How can the WTA effectively market the sport? Rather than it's stars? - TennisForum.com
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post #1 of 36 (permalink) Old Mar 6th, 2007, 04:52 PM Thread Starter
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How can the WTA effectively market the sport? Rather than it's stars?

It SEEMS to me that men's tennis is driven by the sport itself, rather than the popularity of any individual player. Haas vs Davydenko gets a decent US TV audience. Ratings for women's tennis slip if you don't have one of the Williams sisters,and tank altogether if you also don't have two of Sharapova, Clijsters, Henin or Hingis. This has been a problem for years. The popularity of women's tennis dropped like a rock when Chris Evert retired.

And of course, the WTA is a lot smaller entity than a television network. Their ability to affect change is limited.

I guess I'm basically asking, 'how do you sell the sport, NOT the players?'

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post #2 of 36 (permalink) Old Mar 6th, 2007, 04:54 PM
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Re: How can the WTA effectively market the sport? Rather than it's stars?

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How can the WTA effectively market the sport? Rather than it's stars?
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post #3 of 36 (permalink) Old Mar 7th, 2007, 06:13 AM
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Re: How can the WTA effectively market the sport? Rather than it's stars?

In what dimension does Haas vs Davydenko get anything remotely resembling a "decent" US TV audience? I've seen quite the reverse from your premise in recent years. Agassi plays, men's tennis gets great ratings. Roddick produces fairly decent ratings. Anyone else, and the ratings plummet. Look at the US Open in the last few years. Last year's final on the men's side was Federer vs Roddick, which is as appealing matchup as men's tennis can have for a US audience. The match spilled over into prime time. Do you know what that segment of the match drew in prime time? A 2.0. This on the night with the biggest viewing pool of the week by far. Even the oft-criticized Kuznetsova/Dementieva match drew more viewers, and on Saturday night, which has by far the smallest viewing pool of the week.

Look at the ratings for regular non-slam events. All of those telecasts do not include stars. Some will have just other players. Yet, on cable channels, women's tennis pulls in an average rating about the same as regular season men's college basketball. (Coincidently, men's tennis pulls in roughly the same ratings as regular season women's college basketball.) So the evidence is that, contrary to your supposition, it's the ratings for men's tennis that are far more dependent on "star power". And even worse is, with the departure of Agassi, there are no "superstars" on the men's side (as far as the American viewing public is concerned). Why do you think ESPN let the French Open rights go? They like to heavily televise men's tennis during the first week of slams, and this is the one major where the American men (the only male players who could potentially appeal to viewers) are virtually guaranteed an early exit.

And as for your statement closing your first paragaph, that is absolutely untrue. It was forecast, but didn't happen. The WTA had never drawn more than 2.5 million fans in a season before Evert retired. The first year post-Evert, which saw the arrival of Capriati and the emergence of Seles and Sabatini as slam winners, saw attendance jump to 3 million, and it's climbed steadily since. (Now, 3 million fans would be considered a disaster.) Also, the popularity of the sport of tennis as a whole bottomed out in 1986. Women's tennis grew since then, and in 1994 passed men's tennis in popularity in the US (and has only stretched their lead since). In 1999, the bromide "but the men are more popular in Europe" went by the wayside, meaning that before the new millenium even dawned, women's tennis was drawing bigger viewership numbers in North America, Europe, and Asia. (Basically the biggest markets available.)

What's more, ratings reports have contradicted what you put forth in your opening paragraph. Basically, they showed that men's tennis was far more dependent on "stars" (at least, to the national audience) than women's tennis. Moya, Corretja, or another Spaniard playing? Ratings in Spain went up. No Spaniards? Ratings in Spain plummeted. Haas or Kiefer playing? Good ratings in Germany. No Germans, and you got bad ratings in Germany.

Now, this is not to say that national ratings don't jump for women when a national plays. However, the women have more players with crossover appeal, who draw ratings everywhere. And when there are no superstars, and no nationals, the women still get respectable ratings. There isn't the drastic falloff that you see with men's ratings.

