The ATP and the WTA, respectively the organisers of the top men's and women's tennis tours, have moved one step closer to a potential merger after combining their marketing operations.
The first major project from the combined marketing efforts was announced yesterday, with the two parties to collaborate on the second season of Tennis United: CrossCourt, the digital content series.
The series was originally released during the suspended 2020 season and is shown on YouTube and the ATP and WTA’s digital channels.
The ATP and WTA officially transitioned to an integrated marketing operation in January, building on what the respective organisations called an “unprecedented collaboration between the tours over the past 18 months.”
Under the alignment, the tours said “key leadership roles across social media, digital and branding are now responsible for maximising engagement through joint storytelling and creating efficiencies on key projects.”
The two parties also added that “collaboration across commercial and communications over the same period has further leveraged the unique appeal of both tours.”
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The ATP and WTA recently secured joint-brand partnerships with TopCourt, the digital tennis learning platform, and the online game Tennis Clash.
The unified division is being led by Dan Ginger, who was recently appointed as senior vice-president of brand and marketing.
Ginger was previously chief marketing officer at international entertainment agency giant Endeavor and the western European brand director for Chinese telecoms company Huawei.
He said: “Few professional sports have the opportunity that tennis does, to tell an authentic story of male and female athletes united. This has always been our vision for Tennis United.
“Creating a centralised marketing team across the tours allows us to further reduce fragmentation within the sport and focus on positioning tennis as a leading global entertainment property.”
Calls for the ATP and WTA to merge intensified last year as the Covid-19 pandemic severely impacted the sport, both in terms of its calendar and finances.
The issue has been a major talking point in tennis with leading figures such as Roger Federer and Billie Jean King publicly calling for a merger and saying it is the right juncture to consider even closer ties.
Notably, Steve Simon, the chief executive of the WTA, also gave his support to a joined operation, admitting it “makes all the sense in the world.”
There have long been calls for a merger of the ATP and WTA but talks have rarely progressed beyond potential joint selling of television rights to events.
At present, there are up to seven different bodies governing different parts of the sport, with the International Tennis Federation and the boards of the four major grand slam tournaments – Wimbledon, the French Open, US Open and Australian Open – serving as key stakeholders in tennis along with the ATP and WTA.
It is anticipated that a merger could make the process of securing broadcast deals and sponsorships easier for all parties by bringing commercial activity under one roof.
The unprecedented global health crisis has helped to forge closer ties between the sport’s main stakeholders.
CVC Capital Partners, the private equity firm with significant interests in sport, has recently been linked with a prospective investment in a commercial entity that would manage rights to men’s and women’s tennis.
It has been reported that CVC is in talks over a deal worth $600 million to acquire a 15 per cent stake in One Tennis, which would oversee the media and data rights of the ATP and the WTA.