Tennis-ATP and WTA inch closer to merger after combining marketing ops

·2-min read

By Sudipto Ganguly

MUMBAI (Reuters) - The first major project to come out of the combined ATP and WTA marketing operation was launched on Wednesday as the streamlining of the governance of tennis gathers pace.

The COVID-19 pandemic decimated the 2020 tennis calendar and prompted calls for a merger of the various bodies that run the game, a suggestion well received by both the women's (WTA) and men's (ATP) tours.

On Wednesday, the ATP and WTA announced the second season of their digital show -- Tennis United: CrossCourt -- which will feature newly-married couple Elina Svitolina and Gael Monfils in the first episode on Aug. 25.

"This is an exciting time for professional tennis," WTA President Micky Lawler told Reuters.

"This past year, we gave the WTA a new visual identity while we simultaneously built a more formal collaboration with the ATP. Both initiatives have resonated with our audience.

"We're extremely pleased to announce our marketing alignment with the ATP and look forward to delivering a new era of storytelling that celebrates the best of our sport."

Tennis enjoys a massive worldwide following, but its governance is fractured with seven organisations - ATP, WTA, the four Grand Slams and the International Tennis Federation - running different parts of the game.

The unprecedented challenge of the global health crisis helped forge closer links between the bodies and chart a roadmap for an unified calendar, shared commercial offerings, sponsorship and TV deals.

'Tennis United' was first launched in 2020 and by the end of the year the WTA rebranded its website and changed its tournament naming system to align with the ATP.

The two marketing departments have been working together since January and in June they announced a joint commercial deal with e-learning platform TopCourt and a combined partnership with mobile game Tennis Clash.

The two tours, however, still have different ranking systems, logos and websites while viewers need different pay-TV platforms to watch matches.

ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi, a strong advocate of governance reform, says tennis overly relies on ticket sales and needs structural change.

The Italian presented a plan to revolutionise the sport soon after taking over as the ATP chief at the start of 2020, but the pandemic quickly forced all sporting bodies into crisis mode.

"It's one of our sport's unique selling points that we have such a strong product on the men's and women's side," Gaudenzi told Reuters, adding that an unified sport was key to his plan.

"Our biggest events are combined, and fans see us as part of the same storytelling throughout the season.

"Bringing the tours' marketing teams together is an important step towards packaging and distributing tennis as one sport, which ultimately will help us enhance the experience for fans."

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Nick Mulvenney and Peter Rutherford)

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