Why this occurs, I couldn't say. I've only read the reports of the ratings; I haven't seen, say, the type of promotion the networks do in other countries. Are European broadcasters as nationalistic as Americans? Over here we went through a whole decade of rah-rah jingoism while Sampras, Agassi, and co. ruled the roost, and were told that only Americans mattered. The public accepted that-- but only for men's tennis. Since the cheerleading was being done during men's matches, perhaps the public just made that connection. And then on the women's side, they moved back to the normal mode of accepting stars regardless of nationality (like they used to in the days of Borg, Lendl, Becker, Edberg, etc., until our media screwed things up.)

Now, moving on to the question asked, let's start with a basic premise. Would you all agree that, when it comes to deciding whether to watch a match, viewers are most likely to be enticed by (in descending order):
1. Superstar players
2. Star players
3. Familiar players (ones whose names have been heard often)

Now, if we accept that premise, what we have to do next is boost the number of players the public will watch. Categories 1 and 2 are basically out because, as has been shown time and again, you can't manufacture a Superstar, or to most extents, a Star. You can try, but if they don't deliver, the public won't accept them. (Just like you can't manufacture a rivalry. It either happens or it doesn't.)

That leaves category 3. Familiar names. How do you create familiarity? By making sure the public has heard the names repeatedly. What's the best way to do that? I'll fall back on one of my old ideas-- get them on SportsCenter (and shows of that ilk). Now, we've seen that, left to their own devices, ESPN won't give WTA results. Only once in a blue moon, when there's a big match between players the public already knows. So what the tour needs to do is use some of that sponsorship money (it certainly isn't going into prize money) to sponsor a nightly "tennis report" on SportsCenter. Get the scores (and thus, the players' names) on every night. If people hear a name repeatedly, they'll get to know it. I can attest to that, as I know the names of far more golfers, auto racers, basketball or hockey players than I would ever care to, simply because I hear them over and over. There's no reason the WTA can't do this. There's no reason why, in any given week, the public will at least have a passing familiarity with 90% of the top 30.

Then, start expanding the tennis report to include short features on some of the more interesting characters on tour. Or show several players doing charitable work, or visiting hospitals. Let the public see the positive, the interesting, the quirky.

Once you've created a more widespread familiarity, then you can proceed with other marketing efforts. But start with building name recognition, and move on to showing the personalities behind the names, and then go from there. The NFLPA has a good promo going on-- "1800 players. 1800 stories." There are a lot of interesting stories in tennis. If the networks won't tell them, buy the time on the most popular sports shows and tell them yourself. We get a lot of amusement from some of these stories. So will the public at large.

And the tour could also do a "stealth" campaign. Many TV producers resort to product placement to offset costs. Tennis is a product. Place it. Pay the producers of a "cool" show to have their characters watching tennis matches, and rooting for or talking about these players. Stick a Schiavone poster on someone's wall. Put WTA clothing on a key character. Try to get in with the cool crowd, if only by osmosis.

That's just a couple of suggestions. Someone with a more extensive background in economics can come up with something better. Any of our suggestions would work better than what the tour currently isn't doing.

Last edited by Brian Stewart; Mar 7th, 2007 at 06:18 AM.
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post #4 of 36 (permalink) Old Mar 7th, 2007, 08:58 AM
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Re: How can the WTA effectively market the sport? Rather than it's stars?

most of these girls dont understand that they are also responsible for their marketing,but unfortunately most ofthem come from impoverished areas and dont have the money to hire a pr team and to make matters worse many of them dont speak english .
most of them dont know how to entertain,they bash the ball like robots thats all.tennis needs larger than life personalities like serena not to just market pova like she is the sole player,give pova tough draws like everybody so that everybody will understand whether the hype is deserved or not.
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post #5 of 36 (permalink) Old Mar 7th, 2007, 09:29 AM
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Re: How can the WTA effectively market the sport? Rather than it's stars?

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most of these girls dont understand that they are also responsible for their marketing,but unfortunately most ofthem come from impoverished areas and dont have the money to hire a pr team and to make matters worse many of them dont speak english .
most of them dont know how to entertain,they bash the ball like robots thats all.tennis needs larger than life personalities like serena not to just market pova like she is the sole player,give pova tough draws like everybody so that everybody will understand whether the hype is deserved or not.
But most people who attend the tournaments don’t care if the hype is deserved or not. It doesn’t really matter what way they play because the majority of people who attend Women’s matches don’t care. They’re not there to watch the tennis in the main, they’re there because they want to see the players. Maria is marketed because she puts backsides on seats. See, many people on this board think this board is representation of the crowds that attend Women’s tennis this is just not true. They seem to be under the illusion that the spectators who watch say Maria play Elena Dementieva, care or discuss their game, primarily, but they don’t. They just want to watch the girlies.

