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Tennis is experiencing a major resurgence — here's why

Tennis is experiencing a major resurgence — here's why

Looking back in time, tennis had its golden years in the 1970's. Imagine: Bjorn Borg just had his 68th birthday! Back in the days of disco the Fila stripes donned by the Swedish sports god were worn by rock stars and Hollywood celebs alike.

However, according to CNN, "a [tennis] resurgence began at the height of Covid-19 when it was one of the few activities people could play safely while socially distanced. Its popularity has only grown since, as there’s a changing of the guard among the top-ranked players [and] it’s attracting new eyes and corporate interests, like fashion and Hollywood, fueling a boon."

"The sport is surging on a global scale, with its biggest names fronting luxe fashion campaigns from Louis Vuitton to Loewe and stars gracing the cover of Vogue. Of course, there’s a TikTok angle, with the rise of #tenniscore videos garnering tens of millions of views, and yes, even that buzzy film [Challengers], which was number one at the box office in its debut weekend," reports CNN.

Above: The new Challengers movie featuring Zendaya was able to reach number one at the box office this year. Source: MGM.

In addition, "Not only are people watching it, they’re actually hitting the courts: The United States Tennis Association (USTA) said that nearly 24 million people are currently playing tennis, marking four consecutive years of growth."

And big brands are flocking to the sport as the number of sponsorships surged 41% and the number of brands advertising in tennis soared 40%, according to SponsorUnited, a sports and entertainment research platform. Tennis is now growing more rapidly than many other sports including MLB, MLS and the NBA.

And it's not just surging ratings at the Tennis Channel. Bob Lynch, CEO of SponsorUnited, chalks it up to the "convergence of a few important factors," as tennis broadcasts nearly year-round tournaments across the globe, so it "attracts a diverse, global and localized fan base, which gives brands the ability to target very specific audiences for specific reasons.”

Above: Delray Beach based tennis star Coco Gauff has become a fashion icon as well showing off her New Balance gear. Source: New Balance.

“Digitally native and content savvy younger players like Coco Gauff are becoming more prominent,” Lynch explains. “Fans have more access to tennis athletes and their lives, interests and journeys than ever before due to the increased social exposure they receive, which allows them to become more influential to fans and brands alike.”

“The opportunity for us to story-tell with athletes [like Coco Gauff] is more unique than any other sport out there because they’re not wearing a team or jersey, they’re wearing New Balance,” adds Evan Zeder, director of global sports marketing for New Balance’s tennis and baseball units.

And fashion brands are all about the tennis look right now. “Recently, the influence of tennis on fashion has strengthened even further, and many are adopting the codes of this sport,” explains Lacoste’s Deputy CEO Catherine Spindler. “Pieces from the tennis universe are highly praised and serve as sources of inspiration for everyone.”

Above: The Dobel Tequila Bar offered tennis-themed drinks at the Miami Open this year. Photo: Miami Open presented by Itaú.

Even alcohol brands believe the growing popularity of tennis is an opportunity to introduce themselves to an exceptionally affluent audience. Lander Otegui, the chief marketing officer for Proximo (which markets tequila brand Dobel) sponsors the US Open along with other pro tournaments in Miami, Indian Wells, and Cincinnati. 

Otegi explains, "It’s been an incredible time for tennis in the last few years, with record attendance for pretty much every event in the US and globally,” he said. “The sport is in a really good place and it’s also helped us solidify our presence in it.”

"As for the future, growth won’t fault if the USTA has its way: The organization wants to grow the number of people playing to 35 million, or 10% of the US population, within the next decade," according to CNN.


Source: CNN; Top image: Chelsea Audibert / Unsplash.

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