Sport stuck in the past, merchandiser says
Tennis is stuck in the past and selling its players short, according to one of the handful of merchandisers producing items featuring images of players which are on sale at the US Open.india Updated: Sep 04, 2003 10:56 IST
Tennis is stuck in the past and selling its players short, according to one of the handful of merchandisers producing items featuring images of players which are on sale at the US Open.
Of the hundreds of items designed to part tennis fans from their money at the hardcourt grand slam, nearly all are branded "US Open 2003".
Only a Nike shirt with a small image of American James Blake on it, packs of cards and a US Open calendar featuring players' photographs ofer anything for fans of particular players to buy.
"Tennis is stuck in the 1970s and '80s," said Chris Carey, president of the Maven Group, whose NetPro tennis cards are among the few player-specific items at the Open, which runs until Sunday.
"How is it possible to have nearly nothing with the players on it?" Carey asked on ESPN.com.
Part of the problem is that individual tennis players own the rights to their own names and likenesses, making it harder for memorabilia manufacturers to do business with blocs of players as they do in team sports.
The men's and women's tours, the ATP and WTA, say they can only do so much.
"Under the current structure, it is difficult for us to develop marketing plans that are player specific," WTA spokesman Darrell Fry told the website.
"We've had a lot of success marketing our players in groups."
Since June, the WTA have been flagging up their "Get In Touch With Your Feminine Side" campaign, which features 10 players including Venus and Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters and Daniela Hantuchova in television and print advertising.
Pastel pink T-shirts featuring the slogan are selling well and many players are seen practising in the shirts. "We can't keep them in stock," Fry said.
Jeff Tarango, a 14-year tour veteran who retired last Thursday, said that ATP Tour officials had not done enough to market their players.
"They definitely need to change their thinking on how to market," Tarango told the website.
"They need a whole new group. I hate to say fire the lot but they probably should. They need to really re-think how they are marketing tennis and what they are trying to sell and not be so worried if they are only making one penny on a T-shirt. The fact that they are getting the T-shirts out there, I think, is more important."
John Tobias, of sports agents SFX, said mass merchandising in tennis was compromised by the high turnover of players in the sport. "The top seeds are getting beaten all the time," he said.
"It's not like it was in the late '80s and early '90s, when the top 10 wasn't changing that much from year to year and the same players were making the quarter-finals in the grand slams."
US Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe said the lack of players' merchandise was due to one thing -- money.
"The manufacturers obviously aren't making enough money or we'd see much more of it," he said.
"But it's strange to think that it wouldn't make sense to have some (Andy) Roddick shirts at the US Open."
First Published: Sep 04, 2003 10:56 IST