Proof of this would be. If Anna Kournikova turned up this week at any tournament. Attendance figures would rise.
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post #6 of 36 (permalink) Old Mar 7th, 2007, 09:37 AM
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Re: How can the WTA effectively market the sport? Rather than it's stars?

I gotta say I think that womens tennis is actually in a better state than mens tennis - at least in New Zealand.
Consider the ASB Classic to the Heineken Open. They get the same sort of crowd numbers yet we didnt get a single top 10 player for the ASB Classic this year and had I think it was two top 10 players there.
Even here in Christchurch I remember that at the Sunsmart G4 event the girls matches would have much more supporters than the boys matches despite the fact that the NZ guys did alot better than the NZ girls.
Fed Cup Regionals is expected to be an absolute sellout here - regardless of how many top 200 players come.
In terms of entertainment I'd much see a womens ralley than a mens ralley - women seem to vary their shots alot more and there are some absolute thriller ralleys there. Also women seem to be alittle more emotional than the men now (although once again I gotta thank Vera for this alittle)

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post #7 of 36 (permalink) Old Mar 7th, 2007, 10:41 AM
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Re: How can the WTA effectively market the sport? Rather than it's stars?

Gotta say, I don't buy the basic premise of this thread.

In SoCal the courts are always busy and everyone is aware of "the sport" and on the men's side I've never heard anyone talk about "that great Haas vs Davydenko match last night"

Heck men's tennis is just one guy these days (most casual fans would be tested to name more than 4 guys if you just showed them photos).

There should be an * next to any tournament win if Federer didn't play the event.
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post #8 of 36 (permalink) Old Mar 7th, 2007, 11:10 AM
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Re: How can the WTA effectively market the sport? Rather than it's stars?

Regardless of whether the mens or womens tours draw bigger ratings, the WTA could still do with boosting its profile. Brian Stewart posted some reasonable suggestions...getting the names of more players out there could be important. For example all we really hear about in Australia are Stosur, Molik and Pratt though the names Clijsters, Hingis, Williams and Sharapova would be fimiliar to those with any sort of sporting interest. The ATP would be more dominant especially since their coverage is far better but if there was a way to build up awareness of more WTA players, even if it took time, then its a start.

Another place to start could be in the attitude of the commentators. At least in Australia some of the old school media people like Fred Stolle and John Newcombe possibly dont put the WTA in the best light and show the sort of respect it deserves. I cant speak for other countries though.


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most of them dont know how to entertain,they bash the ball like robots thats all.tennis needs larger than life personalities like serena not to just market pova like she is the sole player,give pova tough draws like everybody so that everybody will understand whether the hype is deserved or not.
Sharapova has showed time and again that any hype surrounding her game is warranted. The USO draw wasnt tough enough for you?
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post #9 of 36 (permalink) Old Mar 7th, 2007, 12:11 PM
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Re: How can the WTA effectively market the sport? Rather than it's stars?

Don't know Volcana but when we stop seeing polls on this forum about who's the prettiest Russian, who's got the biggest tits, bootiest ass, etc, we'll know that things are moving in the right direction.

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post #10 of 36 (permalink) Old Mar 7th, 2007, 12:41 PM
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Re: How can the WTA effectively market the sport? Rather than it's stars?

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Gotta say, I don't buy the basic premise of this thread.

In SoCal the courts are always busy and everyone is aware of "the sport" and on the men's side I've never heard anyone talk about "that great Haas vs Davydenko match last night"

Heck men's tennis is just one guy these days (most casual fans would be tested to name more than 4 guys if you just showed them photos).

