SBJ/November 19 - 25, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

Fila, Merrill climb aboard for Ericsson

Fila and Merrill Lynch & Co. will be sponsors of the 2002 Ericsson Open, the tournament's chairman said.

Earl "Butch" Buchholz said his tournament has been selling a range of sponsorships for the first time in two years. As a Masters Series event, the tennis tournament has been marketed by ISL Worldwide, which eliminated most local sponsors in favor of hoped-for global sponsors.

That strategy failed, and ISL ultimately entered bankruptcy proceedings earlier this year, so Masters Series events are again selling sponsorships. Just last week ADT/Tyco became the presenting sponsor.

Fila had been a Masters Series sponsor, and before that an Ericsson Open sponsor. Merrill Lynch is a new deal.

Title sponsor Ericsson is leaving the event after 2002 and will drop its support of the affiliated Copa Ericsson, a Latin American minor league tennis circuit, and the Ericsson Orange Bowl junior tennis tournament, now the Burger King Orange Bowl.

In fact, except for the NFL stadium in Charlotte, Ericsson will have exited all U.S. sponsorships. It has pulled out of a host of European events, as well, including the French Open.

"They had great intentions — the market just changed," Buchholz said. "It was clear their hearts weren't in it."

— Daniel Kaplan

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