Although the global economy continues to exert downward pressure, sponsorship spending on tennis continues its upward momentum.

Worldwide spending on amateur and professional tennis tournaments, leagues and sanctioning bodies is expected to total $708 million in 2013, up 6.1 percent from 2012, according to IEG SR projections.

The increase exceeds IEG’s projected 5.5 percent increase in total sponsorship spending and 6 percent rise for the sports category.

Much of that spending is driven at the sanctioning body level.

Case in point: The WTA earlier this year announced a three-year partnership with Xerox Corp. that spans 18 tournaments around the world. The deal follows five other new ties over the past two and a half years: BNP Paribas, Jetstar, Peak, Rolex and Oriflame cosmetics.

Men’s tennis also is on a roll. The ATP over the past six months has secured multimillion-dollar deals with Emirates Airlines, Rolex and Tecnifibre, a manufacturer of tennis racquets, bags and accessories. The deals follow renewals with HEAD and Ricoh in November 2012.

The ATP currently works with 11 companies, up from one top-tier partner (Mercedes-Benz) and several smaller partners ten years ago.

“We now generate more revenue from our pool of partners than we do from our premier partner,” said Laurent Delanney, who serves as the ATP’s commercial director and CEO of the ATP in Europe.

Corona Extra in 2010 signed premier partner status of the ATP World Tour, filling a two year gap left by the departure of Mercedes-Benz in 2008.

Chart 1: Top Companies Sponsoring Tennis
Tennis Sponsorship Spending To Total $708 Million In 2013

*Corona Extra sponsors 29% of all tennis properties in this data set based on IEG data.

Demonstrating tennis’ appeal as a global marketing platform, much of the recent activity is driven by companies new to the sport.

Emirates Airlines over the past 18 months has made a significant push into tennis with high-profile deals at the sanctioning body and tournament levels. Those include a five-year partnership with The ATP World Tour and a seven-year tie with the USTA, the latter of which affords title of the ten-stop U.S. Open Series.

Emirates also is sponsoring the Internazionali BNL D’Italia in Rome and the Roland Garros in Paris, among other events.

In the states, the U.S. Tennis Assn. this week will announce a new partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital.  The hospital will provide medical experts for the U.S. Open and help the governing body develop programs that promote physical fitness and other health and wellness initiatives.

The USTA—which doubled down on the category following the 2012 departure of Dr. Brian Hainline as the governing body’s chief medical officer—allows the organization to tap into Mount Sinai’s expertise across multiple medical specialties, said Lew Sheer, the governing body’s chief revenue officer.

“We’re getting the best experts from a variety of disciplines.”

Chart 2: Most Prevalent Categories Sponsoring Tennis
Tennis Sponsorship Spending To Total $708 Million In 2013

*Sports apparel & equipment companies are 9.6 times more likely to sponsor tennis properties than the average of all sponsors of tennis based on IEG data.

Factors Fueling Growth
Below, IEG SR highlights five factors fueling increased corporate spending on tennis. 

Growing popularity of tennis. The growing popularity of tennis around the world is driving renewed corporate interest in the sport.

For example, the ATP set a new record in 2012 with 800 million television viewers of ATP World Tour tennis events. The ATP had 785 million viewers in 2011 and 543 million in 2010.  

Total broadcast hours of ATP events were up more than 30 percent globally in 2012, reaching more than 100,000 hours for the first time.

Global marketing platforms. The ATP and WTA credit their success in part to the ability to offer scalable marketing platforms around the world.  

“The global nature of the sport gives us the flexibility to put together deals that deliver in key strategic markets,” said Andrew Walker, WTA CMO. 

For example, Xerox’s partnership includes a presence at 18 of the WTA’s 54 tournaments.  The company receives a presence in North America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

“We are flexible and adoptable in creating bespoke packages that make sense for brands.”

The WTA continues its search to replace Sony Ericsson, which left the tour at the end of 2012.  

More focus on social media. Like other types of properties, a growing number of rightsholders have found success by offering social media extensions.

The WTA manages the Facebook accounts for 18 players, a service it leverages to provide sponsors added value.

“We’re building equity and goodwill with players, and we can translate that into a benefit for sponsors in terms of messaging,” said Walker.

For example, the WTA helps develop a content and distribution strategy for USANA Health Sciences, Inc.’s team of player ambassadors. 

“We produce, package and help distribute content.”

More stadium upgrades. The growing number of venue upgrades is creating new sponsorship opportunities.

For example, the BB&T Atlanta Open is negotiating a partnership with United Parcel Service, Inc. after hiring the company to transport a new modular stadium from Switzerland.

UPS will use the partnership to showcase its shipping and logistics expertise, said Bob Bryant, BB&T Atlanta tournament director.

“We had a logistics problem and UPS became a key part of the solution. The sponsorship will help them tell that story.”

Other organizations that have announced new stadium developments include the USTA, which last year unveiled a strategic plan for the Billy Jean King National Tennis Center, and the All England Lawn Tennis Club, which last month announced a plan to redevelop the iconic tennis venue in Wimbledon, England. 

More lifestyle events. Some tournaments are adding new programming to capture interest from non-endemic companies.

The Citi Open in Washington, D.C. last year created a culinary event to draw sponsors that may not be interested in a tennis-specific event.

“The culinary event gives us a larger reach by going outside the endemic tennis audience into the culinary world,” said Jamie Sunshine, the Citi Open’s senior vice president of corporate sponsorships.

The tournament is on the cusp of securing a food company as a sponsor, he said.

The Citi Open this year also will roll out a therapy program for wounded veterans and a women’s-only event featuring a tennis clinic, player meet-and-greets, a brunch and other activities.

The therapy program will provide sponsors a year-round marketing platform, said Sunshine.