There should be an * next to any tournament win if Federer didn't play the event.
I’m only speaking off my own experiences. Where I live the courts are always empty, except when Wimbledon comes around and then the racquets are searched for, dusted down and we try to locate a sports shop which sells tennis balls. We make our way to the court, there’s usually no net, that’s long gone and the high fence keeping unwanted visitors off the premises, usually there’s a gaping wide hole when you look further down the path. Thing is, we’ve forgotten to bring the brush to clean up all the broken Budweiser bottles and empty cans littering the court. By the time this is all done it’s time for a smoke and I’m far too tired for tennis by then.

I did play tennis once myself. Thing was, I couldn’t serve not matter how I tried, my forehand was incredibly poor, backhand was non existent. I could barely return the ball back to my opponent when playing. I sought semi-professional advice and she said best thing for me was to do what most people like me do ‘become a critic’.
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post #11 of 36 (permalink) Old Mar 7th, 2007, 12:41 PM
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Re: How can the WTA effectively market the sport? Rather than it's stars?

American women are marketed much more than the men. Take the Sisters we know their mom and dad. Hell we know their sisters! We know where they were born, their interests, their businesses, their family problems, their likes and dislikes. We know Sharapova's dad Yuri showed up in America with little money at Bolletteri's ischool. We know Kim is getting married, Lindsay is having a baby.....what do we know about any ATP player? Maybe the info is put out there and I have just not paid any attention.

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post #12 of 36 (permalink) Old Mar 7th, 2007, 12:51 PM
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Re: How can the WTA effectively market the sport? Rather than it's stars?

unfortunately women will always be treated like pieces of meat and note s legitmate tennis atheletes.
i think at matches women also pay to see their favourites play not to look at how short the skirt is .i think a girl like justine put people in the stands who enjoy justine's game.most of the people who go to tennis matches are tennis fans who enjoy great shots and they applaud,i have noticed that when pova is playing they never applaud a lot because they know her game is hit and hit harder with no plan b.
i go to a match to watch an entertaining match with my favourite playing not an unknown .the only matches i remember about the usa open 06 involved justine semi-final,momo playing serena,agassi playing baghdatis,and a lot of men's matches.
unfortunately women in this particular sport are continuosly viewed as sex objects to the detriment of their sport.
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post #13 of 36 (permalink) Old Mar 7th, 2007, 01:00 PM
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Re: How can the WTA effectively market the sport? Rather than it's stars?

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unfortunately women will always be treated like pieces of meat and note s legitmate tennis atheletes.
i think at matches women also pay to see their favourites play not to look at how short the skirt is .i think a girl like justine put people in the stands who enjoy justine's game.most of the people who go to tennis matches are tennis fans who enjoy great shots and they applaud,i have noticed that when pova is playing they never applaud a lot because they know her game is hit and hit harder with no plan b.
i go to a match to watch an entertaining match with my favourite playing not an unknown .the only matches i remember about the usa open 06 involved justine semi-final,momo playing serena,agassi playing baghdatis,and a lot of men's matches.
unfortunately women in this particular sport are continuosly viewed as sex objects to the detriment of their sport.
Henin, Mauresmo, KUZNETSOVA? No way. Others yes, but can they, should they expect anything more than this? How many 'Men's mags' do you see today with today's female stars posing seductively in swimwear or wearing little else.
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post #14 of 36 (permalink) Old Mar 7th, 2007, 01:30 PM
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Re: How can the WTA effectively market the sport? Rather than it's stars?

Look how well the Doha final with JH and Sveta was received over there. The stadium was packed, and they loved every shot on court.

You can promote tennis with tennis - the event wasn't promoted with short skirts but around JH, Hingis, Sveta and Jankovic playing tennis.

Before the final JH and Sveta even handed out tennis trophies to 4 little junior player girls. This is the type of thing that promotes tennis as a sport, and the audience loved seeing it.

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post #15 of 36 (permalink) Old Mar 7th, 2007, 01:35 PM
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Re: How can the WTA effectively market the sport? Rather than it's stars?

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Look how well the Doha final with JH and Sveta was received over there. The stadium was packed, and they loved every shot on court.

You can promote tennis with tennis - the event wasn't promoted with short skirts but around JH, Hingis, Sveta and Jankovic playing tennis.

Before the final JH and Sveta even handed out tennis trophies to 4 little junior player girls. This is the type of thing that promotes tennis as a sport, and the audience loved seeing it.
Packed stadium? There were lots of empty seats.
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