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U.S. Open renews with Citizen, Polo in 5-year deals

The U.S. Open Tennis Championships is renewing sponsorships with Citizen Watch and Polo Ralph Lauren, two of its leading partners, in five-year deals worth a total of up to $28 million.

The companies’ deals were up after this year’s tournament, which begins Aug. 30.

Polo will pay about $8 million in value over the coming five years in its renewal. In a separate deal, Polo is hiring Venus Williams for a one-time webcast tennis clinic next week in a deal that could portend a larger relationship with the world’s No. 4-ranked player.

Venus Williams will
do an online clinic in
a separate Polo deal.

“It’s kind of a get-to-know-you process, and hopefully the clinic will be high-profile enough to bring some attention for our relationship and how we do,” said David Lauren, Polo’s senior vice president of advertising, marketing and corporate communications. “This is a way to test the relationship and see how we can work together.”

Polo and Williams, who designs and wears her own clothing line, are producing a co-branded dress she will wear during the clinic and will be sold on-site at the Open. She will not wear the dress during the Open.

The webcast is also backed by Open sponsor Mercedes-Benz, which sources said is paying $250,000 for the affiliation. The webcast will be available via Polo’s website.

Polo has been an Open sponsor since 2005. The fashion company outfits the tournament’s ball boys and girls, referees, and chair umpires.

Citizen, which has been an Open sponsor since 1993, is also next year picking up official timekeeper status at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters and Women’s Open, an event that, like the Open, is owned by the U.S. Tennis Association. The watchmaker is also renewing sponsorship of Pilot Pen Tennis, another USTA-owned event.

In total, Citizen’s new five-year commitment, including the other events, is worth $15 million to $20 million, sources said, with the vast majority of that being tied to the U.S. Open.

The renewals serve as the most recent indicator that America’s top tennis event continues to resist sluggishness in the sports economy. Last year, in the teeth of the national recession, the Open had its second-best year financially.

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