SBD/Issue 169/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

James Blake Parting Ways With Prince, Returning To Dunlop

James Blake Ends Prince Deal
Early To Return To Dunlop
ATPer James Blake has “separated from Prince rackets and will rejoin Dunlop,” according to sources cited by Daniel Kaplan in next week’s SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Prince signed Blake in December ’05 and “planned to use Blake as one of its cornerstone marketers for the racket the company dubs O3.” However, Blake “never changed from his Dunlop racket, ... in part because he had just emerged as a top player and did not want to tinker with that success.” Blake “placed Prince logos on his racket and was touted on its Web site” as a spokesperson. Kaplan notes the Blake case “raised questions about the responsibility athletes have to play with equipment they endorse and whether companies should tout stars who use competitors’ products.” Prince noted that it “never maintained that Blake actually played with one of its rackets.” In a statement provided by Prince, Blake said, “I was playing the best tennis of my career and I guess I just wasn’t open to switching” (SBJ, 5/28 issue). CNBC’s Darren Rovell noted Dunlop, which signed Blake out of college in ’99, “exercised an option to terminate him when he fell out of the top 100” in ’05. Blake’s departure from Prince means the brand’s “top American is now Vince Spadea, ranked 64th in the world” (CNBC.com, 5/23).

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