Forget the Marketing, the PR, Tennis Needs Players to Show Up
by Sean Randall | December 12th, 2006
  • 18 Comments

Just read my blogging colleague Lynn Berenbaum’s excellent eye-opening piece on the new changes at the ATP and with men’s tennis. Unlike me, she’s up on matters of the Tour. Last month she blogged on the round robin format, which has already been sanctioned at more than a dozen 2007 events, or as I would call them “events where you will not find Roger Federer”.

Back to Lynn’s blog. Frankly I don’t really care about the ATP’s hires and fires, but it does interest me when a sporting organization is planning on changing its name for this, the second time this decade. That’s a big thing. From ATP Tour to ATP to apparently ATP to ATP Worldwide whatever. Who gives crap. Changing the name is not going to magically moves the sport’s popularity past pub darts. Get over it.

Now I don’t profess to know much (if anything) about the inner workings of men’s tennis, but I do often and fairly compare it to the other pro sports I follow. So when was the last time the NBA or NFL or NHL changed its name?

And good luck marketing just six guys. I’m guessing Davydenko or Nalbandian or Ljubicic aren’t among the Chosen Six, right? Surely Federer, Nadal, Roddick and Blake. Then maybe Nalbandian and Murray, and maybe they can sneak in Safin. Basically, you go with guys who can sell tickets and/or those who are worth some bank. Hell, throw in Donald Young!

Point is, in tennis you never know. What if Blake goes back to 2003 Blake. Or Connors leaves Roddick and Andy decides that standing 10 feet behind the baseline is “in” again. Then who are you promoting?

Tennis has a lot of problems, and many of them will not be solved in my lifetime (season too long, appearance fees, too many self interests, etc). I get that. But tennis (WTA included) really needs to stop spending money on marketing and websites  and posters and ranking systems, etc, and start looking at how to get their product – that means the top players – to show up on a consistent basis at their major events.

Peyton Manning is arguably the biggest star in the NFL today, and part of the reason he’s reached that level is because the guy shows up 16 Sundays out of 16 every fall, every year. Since entering the league Manning has started 141 straight games for the Colts, a streak that will continue next Monday. That’s 141 straight without missing the first snap of the game, which is pretty amazing when you consider it’s football. Makes me wonder who on the ATP or WTA has the longest consecutive streak of not pulling out of an tournament! I would love to know that one. (I’d bet Davydenko!) I mean if Manning can play 141 straight games surely some tennis guy/gal has played like 30 straight events without a pull, right? Maybe 40?

But Manning knows that showing up is his responsibility. That’s what he’s paid to do. That’s his commitment to his team, to his fans, to his league and to himself. And even though I’m not much of a Manning fan, I respect that about him and other athletes like Brett Favre who take pride in what they do and in the opportunity they have all been given – to get paid big time for playing a kids’ sport.

I just wish many of our tennis players shared in that same spirit. That way the governing bodies of the sport could stop throwing away money on temporary band aids in attempt to raise the sport’s profile. The best thing tennis has is its players, now get them on the court!


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18 Comments for Forget the Marketing, the PR, Tennis Needs Players to Show Up

No thanks! Says:

So, are you saying that there should only 16 matches of tennis in the whole year? Or did you mean all the top players should only play 16 Sundays?

NFl? NHL? NBA? Have you gone nuts to compare local American club sports to an international sport like Tennis? It’s clear that you don’t like Tennis in particular and international sport in general, because you are parochial and just lazy to try to get your brain off the ditch of incompetence. Good luck with your nonsense.


Maria P Says:

Tennis has a lot of problems, and many of them will not be solved in my lifetime (season too long, appearance fees, too many self interests, etc). I get that. But tennis (WTA included) really needs to stop spending money on marketing and websites and posters and ranking systems, etc, and start looking at how to get their product – that means the top players – to show up on a consistent basis at their major events.

That’s the whole idea behind mandatory events, like Miami. But the top players are not going to play if they aren’t healthy. Plus, they want to be healthy for majors.


First serve Says:

LEt’s not compare tennis to team sports, specially football, the 6 minute game. Average play is 6 seconds. Add them up and the ball is live for about 6 minutes.
Shortest game on the planet. More running and action takes place in one game of tennis then 3 hours of football.
Next. There is no season for tennis. It has always been that way
and will continue to be a year round sport.
Why should the top players play every event. It’s too tough on the body and would not make a difference to viewing populations anyway. We need controversy. Like the Mac/Connors wars and the great personalities that once were. America likes controversy, chaos, fighting and bad media.
Tennis is big in South america, and Europe. Only in the USA is tennis nonexistent and Football and B ball and of course the fat mans game, golf are the only sports promoted in the USA.
Ponder this. If the media only showed tennis, then the entire country would watch tennis. The media controls what we watch and decides how much we want to watch. If they showed us tennis all day we would be a tennis country. I know this is hard to absorb, but it is the social truth of our great country. We are not the class act that we think of ourselves. The French seem to have it correct. I agree the ATP tour is run by a bunch of clowns, but they still need to market the sport. It is obvious that ESPN and other football networks want nothing to do with tennis, nor do they know the first thing about it.


