WOMEN'S TENNIS SPONSOR SEARCH INITIALLY SKITTISH MARKETERS STARTING TO SHOW SOME INTEREST

By Published on .

The Women's Tennis Association would seem to have it all.

Games are televised worldwide with high ratings; tournaments are being added next year in Poland, Bulgaria and Scotland; attendance and prize money at this year's events have increased; and the WTA benefits from well-known players.

So why is the WTA Tour having such a hard time finding a title sponsor?

Kraft General Foods ended its four-year relationship with the WTA in September, and the WTA has been searching for a new sponsor since December.

The organization is offering a comprehensive sponsorship package, including new promotional incentives at the four Grand Slam events and the Federation Cup, for about $7 million a year.

That same amount, said Lesa Ukman, president of International Events Group, Chicago, which tracks sports sponsorships, could buy title sponsorship of three other major women's sports: golf, figure skating or professional volleyball; half a World Cup sponsorship; or about 3 minutes during the Super Bowl.

Harlan Stone, exec VP-marketing at Darien, Conn.-based Advantage Marketing, which is marketing the WTA sponsorship, acknowledged about 30% of the companies approached have refused to "mess with tennis," saying the sport is too problematic.

But Brian Murphy, editor of Sports Marketing Letter, Westport, said difficulties have been exaggerated and the WTA, while in transition, is "very strong." Sponsors would have a "ground-floor opportunity that's rare in an established sport."

Mr. Stone said interest has risen since June, and five companies are considering sponsorships: three globally and two regionally. The group includes an auto marketer, a beverage company, a financial services corporation, a personal-care company and an appliances/home electronics business.

"Before, companies couldn't look past the World Cup. Now they can," Mr. Stone said.

In this article:
Most Popular