The Dumbest Idea Yet
by Lynn Berenbaum | December 12th, 2006, 9:01 am

The ATP is going to be changing its name to the “ATP Worldwide Tour” by the middle of next year, and will introduce a variety of other marketing enhancements to raise awareness about men’s tennis.

These changes are among the sweeping plans to restructure the men’s game, and are being instituted under the ATP’s new Chief Marketing Officer Phil Anderton. It’s been previously reported that Anderton’s been given a nice purse to play with by CEO Etienne de Villiers, increasing the tour’s overall marketing budget from $500,000 this year to $5 Million in 2007. That number could climb to $10 million by 2009.

Anderton’s plans are to restructure the marketing and communications departments, and come after the departure of David Higdon, Vice President of Corporate Communications, who was let go earlier this month.

Selective Marketing

In perhaps the most bizarre of endeavors, part of Anderton’s new organizational changes include hiring a Brand Director, who will be based in London, to oversee a group of new staffers whose jobs will be to specifically market a select group of the sport’s top players.

This team will be made up of about six individual marketers around the globe who will be pitching for top-ranked stars such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, but will be working in an effort to promote men’s tennis as a whole. All of this will be done aside from the work being done on behalf of each player by their respective management companies. But since each player is an independent contractor, the ATP is going to have to negotiate individual deals with each of those selected to be targeted market draws.

As part of the stronger marketing, the tour will also start a rigorous merchandising program, slapping player images on everything from t-shirts to mouse pads.

And for those who aren’t chosen to be highlighted by the ATP? Well, tough luck buddy.

Strengthening Online

The ATP is also hiring a new Director of Digital Services, who will be responsible for overseeing a new structure for the ATP website. They’re hoping to emulate the work done by Major League Baseball‘s Advanced Media (MLBAM), which runs cookie-cutter versions of the 30 team websites for the sport, by centrally managing and running all of the ATP event websites. Similarly, each tennis site will be part of a cohesive unit that carries a thematic look-and-feel across web properties.

MLBAM, for its part, has been very well-received by both teams and fans alike. It will be interesting, however, to see how this centralized model is received by both tournaments and tennis fans. The sport obviously has opportunities online, but developing and executing them the right way are two different things entirely.

Fan Confusion

These changes really add to tennis’ overarching problem of having too many cooks in the kitchen, and could add to the confusion factor among average fans.

In August 2000, under then-CEO Mark Miles, the ATP Tour announced it would drop the word “Tour” from its name because it emphasized a series of tournaments rather than a governing body. Now, with yet another new name, they’ve shifted back to focusing on men’s tennis as a constantly moving global sport. A ‘series of tournaments’, if you will.

I never thought it could be done, but I need to extend my compliments to the ATP for coming up with remarkably, perhaps, their dumbest idea yet. Or, maybe, even… ever.

The crux of the matter is that the sport has tons of fragmentation issues that can easily confuse fans, but not ones that will be fixed by a $5M name change and by focusing on a select group of players.


This story originally appeared on Off the Baseline on Monday.

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6 Comments for The Dumbest Idea Yet

John Says:

The people in charge are totally clueless.

If they want more fans, without losing current fans, they just need to increase the sport’s TV coverage.

Jeb Horton Says:

First, I’m indifferent to the name change. It really doesn’t matter. Most fans wouldn’t even be able to tell you what the ATP actually does.

Second, marketing a select group of players will be problematic. How will they choose who they market? Rankings? Top 10? Will they change the marketing plan if a player falls out of the Top 10? I can understand that marketing the sport does center around marketing the players…after all, most fans go to tournaments to see guys then know. Marketing the sport through these guys isn’t the dumbest idea ever. But its execution could be problematic.

Third, creating some sort of centralized site for tournaments is long overdue. Fans need a centralized source for this information, a place they can go to daily and some consistency in how the information is presented. This should be a way to raise the bar for everyone.

True, the sport has tons of fragmentation problems. Also true that spending money on marketing a few players does not solve this problem. However, criticizing marketing has nothing to do with the fragmentation issues.

It would be more useful to question what the ATP is doing about fragmentation than to simply call them dumb for doing something else.

The ATP does need to think about marketing. It also needs to think about fragmentation. But to call the ATP dumb for what they are focusing on (marketing) is mis-placed. Give them credit for trying to promote the sport and let’s see what they can do. Criticize them legitemately.

John Says:

Calling them dumb seems legitimate to me.

Ran Perry Says:

Are they going to cut some clay court tournaments and add some grass courts tournaments? Are they going to do anything about the sad decline of talents? Any thought on speeding up the game?

rc Says:

it’s so simple
first let the players
rest more they work too hard
second make sure the big tournaments
are on public tv and third make the
game more attractive to viewers
which is actually being done now
and that’s it

visit my blog : tradingtennis on blogger

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