re excited to present The Tennis Show and thrilled with the interest we’re seeing from exhibitors and tennis providers. Tennis companies will be showcasing truly innovative products and services that will help to continue moving this sport and industry forward.”
The U.S. Open itself is loaded with marketing partners and sponsors, all of whom will be activating on-site in the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, on-air and throughout the New York area now through the Men's Finals the evening of Sept. 8.
Among them: American Express, Chase, Citizen, Emirates Air, Esurance (including new creative with the Bryan Brothers, pictured), Evian, Grey Goose, Heineken, LG, Moet & Chandon, IBM, Mercedes-Benz, J.P. Morgan, Polo Ralph Lauren, Visit Orlando, Westin, Wilson and Xerox
Heineken is bringing back the Heineken House in its 23rd year of U.S. Open sponsorship. It includes live screenings of top matches, entertainment, activities and, of course, ice-cold Heineken. New for 2014, visitors can enjoy sandwiches created exclusively for Heineken House by chef Mario Carbone of New York's Parm, and also have the chance to compete in "Legend Setter", an interactive competition for fans to participate in their own off-the-court challenges via a partnership with RecordSetter.com.
Asics America has launched a "celebratory campaign to shower New Yorkers with tennis love," "Asics Serves NYC," which features giveaways throughout the city. Among them: free lunch in Rockefeller Center and Grand Central areas, free tennis gear in Central Park, a shoe trade-in in the Asics Meatpacking store location and MetroCards to riders on the 7 train. (Details here.)
A social media element will see Asics offering chances to win tickets to the U.S.Open. (Detals here.)
"As New Yorkers welcome the greatest tennis talents in the world to their city, Asics wanted to return the favor and give back to those tennis fans living in the Big Apple," Shannon Scott, senior drector of marketing communications and advertising for Asics America, said in a statement. "At Asics we pride ourselves on the strides we've made within the sport of tennis, whether it's with our award-winning shoes or the amazing athletes we've partnered with playing in this year's tournament. We are excited to share all this and more with the 'Asics Serves NYC' campaign."
American Express, in its 21st year as a U.S. Open partner, said it would be "harnessing the latest technology to get tennis fans on-site and around the world involved in the action."
According to Deborah Curtis, vp-entertainment and sports marketing for American Express, “Everything American Express is offering during the U.S. Open this year is designed to enhance what tennis fans love about this tournament. This year, we want to bring fans closer to the most exciting moments of the US Open, improve their own tennis skills and capture unforgettable memories of their experience through new digital services.”
At the U.S. Open, the American Express Fan Experience will encompass 20,000 square feet of interactive programming. Also on-site, American Express will be presenting Fan Buzz, which showcases the latest US Open chatter from around the world on three, large social walls at different locations.
CBS and ESPN, both airing matches, are supporting with their own multi-media campaigns.
In addition, players are each coming with their own crew of marketing partners. Tennis players litter the list of the world's highest paid athletes, according to industry analysts, including Roger Federer ($38 million in endorsements), Rafael Nadal (who has withdrawn from the U.S. Open due to a wrist injury but pulls in about $28 million in endorsements), Maria Sharapova (about $20 million in deals), Novak Djokovic ($18 million in endorsements, including a new TV spot from adidas in which he wants fans to "Smash the Silence"), Li Na ($15 million in endorsements), Andy Murray ((about $12 million in deals), Caroline Wozniacki ($11 million in marketing alliances), Serena Williams ($10 million in deals) and Victoria Azarenka ($9 million in endorsements).
The figures do not include tennis winnings or income from business investments.
Former players also will be out in force, including John McEnroe, who will be seen and heard on ESPN and in commercials that include Bridgestone and Chase (with Andy Roddick, pictured).
McEnroe, who grew up and studied the art of playing tennis in New York, oversees the John McEnroe Tennis Academy as well as the Johnny Mac Tennis Project, both of which seek to introduce to and grown the sport among youngsters, with a eye on kids in the city with limited funds and/or access to tennis courts.
"I can tell you in a nutshell that when I grew up there was a great tennis academy in Port Washington where all the top players went, so I tried to model my academy along the same lines" McEnroe said during an ESPN media conference call on Wednesday (Aug. 20). "YBelieving that you don't have to move to Florida when you're ten and live and breathe tennis. Most people that have heard me talk know where I stand on this, that you should be more well‑rounded, especially now where it takes even longer to break into the sport and make a name for yourself on the men's side."
McEnroe hosted an event Thursday night (Aug. 21) to benefit the JMTP, which included Djokovic, top-ranked women's tennis player Lucie Safarova, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and actor and tennis buff Edward Norton.
"There is a two‑fold attack: To try to get the best players in the area to train there and to try to raise as much money as possible, because Lord knows you need a lot of it because it's too expensive, to make it affordable to kids, the great majority of kids that are unable to even try to play tennis because it's out of their league financially. So with a place like Harlem so close by with its great history and success with athletes as well as other parts of the city, it seems like a no‑brainer to try get as many kids to be able play this sport, which I think is a great sport, as possible."