Coming off of an epic Wimbledon for the second year in a row, it would seem that tennis, with all its global promotional arms, the power of the USTA and the other three Grand Slams, and some strong personalities would be poised to make a strong followup showing leading into the US Open Series. After all, this past week had the best team-based tennis event in the world…one that showed that the sport could be played not just as individuals or even as doubles partners, but in an event that fans could understand and experience and that each match would count for toward a season long finale, just like other sports. Yes that team format did deliver with some fun matches, a great digital play, a good experience on site for all and even some amazing press coverage. The only problem for the sport is the team format that got the exposure last week was Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss long-running World Team Tennis entry, as opposed to the often-maligned and much forgotten Davis Cup brand. Here's a look at both in the week that was. Once again Davis Cup, arguably one of the best on site experiences in sport, got lost again in the scheduling shuffle. The week fell after Wimbledon and at the same time as the women's US Open, the NASCAR Chicagoland Sprint Cup Series, the run-up to the baseball All-Star game, UFC 100 and even the World Series of Poker. Add in that top American Andy Roddick couldn’t play because of injury and the limitations on travel budgets for most mainstream media, and the Davis Cup as a brand was lost in the shuffle on almost all points. Making things worse is the continued confusing schedule and the lack of any major brand activation in the early rounds and one of the best events in all of sport virtually disappeared. Now juxtapose that with WTT, which grabbed some great coverage in USA Today and the Washington Post (their Washington franchise was home last weekend), tied in charity events with some name players, and found enough squeaky wheels (Murphy Jensen) to effectively use social media to also drive some interest. Given a brands’ ROI, those aligned with WTT easily got more short term and lower cost exposure than those associated with the higher profile Davis Cup event for the week. Can Davis Cup ever go through a brand restoratio. Tough to do unless the oft-talked about format change happens. If not, one of the legendary team sports could continue to fall behind a slightly slicker and more efficient cousin run by a legend who know how to make the game fun for new generations.
Some other good reads…interesting positioning on this past weekends UFC event…the more traditional journalists like the LA Times TJ Simers attended and disliked the bloody aspects and the questionable showmanship, while columnists like Yahoo's Dan Wetzel more or less “got” the show and the experience for what it was, both good and bad…whether Brock Lesnar's questionable antics and dissing of one of the UFC's few mainstream brands (Bud Light) will hurt the promotion going forward remains to be seen and is definiately worth watching…one thing for sure is that the UFC did deliver buzz, good and bad…also on the brand trail, Sally Jenkins had a good Washington Post piece on Lance Armstrong's positive and negative effect on the Tour de France and the future of other star cyclists and teams.