Sean Randall Says:

Before I let this get out of hand, let me first say I’m not asking players to play every event. I am asking them to play the events they have committed to. I use Peyton Manning as an example because he plays in all 16 games of the season. He commits. When tennis players make their schedules for the upcoming season how many of them actually follow through and play all their events? My guess is very very few, if any. Let’s check out Federer’s 2007 schedule, which he has kindly posted on his website (http://www.rogerfederer.com/en/rogers/schedule/index.cfm):

08.01.07 AAMI Classic Other Kooyong (AUS) hard [o]
15.01.07 Australian Open GS Melbourne (AUS) hard [o]
26.02.07 The Dubai Tennis Championships ISG Dubai (UAE) hard [o]
05.03.07 Pacific Life Open MS Indian Wells (USA) hard [o]
21.03.07 Sony Ericsson Open MS Miami (USA) hard [o]
14.04.07 Masters Series Monte-Carlo MS Monte Carlo (MON) clay [o]
07.05.07 Internazionali BNL d’Italia MS Rome (ITA) clay [o]
12.05.07 Masters Series Hamburg MS Hamburg (GER) clay [o]
27.05.07 Roland Garros GS Paris (FRA) clay [o]
11.06.07 Gerry Weber Open IS Halle (GER) grass [o]
25.06.07 Wimbledon GS Wimbledon (GBR) grass [o]
05.08.07 Rogers Masters MS Montreal (CAN) hard [o]
10.08.07 Western & Southern Financial Group Masters MS Cincinnati (USA) hard [o]
27.08.07 US Open GS New York (USA) hard [o]
01.10.07 AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships ISG Tokyo (JPN) hard [i]
15.10.07 Mutua Madrilena Masters Madrid MS Madrid (ESP) carpet [i]
22.10.07 Davidoff Swiss Indoors IS Basel (SUI) hard [i]
29.10.07 BNP Paribas Masters MS Paris (FRA) carpet [i]
11.11.07 Tennis Masters Cup MC Shanghai (CHN) hard [i]

Does anyone really think he will play 19 events? No chance. Obviously he will play – barring a major injury – the four Slams, Kooyang, Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami, Halle, Tokyo, Basel and Shanghai, provided he gets in! The rest of the events like Monte Carlo, Cincinnati, Madrid, etc are up in the air.

My guess is he’ll pass on Monte Carlo and play Rome and maybe Hamburg. He might play both Cincy and Montreal, but then again maybe not. Same goes for Madrid and Paris. But events like Dubai, Halle, Kooyang and Tokyo you know he’s going to play because the Brinks truck already came by his house and dropped off bags full of money he’s probably counting right now. Good for him, I say!

But honestly, is he really going to play all 19? Does he really intend to stick to that schedule? I doubt it. And if I’m am ticket buyer in Monte Carlo and show up to watch Roger but he’s pulled out, guess what? I’m pissed. Roger put Monte on the schedule but he didn’t show, what the heck?

On the other hand if I buy a ticket next Monday to see Peyton Manning and his Colts, It’s a pretty safe bet that Peyton’s going to show up.

And I really don’t mean to single out Roger who is a real class guy IMO – it’s just he’s the only one who’s posted his 2007 sked. Just about all the guys/women do this, that is commit to events only to pull out in the end. And to some extent it’s not entirely their fault, it’s the system. But like I said the people in charge are too busy with websites and promotions instead of addressing a far more serious matter and that is simply getting their top players to show up.


Sean Randall Says:

To “no thanks”, you are right, no thanks.

Firstserve, you are right about what America likes in its sports/entertainment. Fights, chaos, controvery, etc., are all great things of which tennis has little. Too bad. Get Marcelo Rios back on the tour, Ilie Nastase. Johnny Mac. And let the good times roll.

However the media per se does not dictate sports. The fans do. People here in the U.S. don’t want to watch tennis. It’s that simple. And major TV networks know that and that’s why they don’t put in air as much as other sports.

Sure if just for a goof FOX replaced “American Idol” one night with the Davdenko-Nalbandian Davis Cup match many more people would suddenly become familar with Nikolay and David (and then probably go throw up), but FOX would go bankrupt as their ratings slid to oblivion.

And give ESPN a little credit, I read once that they show more tennis on air then they do baseball. Over 500 hours of tennis a year. Pretty incredible.


