Every year there is a limited amount of money which can be spent on endorsing tennis athletes. Most sponsors are currently fulfilling multi-year contracts with Nadal and Federer. At the end of these contracts, difficult marketing choices will have to be made. Whichever player is able to sell more product, will enjoy the larger contracts.__________________________________________________ __________________________________________
Lets look at how advertisers emphasize the strengths of the big 3 in order to sell product. Keep in mind that records, winning, stamina, style-of-game, and mental toughness are the KEY brand attributes that move tennis product. Pony tails, muscle shirts, coloured laces, shirt ripping, the desire to be affiliated with a matador image, signing a million tennis balls after a match, a likeable reputation for holding babies, are all more obscure SECONDARY brand attributes. There are many players on tour who have bigger rock star personalities than the big 3. Why do we absolutely not care about them? Because they are defined by obscure second tier attributes.
Lets look at some KEY attributes of the big 3 which translate into brand equity.
1) Some brand equity strengths which Roger currently enjoys:
a) He’s the winningest player of all time and a major killjoy for any up-and-comer endorsement bandit, trying to wrest that prized Nike contract from Roger’s soft but kung-fu grip like hands is a tall order. His brand equity and image in this regard is without precedent except for the likes of other superstars such as Michael Jordan or pre-seven-year-itch Tiger Woods. Their success is forged not overnight but over careers approaching 15 years. Since their success was not built overnight, neither will the endorsements disappear over night. The WINNING image of Jordan was able to move product for many years after he retired and so it will be with Fed (unless his friend Tiger Woods brushes off on him and tennis prudes start to run for cover at their country clubs).
b)Roger has an almost complete game which many tennis players aspire to. Who wants to be a mindless ball basher after all?
Summary of Roger’s key marketable strengths: TONS of winning (unlike Charlie sheen), records, and style-of-game.
2)Some brand equity strengths which Rafa currently enjoys:
a) Like Roger, he has won a ton of tournaments and set records at RG. Again, we all want to be associated with winners.
b)He is associated with stamina, strength, incredible endurance, mental toughness; all characteristics of YOUTH. All sports fans and physically active people greatly covet these attributes, they are universal. It’s how we transcend our mortality and inevitable decrepitude which transforms the most glorious of bodies. Many athletic people will go to great lengths to experience this zone at least once in their lives and use rigorous exercise, dieting, tanning, surgery, to hold on to youth and fitness. Even the casual athlete will be somewhat seduced by these ideals. This market is enormous.
c)Some here have confused his snarling and flexing as key selling points but they are not. They are secondary attributes. There are many snarling and flexing fools on tour (Monfils anyone?).
Summary of Rafa’s key marketable strengths: TONS of winning, records, strength and youth imagery.
3)Some brand equity strengths which Novak currently enjoys:
a)Because the djoker is a giant killer, his key attrtibute = WINNING. He enjoys the reputation of toppling the greatest players in the game. Over time this attribute will be emphasized, capitalized, and developed even further. Assuming Nike lands Novak, one can presume that the tone of their ads would focus on the giant killer theme more and more. This might cannibalize sales of Roger and Rafa endorsements but its an executive decision that Nike might need to make at some point.
b)Novak has begun to break records at slams = WINNING. No doubt over the years, the records will start to fall, and as he approaches the achievements of his contemporaries, advertising dollars will start to defect more and more towards him.
c)Nole exhibits the same physical strengths and youth imagery which Rafa enjoys (perhaps even surpassing him). This is again, very appealing to young and old people, athlete and couch-potato alike. More epic matches, displays of super-endurance, shirt ripping, and proudly displaying an extraordinarily fit physique will seduce more and more people over time. People will want to be associated with this virile fountain of youth.
d)The falcons’s mental toughness has already become renowned. He’s a living legend, surpassing Federer and perhaps Nadal. This attribute will continue to grow and become emphasised over the years.
e)Some secondary attributes are his off-court charisma, personality, and intelligence. They are secondary attributes because even Roger has shown that one can enjoy extraordinary success despite having very few, if none of them. I was going to say that Roger is as smart as a bag of hammers but I’ve made a new years resolution to resist the urge to ridicule (too much). It’s not healthy.
Summary of Novak’s key marketable strengths: TONS of winning, records, strength and youth imagery. All of these will continue to grow.
In summary, the current reality is that both Roger and Rafa are continuing to enjoy lucrative benefits because of past success. Brands are not built, nor destroyed overnight. As Novak continues to build on some of those key selling attributes which all athletes and sports fans prize, his brand will continue to grow, and may even eclipse his adversaries.
Interesting analysis. Definitely some valid points (limited pie, Federer and Nadal taking the lion's share) I don't really agree with the central idea though - that success is the only thing that matters. It's essential, sure, but I don't see success as a brand attribute. I see it as a brand driver.
To use your example, I think Monfils has a much stronger brand than Djokovic. He has a very clear image with a clear target demographic. Now Djokovic's on-court success makes him a lot more commercially successful than Monfils, but I think that is a separate matter. If Monfils had Djokovic's tennis results, his brand would be ridiculously big right now.
To see what I mean you have to look no further than NASCAR. Jimmie Johnson is arguably the GOAT of NASCAR. He is the only driver ever to win five consecutive championships, and has the most titles of any active driver. He has been named DOTY on 4 separate occasions. He has been AP's Male Athlete of the Year. He has been named Forbes' Most Influential Athlete. He has a clean cut image, he has a big charitable foundation - the guy ticks every single box.
Yet endorsements-wise, the guy is only fourth on the list of current drivers. Fourth! Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jeff Gordon both earn almost twice
as much as he does. And there is just no comparison in their level of success. Gordon hasn't won the championship in 12 years. Earnhardt hasn't EVER won it.
Why? Because the other two guys (Earnhardt in particular) have very carefully crafted images that tap right into specific demographics exceptionally well. Johnson is just a really great athlete who doesn't have a specifically crafted image. So while he still earns plenty of money just by virtue of being successful, he hasn't really created that iconic brand that defines the other guys.
The key to a successful brand is using success to sell an image. Not using success as the image.