SBJ/November 30 - December 6, 1998/No Topic Name

ATP throwing Super 9 tourneys into marketing pool

In a significant attempt to bring financial order to a disjointed sport, the ATP Tour plans to pool commercial rights to the Mercedes Super 9 tournaments.

The Tour will also include the year-end World Championship rights, plus all of the ATP's sponsorships and TV licensing fees. All these rights are worth roughly

$100 million annually, though the ATP expects that once they are pooled they will be worth significantly more.

ISL/Octagon, a sports marketing agency the ATP hired over the summer, will coordinate the sale of these rights.

The Mercedes Super 9, the top tournaments in men's tennis after the four Grand Slams, individually market domestic TV, nearly all sponsorships, international licensing and hospitality rights. International TV and the Mercedes sponsorship were already sold through the ATP.

"These rights are going to increase dramatically in value by the very fact that they will be pooled," said Daniel Beauvois of ISL Worldwide. "Having tournaments ...competing against each other for sponsor money is detrimental."

Pooling could begin to consolidate an incredibly disparate tennis tour. Most tournaments now sell themselves individually, so by bringing together nine top events, the sport may be able to market itself almost as a league might.

One of tennis' Achilles' heels has long been that its far-flung global network has sparked internecine rivalries, often at the expense of the sport.

Now, "the Tour and the tournaments [will have] much more flexibility to create a common, easily recognizable look that fans can better understand what they're seeing," said Mark Miles, ATP's chief executive.

The length of the ISL/Octagon contract is still unclear, and many of the tournaments may take years to unwind from existing contracts.

The nine Mercedes tournaments are located in Indian Wells, Calif.; Key Biscayne, Fla..; Cincinnati; Montreal; Hamburg and Stuttgart, Germany; Monte Carlo; Paris; and Rome.

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