SBJ/20080825/SBJ In-Depth

Agent for red-hot Nadal talks about opportunities

Rafael Nadal’s thrilling victory at Wimbledon positioned the tennis great for expanded marketing opportunities. As Nadal’s agent, Carlos Costa has been working to make those deals happen. He recently responded through e-mail to questions from staff writer Daniel Kaplan.

What are the marketing plans post Wimbledon? Have any new opportunities emerged?
Costa: At IMG we were taking Rafa’s marketing very seriously already for some years. We formed a team that included me, the whole of IMG and hired the services of Benito Perez-Barbadillo, a former ATP director of communications, for media and PR purposes. I work very closely with Benito and we position Rafa on a global basis, with special care and attention to media. Rafa also gets very much involved in the decision-making process and I can proudly say that we are selling a true product, something original, the way Rafa is. The Wimbledon win has boosted positively his image and our strategy remains the same. It is true that after Wimbledon new opportunities have arisen with more interest on Rafa, especially in the U.S. market. Also with the No. 1 ranking the interest has increased, but Rafa was very popular in the last two years as well.

What is the view of the American market? Does Nadal want to become better known here?
Costa: The American market is always important. Rafa’s interest for it is big and we have always worked on that direction, especially with IMG being an American company. We feel he is very well known, especially after the Wimbledon final. We also know his English has to improve if we want to reach mainstream media in the U.S. and get [him] to [a] higher level of popularity. For that purpose, Benito handles all the media opportunities that we normally discuss together. Rafa does these not because he wants to be better known, since that’s not important to him. More important is to give back to the sport, to tennis, and be THE ambassador of the sport.

Nadal returns a shot during the
Beijing Games, where he won a
gold medal in singles competition.

How would you describe the Nadal brand?
Costa: A good investment in all senses. He behaves in a very professional way and feels that his sponsors are his partners. But the best way to describe it is real. Rafa is always himself, the way he is, and his sponsors know what he is and what he portrays. He is a young, fresh, entertaining character who has passion for the sport. Someone who reaches all segments of the market. Kids love him especially but he also reaches that “lost segment” in tennis between 40 and 50 that still talks about past players and is not that much interested lately in the sport.

What are his current deals and can you say how much he earns off court?
Costa: We never talk about his off-court earnings. He has seven sponsors that are Nike (shoe), Babolat (racket), Banesto (bank), Time Force (watch), L’Oreal (shampoo), Kia (car) and Puig (perfume).

Finally, he has been outspoken on his views on ATP politics, and is now on the player council. What role does he see himself taking in terms of the future of the ATP?
Costa: Him together with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are on the player council and are taking very seriously issues concerning the sport. He wanted to be involved, informed and be part of the decision-making process of the ATP. He feels the top management is not doing the job properly and wanted to be part of that. His main task is clearly to play tennis and win, but the way the decisions are taken, and especially which decisions are taken that affect players directly, he wants to be involved. Hopefully with a new management soon things will be better and easier.

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