SBD/September 5, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Serves & Volleys: USTA Selling Certified Match-Used Balls From U.S. Open

Fans at the U.S. Open this year for the first time can “buy tennis balls used in specific matches that have been authenticated and sealed for their protection,” according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. Fans at both the Open and Wimbledon have “been able to buy tennis balls used at their tournaments for some time,” but “the process of authenticating tennis balls from specific matches is time-consuming and labor-intensive.” The USTA “formed a partnership with the MeiGray Group, which handles game-used collectibles for the NBA, the NHL and other leagues.” The “most appealing balls are those that look worn.” The USTA and MeiGray “declined to disclose how they plan to share the revenue from their venture, and they did not know how much money they would raise, because the market for these collectibles is new.” MeiGray Group President Barry Meisel said that the pricing -- $29.99 for balls "from lesser matches up to $59.99 or more for matches with top players -- was a work in progress” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/5).

GETTING ‘LO: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Daniel Kaplan reports Japan-based apparel company Uniqlo “wants to expand aggressively" in the U.S. and is "searching for more athletes to add to its stable.” The company currently sponsors tennis players Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori, but Uniqlo USA Division CEO Shin Odake said, “We are actively looking for more partnerships because it is a very good way to convey our brand.” Kaplan notes Uniqlo has three stores in N.Y. and “plans to open a fourth American store in a few weeks at the Garden State Plaza mall in New Jersey and another store later this fall in San Francisco” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/3 issue).

LEAVING HIS MARK: Andy Roddick is playing in his last tournament before retiring, and ESPN's Luke Jensen Friday reflected on Roddick's impact on tennis in the U.S. and on his racquet manufacturer, Babolat. Jensen said, “He was the one who was given the torch to carry American tennis on the men’s side. He really revitalized the game here. ... Also the global game of tennis. His racquet manufacturer, which is also his shoe manufacturer, was never really around. They were a string company.” Jensen added, “He made that racquet company so big, they’re the number one company on the planet with kids. They all want to hit hard like Andy Roddick. They got lightning in a bottle with this kid. He really revolutionized an entire industry because of the way he played and he was cool to kids. Right after that, Rafael Nadal sprung up with the same racquet manufacturer and it really took off” (“U.S. Open,” ESPN3, 8/31).

THIS SPACE FOR RENT: During a rain delay at the U.S. Open last night, the grounds crew came out using smaller versions of the Zamboni to dry the court. ESPN’s Brad Gilbert said, “Explain to me with the guys on the little Slambonis, what’s with the lab coats ... and where’s the sponsor element? Why is it not ‘Brought to you by’ somebody?” ESPN’s Hannah Storm noted, “Perhaps they weren’t hoping for quite this much airtime.” The broadcast showed a close-up of the white jumpsuits worn by the “Court Tech” grounds crew and ESPN’s LZ Granderson said, “Ralph Lauren does all of the clothes for Wimbledon, maybe he can kind of hook us up over here and jazz up our outfits a little bit” (“U.S. Open,” ESPN2, 9/4).
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