SBJ/May 8-14, 2017/People and Pop Culture

The Sit-Down: Bob Moran, Volvo Car Open

After 17 years on the job, the director of the WTA Tour’s stop in Charleston, S.C., tries to improve each edition of the event while making peace with the two things he can’t control: the players and the weather.

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With our new Tennis Channel deal, they came down and captured
a lot of coverage, working with our [convention and visitors bureau] and really bringing the city of Charleston to life. That has been an unbelievably awesome experience for us to get that kind of exposure to a tennis audience nationwide.

I can draw a straight line from what Tennis Channel has been doing to some new destinations where our folks are coming from.

These days, you have to have a social media team. People want the information now.

They want to hear and see stories that are not just about tennis, but about how these players live their lives outside of tennis. We’re trying to tell as many stories as we can and create as much buzz as we can every day.

When we look at a field, I feel like it’s our responsibility to start to tell the stories and also start to introduce players that people may not know right now. We have to sell the game.

When I’m hiring, I am looking for someone who is willing to do whatever it takes. When it comes to pulling this all together, from building a media center to building a player dining hall to making sure the stadium is in good shape, everyone on my team has to put their operations hat on at one time or another.

I’m looking for someone who is really engaged in the experience of running an event. It is not glamorous.

Photo: COURTESY OF VOLVO CAR OPEN


The biggest challenge we face is competition. Everyone’s competing for the time of the consumer. So you’ve got to make sure the experience is fantastic.

We know the tennis is going to be world class, so I’m not worried as much about what’s happening on the court as about what’s happening outside the court.

What is the food experience like?
What is the entertainment experience like? What are our sponsors doing that’s going to engage our consumers?

We call the tournament “Three-Set Charleston,” because for some reason everyone likes to play three sets here. So we’ve always got to watch the schedule and think about contingencies if matches run long.

TV plays into it. We’re trying to hit not just domestic windows, but we have 174 international partners that are looking for matches to pick up. Eight years ago I never worried about this.

Now, at the end of the day, we’ll sit down with WTA Media, which handles international rights, and Tennis Channel, which has domestic rights, and all three of us have to agree on what matches we want to see at what time, and I can tell you that we all don’t always agree.

What does success look like?
There’s a couple of things. One is financial. How did we do with ticket sales? With sponsorship sales? Those two things are pretty much already set, other than walkup. And then how does that trickle down to our concession stand sales, our merchandise sales? We have markers set and we’re trying to hit those markers all the way through.

Success after that is, How was the fan experience? Did they enjoy the changes we made from last year to this year? Were there any issues that they brought up that created a bad experience?



I’m not a mandatory event, so the players don’t have to be here. We’ve got to go recruit them. We’ve got to make sure they have a great experience.

And when they’re here we take care of them. We go way above and beyond, I would say, what a normal tournament director would have to do to make sure they have a great experience. Is it reservations? Is it taking them out to dinner one night? Player vehicles?

I’ll do an individual wrap-up with each sponsor within a month of the tournament. We had a hundred percent renewal rate from last year to this year. My goal is always a hundred percent renewal rate. But that doesn’t always happen.

“Not to settle” has kind of been my mantra for this year. If something’s not right, we’re not going to say, “Aww, it’s too late to fix it.” We can fix anything.

I’m not saying I settled a lot, but there’s just too many things that I’ve looked at in the past, when I do my wrap-up meetings, where I know it was wrong. I know it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. It’s easy to look at it and say, I don’t want to push that button right now, because we’re right in the middle of a tournament.

“Thought” and “know” are two different things. If there’s an issue or a problem, or something doesn’t get done, it almost always includes the word “thought.” I thought so-and-so was doing it. I thought this was being taken care of. I thought.

So if we’re in a staff meeting and someone uses that word, we discuss it. We want it to be, I KNOW that’s complete. Or I KNOW so-and-so’s taken care of that.

Does losing Venus [Williams in an early round] hurt us? Sure, it does. She’s got a ton of fans out there. Does losing Madison [Keys] hurt us? Yeah, it does. But I can’t control two things: the weather and the players.

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