Article: ETIENNE de Villiers Plan to Get Tennis Bouncing Back [Archive] - MensTennisForums.com

Article: ETIENNE de Villiers Plan to Get Tennis Bouncing Back

DDrago2
10-03-2007, 06:27 PM
http://allafrica.com/stories/200710030558.html?page=2


South Africa: Game Plan to Get Tennis Bouncing Back

Business Day (Johannesburg)

3 October 2007
Posted to the web 3 October 2007

Michael Bleby
Johannesburg

ETIENNE de Villiers is not much of a tennis player. His CV cites one university-level victory, but concedes he is "not exactly International Tennis Hall of Fame material". Nonetheless, if the 58-year-old's plans work out, he will be remembered by fans for taking the game to a level of popularity it has not enjoyed for a long time.

De Villiers has been executive chairman and president of the ATP, the international body controlling events for professional male tennis players, since January last year. Formed as the Association of Tennis Professionals in 1990 by players who took control of the game away from the former governing body, the ATP, as it is now known, manages the calendar of 63 events that attract the world's top players throughout the year.

But in the contest for audience and public interest, tennis has lost its bounce. Prize money has remained static while that of golf -- a rival for TV coverage -- has risen. It is time for the ATP to repackage the game so that it can better compete for attention and interest in an age where entertainment needs dominate everything, says De Villiers.

It is no coincidence that the Pretoria University graduate was an executive with the Walt Disney Company for four years from 1986. He talks a language that may sound foreign to many in the tennis world.

"You have to decide which market you're in. If it's a tennis market you do certain things. If you're in the entertainment business you have to compete for discretionary time and income. We clearly are in the latter. Tennis over the past 15 years has not really done anything to change how it is presented or marketed to the general public."

To that end, De Villiers has announced a restructuring of the global calendar of men's tennis that will take effect as of 2009. The current "tour" system is out. In come the 1000-, 500- and 250-series events. The aim is to make the year-long tennis calendar easier to follow and reduce confusion about the ranking of tournaments and players.

"We've never had a story that told fans about the global tour," he says. "Very few people who follow tennis actually understand that it runs for 44 weeks, is played in more than 40 countries and there's a coherent story that starts in Auckland and will end in Shanghai and at the end of that there's a top player in the world."

In De Villiers' new world, points -- 1000, 500 or 250 depending on the event category -- will count towards participation in the final ATP event of the year, now called the Tennis Masters Cup. Six of the nine top 1000 events will also be combined with tournaments held by the WTA Tour, so that the top women will be competing at the same time and place as the top men.

Co-operation is vital in a world of disparate tennis governing bodies, where professional men have one organisation, women have another and the Grand Slam and Davis Cup events belong to yet another body, the International Tennis Federation. Being divided will not work, De Villiers says.

"We should all work just for one person and he's a 45-year-old living in Bedfordshire called John Smith. He is our tennis fan and he is the only person we should be working for. Ultimately, that informs the decisions of all of us who work in entertainment."

De Villiers didn't start in entertainment. After graduating as a civil engineer from Tuks in 1970, he went to Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship and, after a stint back in SA, worked for two years as an engineer in the UK. In 1979 he went to consulting firm McKinsey, where he worked with management gurus Tom Peters and Bob Waterman .

In 1981 he returned to Johannesburg, running the building contracting and shop-fitting businesses of Ronnie Lubner's Solaglas. He helped with that company's international expansion and in 1984 was recruited by Sol Kerzner to head film and entertainment company Satbel, which became Interleisure.

Managing this group of 14 companies, including Ster Kinekor, gave De Villiers exposure to the work of companies such as Disney, Twentieth Century Fox and Disney. After former Disney bosses Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg "nagged" him to join them, he did, and set up an office for them in London, managing Disney's businesses in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Since leaving Disney in 2000, De Villiers has been involved in entrepreneurial startups and was a founder of private equity firm Englefield Capital. He is also non-executive chairman of BBC Worldwide, the broadcaster's commercial arm, which this week took a controlling stake in travel publisher Lonely Planet.

Boosting tennis's popularity means "having a better story", De Villiers says.

