SBJ/April 3 - 9, 2006/This Weeks News

‘Fireworks Phil’ looks to light ATP fuse

From the NASDAQ-100 Open in Miami

The ATP’s new chief marketing officer, Phil Anderton, is either a breath of fresh air for the sport or another recruit about to be crushed by the internecine battles of tennis. The former chief executive of Scotland’s rugby league and, for seven months, of a Scottish Premier League soccer team until he was recently ousted by the new Russian owner, Anderton admits he knows so little about the sport that when a man sat down next to him at a players meeting here, he almost asked him what he did. The guy was top-10 player James Blake.

Phil Anderton wants to bring core branding principles
to the globally and politically fractured sport.
But Anderton wants to bring core branding principles to the globally and politically fractured sport, an area he first learned hawking soda for Coca-Cola and later with rugby, where he became known as “Fireworks Phil” for bringing so many entertainment ideas to the sport and changing its image. Identifying what the ATP brand stands for — he is not sure — and making sense of the sport’s cluttered calendar are starters. Getting new brands into the sport that young people can relate to also would help.

A youthful 40 with great energy, Anderton will be based in the ATP’s London office, which has emerged as the new power center of men’s tennis.

New Chairman Etienne de Villiers is there (de Villiers, who created the first-time CMO position, hired Anderton on the recommendation of a mutual acquaintance), as will be sponsorship chief Richard Davies, who is moving there from Monaco. And then Phil Galloway, the organization’s chief operating officer, is heading to London from Ponte Vedra, Fla., where the ATP had its main office under now departed CEO Mark Miles.

IPODS FOR EVERYBODY: At the player meeting on March 21, the ATP gave iPod Nanos to the roughly 150 players who attended. The ATP and players have not always had the best relations, but under de Villiers the group is making an effort to smooth those tensions. Maybe the iPods will help. Or at least the players won’t be listening next time someone complains.

IMG TOURNEY SAFE: IMG under owner Ted Forstmann, who was expected here for the finals, may have been shedding employees and selling events, most recently the Pacific Life Open tennis tourney, but this one appears safe. Tournament Chairman Butch Buchholz said IMG is using the event as a platform to entertain all of the company’s clients, not just tennis division ones. For example, three fashion shows were set to be held this year on-site. And IMG’s logo was more prevalent than ever around the grounds.

IMG bought the event for more than $30 million in 2000. On the day Forstmann bought IMG from the estate of late founder Mark McCormack in 2004, he bumped into Buchholz in Aspen, Colo., where both have vacation homes. Buchholz said Forstmann did not realize IMG owned the event. The two have not spoken since. “They leave us alone to do our thing,” Buchholz said.

Canon is lining up another Sharapova ad but had
look-alikes on duty at the Nasdaq-100.
NASDAQ DEAL IN LAST YEAR: The fate of tournament sponsor Nasdaq could be determined soon, as IMG and the company decide whether next year will be the last with the six-year deal expiring in 2007. Chances are good for a renewal, as the electronic stock exchange has increasingly been using the tourney for entertaining clients and gaining greater visibility. Nasdaq was scheduled to have a stock exchange opening ceremony on-site last Friday, only the fifth time that’s been held outside New York. And marketing director John Jacobs said, “We are very happy with it. It does work for us.” The event is the only sports sponsorship for Nasdaq.

BUSINESS IS GOOD: For the first time in a while, agents here were reporting that the core sneaker, apparel and racket endorsement business was picking up a little. Endorsements have essentially been in decline along with the sport, but business is up somewhat for the companies that manufacture the gear, and so they are spending a little extra money on players. “The tools of the trade are better,” said Ken Meyerson, head of SFX’s tennis division. Nothing huge, but SFX, for example, has secured deals for Elena Bovina with Diadora and Elena Vesnina with Adidas. No blockbuster, but money is out there again for the up-and-comers and players nipping at the top 20. This is mostly five-figure stuff, with potential for more if the player performs. Another boon has been the entry of a few old-timer apparel companies back into the sport, such as Diadora, Lacoste and Lotto. These are blasts from the 1970s and ’80s past, and the companies are all spending money again in tennis.

NEW SHARAPOVA AD: Definitely not five-figure material is Maria Sharapova, who earns nearly $20 million a year in endorsements alone. One of her deals is with Canon cameras. Her PowerShot commercial is ubiquitous, so the camera maker decided it’s time for a new one. The ad is slated to be shot here soon. During the event, Canon fielded a handful of Sharapova look-alikes in the same turquoise, slinky tennis dress she wears in the commercial. They encouraged fans to enter the Canon tent, where they could be photographed free with the Sharapova look-alikes.

MINI-SHARAPOVA: Speaking of Sharapova, her 10-year-old cousin, Daria, now shares agencies in IMG, which signed the preteen and is training her at its Evert Academy. Reebok is supplying her with sneakers and apparel. No word yet if tennis agencies next will be trying to sign athletes in utero.

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