Maria P Says:

There is golf on network tv constantly.
There are plenty of minor US sports that get more time on network tv than tennis.


John Says:

If you’re a Colts fan and live in the area, you might see half of the games in person, if you so desire.

If you are a Roger Federer fan, how many of those 19 are you going to see in person? If I counted correctly he’s scheduled to play in 13 countries. To see half of those, it would be somewhat pricey.

Now I like Roger, but I’m certainly not going to China, Japan or the UAE to see him play. But I will watch him on TV (if it’s televised).

Now in the US, tennis is at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to TV coverage. The Tennis Channel was supposed to solve this, but IMO has failed miserably. They did do a nice job on the Davis Cup finals. And if you missed them live, they are good enough to repeat them 4 or 5 hundred times. If you’re a Hopman Cup junkie, then the TC is your channel. (Pop quiz: Can you name one player scheduled to play at the Hopman Cup in January?)

Now Versus did show the WTA YE Championships once. And that’s great, but now they prefer to show things like the Barbeque Championship Series. Couldn’t Versus (or the WTA) have offloaded the reruns to the TC?

Moving on to ESPN’s 500 hours, probably 250 of them show Pat McEnroe behind a desk, instead of tennis matches. Their coverage could be a hundred times better than it is.

IMO, Tennis could do what the NHL does. If you are an average hockey fan, and you root for a local team, you can probably watch every game of the season live, plus reruns, plus the after game show. If your team is not local, there’s a subscription TV package, where you can watch any NHL game that you like, live.

Instead of solving the TV problem, the ATP decides that the way to keep current fans and win new fans is a name change. How stupid is that?


John's right. Says:

I heard that the USTA is becoming part owner of The Tennis Channel (TTC). Likewise, the ITF should follow the USTA’s lead and invest in TTC.

In Europe, the richest football (soccer) clubs like Real Madrid have their own channel which do the job of covering the club’s matches and giving the club player’t the needed media exposure. All that generates even more craze among the club fans.

ATP, WTA, ITF, etc should look seriously into the issue of TV coverage of tennis in places where it’s not popular and find ways of getting more TV coverage. Then only will tennis reach a higher level of popularity.


Robin W Says:

Since you obviously read these Sean, I had a suggestion for you website: list all times and stations tennis is televised. Since I imagine you want this to be the best ons stop tennis site why not include that?


rt 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

rc


Vlodan… » Blog Archive » Tennis may come to Central Park Says:

[...] Forget the Marketing, the PR, Tennis Needs Players to Show UpTennis-X.com, MI - 10 hours agoJust read my blogging colleague Lynn Berenbaum s eye-opening piece on the new changes at the ATP and with men s tennis. … Point is, in tennis you never know. … [...]


allcourt Says:

Sean, Rest assured that most of us, unlike no thanks, knew exactly what you meant when you said that you wanted players to show up — i.e. to show up for the tournaments which they SAY that they are going to play. I could not believe my eyes, for example, when Federer’s 2007 schedule was published, with great fanfare, and I noticed that, after all the brouhaha about the way he and Nadal pulled out of Bercy this year, he is listed AGAIN as supposedly planning to play in three consecutive tournaments (including Bercy) in three consecutive weeks when we all know damn well that won’t. I’m sick of this kind of nonsense.


ben Says:

look at federer’s schedule from last year. he’s playing fewer events. do you even bother to research? your right, the other blogger lynn does a much better job but that doesn’t seem that hard.


Sean Randall Says:

Robin W, great idea. Will inform the “management”.

allcourt, good point. Fed’s going down that same road again…

ben, care to elaborate where my lack of research is? Fed is schedule to play more events next year than events he played this year.


cj Says:

leave Federer alone he is one of the best players to attend all his tournaments as you well know Sean wont you just stop having a go AT HIM FOR EVERYTHING WHEN YOU KNOW OTHERS PULL OUT BUT YOU SAY NOTHING Nadal pulled out you say nothing.Go and do your Christmas shopping and give to others you might just find some good will present in yourself.


kjo Says:

Re Fed’s schedule: I’m confused but isn’t he obligated to say he’s playing in all TMS events because they’re mandatory? Would it even be possible for him to publish a schedule omitting a TMS event?
That explains the 3 weeks in a row, b/c he obviously wants to play Basel. And yeah, there’s a good chance he’ll skip one of the clay tournies as playing all three before the french is probably too exhausting.
The fault is with the way the tournaments are scheduled.
The other major difference between tennis and a sport like football is that while every football match is the same length, a tennis tournament for any given player might last a week (or 2 in the case of a slam) or it could last a day. That much uncertainty makes it hard to commit to a schedule set in stone.


ZooTrouble Says:

think about the MLB!

ZooTrouble


Anonymous Says:

Baccarat…

Skippy mockup sequentializing adsorbing,…

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