"You do need a bunch of characters that people care about. We've now placed far more emphasis on marketing and promoting our top 25 players as opposed to our top five players."

The ATP's marketing budget will rise from $800000 last year to $9m by 2009. Most people are aware of the top few names in men's tennis, such as Roger Federer, Leyton Hewitt and Rafael Nadal but under the new plan, each of the top 25 players will be assigned an account manager to develop a strategy for marketing and promoting them.

"It's what most smart entertainment companies are doing to market their product."

The ATP is also focusing on building a presence in China, which De Villiers describes as "probably the most exciting market in the world today".

Shanghai first hosted the Tennis Masters Cup in 2002 and will be one of the venues of the 1000- series tournaments from 2009.

Another market is Latin America. The ATP's website is also published in Spanish, as the region is one worth nurturing.

"A lot of our sponsors, such as Sony Ericsson, value that demographic. We see that as a very viable regional market."

De Villiers has a clear business vision for professional men's tennis. He wants to boost the TV revenue which, compared with soccer, is tiny. He wants to increase sponsorship and prize money.

"You double the size of the business every four years if you grow by 15% per annum. I'd hope that in six years' time we will have doubled prize money to $160m."

Of course, with tennis being very much a discretionary purchase, these plans will only work if consumer confidence remains strong. "A lot depends on the world being stable for the next six to seven years. If we have more buildings falling down in an unplanned manner and go through a major slump, then all bets are off, because so much of the sport is about sponsorship."

De Villiers says he is prepared to admit to mistakes as he goes along. A round-robin format the ATP introduced was scrapped after three months over rules problems and protesting players, led by Federer.

"I have no issue at all with experimenting with something and then abandoning if it doesn't work."

The ATP also changed its mind and agreed to the April Monte Carlo tennis tournament remaining a top-tier event after the tournament challenged plans to lower its status. Monte Carlo will be one of the 1000-series events but participation by top players will not be mandatory.

"They felt Monte Carlo as a city was very aspirational and that they would be able to maintain the status of a 1000 event and the financial commitment without having a player commitment. Our research indicated they were probably right."

The father of two, who says he has 10600 songs on his iPod, credits his ability to turn around the game to his status as an outsider. Not being a good tennis player is a plus, it seems.

"Don't be an insider. Tennis suffers from too many people in tennis running tennis. They all talk as experts. We're not selling to insiders, we're selling to people who occasionally watch a day of the Grand Slam."

Kitty de Sade
10-03-2007, 06:34 PM
At least he's willing to acknowledge the importance of marketing and introducing players outside of the top few. He just doesn't inspire confidence in me, no matter what he says.

Thanks for posting, btw. :hatoff:

Fumus
10-03-2007, 06:39 PM
Weak.

nobama
10-03-2007, 07:33 PM
At least he's willing to acknowledge the importance of marketing and introducing players outside of the top few. He just doesn't inspire confidence in me, no matter what he says.

Thanks for posting, btw. :hatoff:
Look what happened to golf all because of Tiger Woods. Before Tiger Woods came on the scene a guy like Sampras would easily out earn the top player in golf for a given year. Certainly isn't that way now. I think it's BS that tennis is in the toilet because the powers that be spend too much time focusing on just a few players. All this money they're supposedly spending on marketing...where is it going? On the failed RR scheme? On rebranding tournaments by giving them a different name? Disney talks a lot but doesn't seem to have much to show for it.

GlennMirnyi
10-03-2007, 07:38 PM
This guy is an idiot.

Dina
10-03-2007, 07:39 PM
you all will have to hope for a mixed raced guy with a huge smile, whose been on Tv aged 3, whose father has predicted he will do more for the world than Gandhi and who has a cooler name than the jolly todger,

Dina
10-03-2007, 07:43 PM
and the mens tour seemingly needs to have co events to attract the viewers, because the casual fan would rather watch sharapova and the williams sisters

Kitty de Sade
10-03-2007, 07:45 PM
Look what happened to golf all because of Tiger Woods. Before Tiger Woods came on the scene a guy like Sampras would easily out earn the top player in golf for a given year. Certainly isn't that way now. I think it's BS that tennis is in the toilet because the powers that be spend too much time focusing on just a few players. All this money they're supposedly spending on marketing...where is it going? On the failed RR scheme? On rebranding tournaments by giving them a different name? Disney talks a lot but doesn't seem to have much to show for it.

