With The Championships, Wimbledon, the third leg of tennis’ Grand Slam almost upon us, the WTA Tour made not just a loud branding statement, but a loud financial branding statement with their announcement of a $15 Million multi-year international branding campaign designed to re-introduce the casual sports fand to the stars of women's tennis. It is the latest in a series of very bold moves by the WTA to find ways to set themselves apart and bring in the casual fan, and the sponsor dollar, that is very necessary in returning the sport to even its heyday of the late 1990's. The move by CEO Larry Scott makes a great deal of sense…it shows the players, their title sponsor (Sony Ericsson) and other second tier sports that the WTA is putting serious dollars into brand building. Now are the dollars serious enough to make a den. Some of that will have to be proven by the PR commitment and effort the Tour makes to put its top stars in highly visible and aggressive and unique PR campaigns, and in individual sports (the Tour learned this with a very public tiff with Maria Sharapova in Rome earlier this year) the player schedule and outside comittments can sometimes make that difficult. The biggest way for this to succeed, much in the way NASCAR has its success, is to make sure that all parties…athletes, agents, tournaments, staff…are ALL pulling in the same direction and with a level of cooperation. The game is good, now the stories have to be told better.
Some other good reads on the branding side, Media Post has a good advance piece on the NHRA's plans to aggressively push their sport in NASCAR-like ways with grassroots partnerships designed at reaching more of the casual fan base in 2009…we have also talked a few times about the potential of lacrosse to break through into the mainstream with consistent branding, so it is worth taking a look at SME Branding's case study on bringing lacrosse under one brand and how it will work, some great work by one of the best branding companies in the business….Baseball America has a good “crisis communication” plan as to how minor league teams in the midwest can and will deal with the flooding issue in their communities… also on the minor league spin side, the Hudson Valley Renegades did a nice job of hitting the concession stands with a new “Chili” Davis wrap…the explanation of the sandwich (named after the former major leaguer with no real connection to the team) is a good one, as is the potential for a promotion with the Campbell's chili which is the main ingredient….ESPN has launched another great fan campaign tied to college football, with tis “Faces” promotion…revealing some of the great faces tied to each of the Division 1-A programs in college football history….lots of pieces on Tiger Woods’ season ending surgery following the US Open, but one of the better ones about how Tiger, even by not playing, will still dominate golf talk is posed by Fox sports.com's Michael Rosenberg