The women’s tennis tour is still looking for a sponsor after
NEW YORK (AP) _ The women’s tennis tour is still looking for a sponsor after rejecting a lucrative offer from the maker of Tampax tampons.
Concerns over image and marketing caused the WTA Tour to turn down a three-year offer of at least $10 million, The New York Times reported Thursday.
``We were caught in a Catch-22 situation,″ said Martina Navratilova, president of the WTA Tour Players Association. ``The players wanted to support it, but we came to realize that it was economically unfeasible.
``We couldn’t risk losing the local tournament sponsors, which is where our $35 million in prize money comes from, because they didn’t want to be associated with a WTA Tour presented by Tampax. It shouldn’t be a stigma, but apparently it still is.″
The WTA Tour has been seeking a sponsor since ending its long and much criticized relationship with the Philip Morris Corp., makers of Virginia Slims cigarettes.
Tambrandscoei, manufacturer of Tampax, sought to become the global sponsor, but the offer failed to gain the support of tournament officials, including those at the four Grand Slam events.
``... We received a tremendous backlash for even considering the proposal,″ Anne Person Worcester, chief executive officer of the women’s tour, told the Times. ``It’s not a personal decision, it’s not a political decision, it’s a business decision.″
An official at Advantage International, the firm hired to find a new sponsor, said the WTA Tour made a mistake.
``Women’s tennis had the chance to do something cutting edge, to lead instead of follow, and instead they’ve opted for the path of least resistance,″ Harlan Stone, Advantage’s executive vice president, told the Times.
Stone said it wasn’t easy finding a sponsor for women’s tennis last year, when the sport was hurt by the absence of top stars Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati. Seles has been sidelined since being stabbed in 1993 and Capriati was off the tour for more than a year with personal problems and injuries before returning last November.
``With Monica Seles out, with Jennifer Capriati busted for drugs, with lackluster competition at the top, and with the International Management Group’s threat to start its own tour, it wasn’t a great time to sell women’s tennis,″ Stone said.
The Tambrandscoei deal was turned down even though the tour wouldn’t have to use Tampax in its official name. The company also offered to make a $3 million contribution in 1995 that would have been nonrefundable even if the tour decided to end the agreement early because of public disapproval.
But Worcester said negative reaction to the proposal forced the tour to turn it down.
``When we researched the possible image and impact this deal projected on the tour itself, on our tournaments’ ability to sell sponsorships and broadcasting rights to their events, we found that 75 percent of the insiders and experts we polled felt this would have a long-term negative impact,″ she said.
International Management Group is expected to replace Advantage as the tour’s marketing agent next week. If IMG fails to get an acceptable sponsor, it reportedly will be obligated to help subsidize the tour through 1999.