That's the important question. Notice how he talks in circles- it reminds me of someone standing in front of a burning building, attempting to conceal it, even though anyone within a five block radius can SEE as much that's it's already ablaze.

I'd love to know where the budget went as well. Unless he were willing to provide some concrete proof of a line by line breakdown (which he won't, naturally), it just sounds like typical corporate spin to me. Endless repetition of "the check's in the mail," when all of his bluster is no more concrete than a house built on sand.

I have this vision of Disney on a stage with a spotlight on him, wearing a top hat and twirling his walking stick around while the music plays. He's a great little dancer with a fast mouth, but I never hear anything of value come out of it.

Mirkaland, if you are able to track down any information about where any part of the 800K went, and how it helped, if at all, I'd love to know.

DDrago2
10-03-2007, 07:55 PM
I am not sure what to think about this (anyway I am curious to see how it will look like) but Etienne seems to genuinely believe in great importance of package... but I can't remember a single case of package winning over content!
If de Villiers wants to boost the appeal of tennis game, he will need more than just different presentation

Chip_s_m
10-03-2007, 08:03 PM
This is good news. $8.2 million extra on marketing will make a huge difference. The USTA has spent huge amounts of cash marketing the US Open, US Open Series, and tennis in general (in the US), and its resulted in more viewers, and ultimately greater revenue (and therefore more prize money). This sounds like a similar plan just on an international level. I see nothing wrong with it.

CyBorg
10-03-2007, 09:12 PM
Why the new tour system? Why?

Such a bad joke this is.

madmanfool
10-03-2007, 09:25 PM
oh boy..i need a minute after reading that..

Is this guy obsessed with innovation or something. He seems to think if he comes up with the right ideas it will somehow "save" tennis. That's a lot of crap IMO. Want to help tennis? Get it on TV ( i can't watch the master series here, and what mens tennis is Eurosport willing to show today??) and market the players. Now apparently they spent 8 mil on that. What earth do they do with that money??? That's how much those carrocotta figures costed?? Give me a break..
How hard can it be to market players like Federer and Nadal. They are a dream for every sport to have. And what's with these 250 points for small tournaments?? They want Davydenko to become nr 1, or something. I don't think that's going to help tennis either. I would rather see the opposite. Make Grand Slams and Master series more important.

Chip_s_m
10-03-2007, 09:47 PM
oh boy..i need a minute after reading that..

Is this guy obsessed with innovation or something. He seems to think if he comes up with the right ideas it will somehow "save" tennis. That's a lot of crap IMO. Want to help tennis? Get it on TV ( i can't watch the master series here, and what mens tennis is Eurosport willing to show today??) and market the players. Now apparently they spent 8 mil on that. What earth do they do with that money??? That's how much those carrocotta figures costed?? Give me a break..
How hard can it be to market players like Federer and Nadal. They are a dream for every sport to have. And what's with these 250 points for small tournaments?? They want Davydenko to become nr 1, or something. I don't think that's going to help tennis either. I would rather see the opposite. Make Grand Slams and Master series more important.

The article says that they spent 800,000 not 8,000,000. 800,000 isn't a whole lot for a professional sport to spend on marketing. Also, when you figure that a lot of that probably went towards promoting round robin, not much was left for promoting players that aren't alread stars. 9 million vs. 800 thousand will make a noticeable difference.

mangoes
10-03-2007, 09:49 PM
Didn't he say this about 2 years ago?? Since then, there have been NO positive changes........in fact, instead he has managed to lose sponsers.

madmanfool
10-03-2007, 10:28 PM
The article says that they spent 800,000 not 8,000,000. 800,000 isn't a whole lot for a professional sport to spend on marketing. Also, when you figure that a lot of that probably went towards promoting round robin, not much was left for promoting players that aren't alread stars. 9 million vs. 800 thousand will make a noticeable difference.

