Sunday
Aug292010

U.S. Open Court Is In Session: Why Marketers Love The Grand Slam Racket

By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor
(Originally published at www.MediaPost.com)

Polo Ralph Lauren touts its alliance with the U.S. Open.August 20, 2010: Major League Baseball is exiting the dog days of summer and heading toward the post-season and World Series, the NFL is ready to kick off the 2010 season en route to an historic Super Bowl XLV and the NBA keeps making headlines with player movement and fallout from LeBron James' decision to join the Miami Heat.

But from Aug. 30-Sept. 12 tennis gets to take center court among marketers, consumers and fans at the U.S. Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY., which is under the auspices of the U.S. Tennis Assn. The most recent study done by the New York City Comptroller’s office estimated that the annual overall impact of the two-week event on the metropolitan area was more than $425 million. Industry analysts estimated that the 2009 U.S. Open generated about $200 million in revenue for the USTA, about half from marketing/sponsorship deals and broadcast rights (on CBS, ESPN2 and The Tennis Channel).

A record 721,059 fans attended the 2009 U.S. Open (besting by 832 a record set in 2008), with 423,427 attendees in the first week, according to the USTA. That  generated about $80 million in ticket sales and upward of $15 million from such resources as on-site restaurants, concession stands and souvenirs. Add to that more than 70 million viewers in the U.S. who watched the 2009 Open, per the USTA, and international broadcasts that reached 185 countries.

The U.S. Open boasts a number of marketing partners that target a demographic willing to spend or invest money even during a challenged economy. Among them: Chase, Citizen, IBM, JP Morgan, Mercedes-Benz, Olympus, AmEx, Continental Airlines, Heineken, Polo Ralph Lauren, Canon, Tiffany, Westin and Grey Goose. The target consumer also spends money at the U.S. Open, which is why last October Mercedes-Benz USA signed as the official automobile partner in a four-year, $35 million deal that included on-site activation and advertising during U.S. Open broadcasts. And it is also why Citizen Watch and Polo Ralph Lauren just renewed their deals for five-years each, which analysts estimated at $20 million and $8 million, respectively.

The valuable marketing deals also carry through to the players themselves. Roger Federer, whose marketing partners include NetJets, Rolex, National Suisse and Mercedes-Benz, took in more than $30 million in endorsements last year, tops among male tennis players. Maria Sharapova's marketing partners include Tiffany, Tag Heuer, Sony Ericsson and Parlux Fragrances, which brought her more than $17 million in endorsements in 2009 to lead all women athletes (not just in tennis).

People who will attend the 2010 U.S. Open know from experience to come with a lot of cash or max-end AmEx cards. Included on the menu in 2009 were Philly cheesesteaks ($9), Cold Maine Lobster Rolls ($17), Flaming Ouzo Shrimp ($13), Grey Goose raspberry-flavored liqueur lemonade with tennis ball-shaped honeydew melons in a souvenir glass ($13), hot dogs ($6) and Heineken ($8).

Among the U.S. Open 2010 items for sale: Women's Logo Cap ($24), Patriotic Logo Tee ($24), Beach Towel (pictured $32), Official On-Court Towel ($35) and Polo Ralph Lauren Ball Ball Boy Shirts ($98) and Ball Boy Shorts ($125). Among the most popular items is a Wilson Jumbo Tennis Ball (11" diameter), mainly used by those seeking autographs. They went for $40 each last year, and Wilson estimated it sold 8,000 (that's $320K to you and me). So you know you that they, like the U.S. Open's marketing partners, will be back again flashing plenty of green.

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