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Volume 21 No. 1
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New name familiar for Miami tennis stop

For the fourth time in 14 years, the country’s third-largest tennis tournament will have a new name: the Sony Tennis Open.

The event’s current name, Sony Ericsson Open, will remain in effect through the scheduled end of this year’s event on Sunday. The tournament began last week.

Last October, Sony bought from Ericsson the half of the joint-venture mobile phone business it did not own, but regulatory review of the deal prevented the tennis event from changing its name right away.

“It will be a really big deal for us to be under the Sony umbrella with the other three brands: TV, music and entertainment, and now mobile,” said a source close to the Miami tournament who requested anonymity because the name change is not scheduled to be disclosed until later this week. “We can be a fully integrated entertainment venue.”

The WTA Tour, which has had Sony Ericsson as a sponsor since 2005, has already changed the corporate reference on its website from Sony Ericsson to Sony Mobile. Sony Mobile has been using tennis to promote the Xperia smartphone, which the WTA advertised on the grounds of the recently completed BNP Paribas Open. The main branding in Miami will be Xperia too, though Sony Ericsson will remain the name at the entrance of the tournament and the moniker used in broadcasts.

On the WTA’s website, Xperia is advertised on the home page; Sony Mobile is named under corporate sponsors.

Sony Ericsson also previously had an endorsement deal with Maria Sharapova. That deal expired in December.

The new Sony Tennis Open (which in Miami will be marketed as simply the Sony Open) drew 316,267 fans last year, putting it behind the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., and the U.S. Open Tennis Championships in New York.

The Miami and Indian Wells events long have jockeyed for the claim as America’s top non-Grand Slam tennis tournament, but lately, BNP has been pulling ahead. The California event drew 370,408 fans this month, up 20,000 fans from last year and a considerable widening of its attendance lead on Miami that was first claimed in 2007. New investments from BNP Paribas tournament owner Larry Ellison, including electronic line-calling on every court, something even the U.S. Open does not have, has further cemented the impression that the Miami event, owned by IMG, is being left behind.

“We skew a younger, multicultural, bilingual crowd in a top-rated TV market [and] a multicultural, cosmopolitan city and continue to attract visitors who may not all be tennis fans but come for lifestyle and entertainment reasons to Miami,” said Wendy Elkin, the Miami tournament’s senior vice president of marketing and television. “In regards to our infrastructure, we just completed a stadium renovation of our player and media services this year and have received incredible feedback. [It’s the] first major renovation since we opened the stadium in 1994.”