Ah that explains a lot, thx

GonzoFed
10-04-2007, 12:19 AM
Mr Disney is the living proof that doesn't matter how good your academic background and professional resume is, if you don't have a strong knowledge of the business you are going to enter, you will not succeed. The Round Robin idea was a clear example of this. Most of the posters here probably would never be able to work in McKinsey, but still due to following the game on consistent basis, knew that the idea sucked.

Via
10-04-2007, 01:35 AM
Mr Disney is the living proof that doesn't matter how good your academic background and professional resume is, if you don't have a strong knowledge of the business you are going to enter, you will not succeed. The Round Robin idea was a clear example of this. Most of the posters here probably would never be able to work in McKinsey, but still due to following the game on consistent basis, knew that the idea sucked.

absolutely agree. but then they used to have guys who came from within tennis, or knew the tennis world very well, but absolutely sucked running the business :shrug:

GonzoFed
10-04-2007, 02:27 AM
absolutely agree. but then they used to have guys who came from within tennis, or knew the tennis world very well, but absolutely sucked running the business :shrug:

Indeed. That's why they need both type of guys: the ones with the experience on business, and the ones who are knowledgable about the tennis world. Either that or try to find a top business guy who follows tennis on consistent basis and that is willing to listen ideas for people very acquainted with the sport. Finally, and this is just my personal opinion, i think instead of trying too hard to reach a massive audience, they should try to assure a not so massive audience, but with a good income level and strong purchase power (Mercedes leaving is a sign of this issue not being solved). Succintly put, golf should be the rival, not football (soccer for my beloved gringos ;) ).

dimahenman
10-04-2007, 02:33 AM
he's not very smart is he?!!!

Merton
10-04-2007, 05:38 AM
"You have to decide which market you're in. If it's a tennis market you do certain things. If you're in the entertainment business you have to compete for discretionary time and income. We clearly are in the latter. Tennis over the past 15 years has not really done anything to change how it is presented or marketed to the general public."

"We should all work just for one person and he's a 45-year-old living in Bedfordshire called John Smith. He is our tennis fan and he is the only person we should be working for. Ultimately, that informs the decisions of all of us who work in entertainment."


If we decide that Mr. Smith is our marginal tennis fan (that is the fan who contributes an additional $ of revenue) then we will never get his dollar, I do not see why it is better to compete in the entertainment business (a loose, ill defined category) instead of building on a unique tennis niche.

So Mr. Disney basically asks for a blank check for the next years, in the mean time the only thing he has done as a remainder of his grand talk about real change is repackaging the titles of the ATP tournaments.

Thanks for the article, btw.

Action Jackson
10-04-2007, 06:22 AM
Thanks for the article Drago.

Mr. Disney is just like a politician, lying straight to your face and says a whole lot of words and no content behind them.

FedFan_2007
10-04-2007, 06:25 AM
Yeah, the ATP needs to reel in 45yo British men. That will save tennis. What a tool.

dimahenman
10-04-2007, 06:28 AM
my dad works for the atp, a little lower than the etienne level of course!! but he says that etienne is a disaster, most everyone wants him gone! they really dislike him

Action Jackson
10-04-2007, 06:38 AM
my dad works for the atp, a little lower than the etienne level of course!! but he says that etienne is a disaster, most everyone wants him gone! they really dislike him

This is one of the causes that I would support a military coup in getting rid of this clown.

Funny the last head of the ATP Mark Miles was a gimp and had many flaws, but at least he wasn't stupid enough to try Round Robin, then Mr.Disney is the other extreme.

Merton
10-04-2007, 07:43 AM
This is one of the causes that I would support a military coup in getting rid of this clown.

Funny the last head of the ATP Mark Miles was a gimp and had many flaws, but at least he wasn't stupid enough to try Round Robin, then Mr.Disney is the other extreme.

The board of directors can fire him but he seems to control that, he even made the RR fiasco to sound like an experiment where he had the courage to admit it didn't work. Since the board didn't fire him then I wouldn't be surprised to see him surviving, but he will need to replace the lost Mercedes sponsorship otherwise the board will need some sacrificial lamb.

