SBD/October 28, 2013/Events and Attractions

Did WTA Championships Leave Istanbul Despite Success For Larger Deal In Singapore?

WTA Championship crowds in Istanbul are down over 2,000 per session from '12
The WTA Championships' move to Singapore for five years after finishing its run in Istanbul yesterday "leaves many wondering if the WTA hasn't in fact sold out to the highest bidder," according to Douglas Robson of USA TODAY. The event is "a major revenue generator that accounts for 35%-40%" of the WTA's net operating revenue. WTA officials said that Turkey paid $42M over three years and Singapore is "paying considerably more per year." Some reports are "pegging the package at north of" $70M. WTA Chair & CEO Stacey Allaster on Saturday said of measuring the impact of the event, "I think each country that hosts the Championships has different business or sport development objectives." Allaster listed, among some recent hosts, Madrid's "desire to test a women's event in that market; Qatar's international sports strategy that ended with its successful World Cup bid; and Turkey's similar but failed effort to land" the '20 Olympic Games. Attendance at the Sinan Erdem Stadium in Istanbul through Saturday had "averaged 10,705 -- a drop of more than 2,000 per session from last year and more than 1,000 from 2011 -- but overall the stands have been respectably full throughout the stay in Istanbul, especially compared with the embarrassing turnout at the three-year run" in Doha, Qatar, from '08-10. Allaster said of the '11 tournament, "I honestly remember just being in awe of 13,000 on opening night. Then you think, OK, well, that was opening night, and will they keep coming? And they did." Turkish Tennis Federation President Osman Tural said that he was "satisfied with attendance, local and international media coverage and money spent to bring the best women players to Istanbul." Tural said, "We are really happy with the results. It's a great experience for us" (USATODAY.com, 10/26).

THE CHINA SYNDROME: In N.Y., Ben Rothenberg reports having Li Na playing in the WTA "has increased interest in tennis in China." Allaster said Li's success is "definitely a contributing factor" in the WTA Championships' move to Singapore. But Allaster added that "making decisions based on one player was not a sound business strategy, citing the somewhat cautionary tale of the disappearance of women’s tennis from India during the decline of the singles career of Sania Mirza." Allaster said of the WTA's focus on China beginning in '06, "There was no Li Na on the horizon. But it was a strategic decision. When we looked at the growth of markets, G.D.P. growth, coming on the heels of the Olympic Games, you needed a presence in China. And that strategy was to be in market so that we can learn culture, how to adapt our communication to that audience. Educate media year round, and a big event that creates the promotional platform." Allaster added, "It’s a playbook right out of [NBA Commissioner] David Stern. He went to China 30 years ago. There was no Yao Ming. But he said to CCTV, here’s NBA basketball. And look at how the NBA has developed its brand and business in China. Be in a market, seed the market, and be ready when the gift comes and a champion rises, you’re ready to capitalize on it. And that’s what we were able to do" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/28).

GRUNT WORK: USA TODAY's Robson reported the WTA has "quietly begun testing noise levels at tournaments as it explores how to rid the sport of unwarranted grunting." Allaster said that the tour had "initiated audio tests with on-court measuring devices at tournaments," although she "gave scant specifics." She added that the WTA had "engaged an unnamed research firm with expertise in urban noise levels to assist with the gathering of data." She said that it was "too early to discuss details or timelines about how the research would be collected, measured and presented." The focus for now "remains on education." The WTA also is "looking at ways to correlate broadcast tapes with data from its new software analytics partner, SAP, to see if harder strokes are producing louder sounds" (USATODAY.com, 10/26).
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