Roger Federer is sponsored by Rolex, Nike and other brands for about $71 million per year. Serena Williams’ sponsorships from Nike and other brands make her the highest paid female athlete in the world.
But there is a subcategory of tennis player who gets sponsorship at the last possible moment. While it might only be $3,000, it helps the up and comers pay for food and gas. To get the one time sponsorship the player must be scheduled to play a top tier player on center court. And be willing to sew a patch onto his or her shirt the morning before the match.
Guinot is a $100 million French cosmetics company that bets on name recognition among the global audience for professional tennis. You might not know Viktoria Kuzmova, but you might recognize the Guinot patch on her tennis dress. You’ll also recognize her U.S. Open first round opponent, Venus Williams.
Guinot’s current program, handled by the agency IMG, began in 2008. After the order of play is made for the next day, IMG contacts the agents of players who are scheduled on the tournament’s biggest courts. Negotiations begin with players who are not contractually restricted from wearing additional patches. Roughly eight to 10 deals are struck at each Grand Slam event.
Financially it makes sense to sponsor no-name athletes. It’s a remarkably inexpensive way to reach 17 million viewers. There is no long term commitment. Even the negotiations are settled quickly since match times are determined by the draw and the day’s previous matches.
It’s not clear that short term sponsorships help the brand. They are analogous to programmatic media buys where your ad can end up on a site advocating hate speech. Well, underdog tennis sponsorship is not that bad since at least the athlete has qualified himself or herself by being admitted to a major tournament. It’s no guarantee but better than the Neo Nazi web page.
What might be interesting is tennis athlete sponsorship from underdog brands. For example creative companies that are trying to unseat a dominant incumbent. Brands like Shake Shack, Peet’s Coffee or Arby’s come to mind. For that matter it might be a unknown cosmetics company. In any case, the lower rung players benefit, many of whom are striving, financially and athletically, to compete on a global stage. And that’s something any brand could align with.