Action Jackson
10-04-2007, 07:48 AM
The board of directors can fire him but he seems to control that, he even made the RR fiasco to sound like an experiment where he had the courage to admit it didn't work. Since the board didn't fire him then I wouldn't be surprised to see him surviving, but he will need to replace the lost Mercedes sponsorship otherwise the board will need some sacrificial lamb.

Yes, he couldn't admit he was wrong about RR and that was galling to say the least. Losing a reliable and long term sponsor such as Mercedes has to count against him. Maybe they are waiting for more foibles from him and the other option is that they don't have another candidate ready at the moment.

He has gone out of his way to alienate many people. He wants to suck up to Latin America, while pissing on the players who are doing better on clay. Take with one hand and give with the other.

Merton
10-04-2007, 07:55 AM
Yes, he couldn't admit he was wrong about RR and that was galling to say the least. Losing a reliable and long term sponsor such as Mercedes has to count against him. Maybe they are waiting for more foibles from him and the other option is that they don't have another candidate ready at the moment.

He has gone out of his way to alienate many people. He wants to suck up to Latin America, while pissing on the players who are doing better on clay. Take with one hand and give with the other.

He is all big words and ideas but no result, sure Sherlock, Latin America is a promising market, and what exactly are you doing about that?

The worst thing is that he has killed for the near future any chance of really changing the calendar, he started by big statements but never worked with the ITF for a real change, sure it is hard when the slam dates are set in stone beyond the control of the ATP but the only thing he has to show is favouritism towards Tiriac and changing the names of the ATP events.

Action Jackson
10-04-2007, 08:02 AM
He is all big words and ideas but no result, sure Sherlock, Latin America is a promising market, and what exactly are you doing about that?

The worst thing is that he has killed for the near future any chance of really changing the calendar, he started by big statements but never worked with the ITF for a real change, sure it is hard when the slam dates are set in stone beyond the control of the ATP but the only thing he has to show is favouritism towards Tiriac and changing the names of the ATP events.

Yes, that goes back to the comment I made about the politician who says a lot and nothing all within the same sentence.

He has actually made the calendar longer. Reducing events to 28 player fields. Look Stuttgart was a 48 ISG event in 2006 and in 2008 it's a 28 player event. Well Ricci Bitti of the ITF was suspect of him and that doesn't help when the ATP should be trying to have a better relationship with them.

Tiriac pulls the strings we know this.

Or Levy
10-04-2007, 08:12 AM
He should start by working out the broadcast problems, and get ALL the slams avilable in a pay-per-view method, it was great with the French and Wimby, but that option was only open for Americans in the USO, and that's a travesty - you want to promot tennis as a global sport, start with THAT.

Merton
10-04-2007, 08:15 AM
This year Stuttgart had a 32-player field, why do they go to 28 players in 2008? :confused: Shrinking the playing fields is terrible, it means less access to the top level events for players that do not have the ranking to get direct entry. Now that I think about it, is there any way to make that military coup you were talking about? :lol:

Action Jackson
10-04-2007, 08:30 AM
Yes, they need to get tennis out to more people through a proper TV rights deal, but that would require work.

Merton, you see Stuttgart, Båstad and Gstaad are in the same week in 2008, what a way to piss on certain events. Disney really does lack a clue, sure the Olympics is something to consider, but it's not like they didn't have enough time to think about things.

Merton
10-04-2007, 08:47 AM
I forgot about the Olympics but still, I cannot believe that they could not come up with a better schedule.

Pay per view should be a priority, as well as expanding internet cover for ATP events but that requires work towards present day fans, not trying to attract random TV viewers in the entertainment market.

nobama
10-04-2007, 12:14 PM
Richard Krajicek was interviewed on TTC the other night and said all the slams should follow the US Open Series model (though I'm not sure how that would work for Wimbledon or even AO). But as long as the slams are entrenched in the calendar where they are and refuse to budge it will be very hard to put in place a proper schedule.

Saumon
10-04-2007, 12:35 PM
This year Stuttgart had a 32-player field, why do they go to 28 players in 2008? :confused: Shrinking the playing fields is terrible, it means less access to the top level events for players that do not have the ranking to get direct entry. Now that I think about it, is there any way to make that military coup you were talking about? :lol:

Not only less players can enter the main draws of these events (and of the 'Masters :retard: 1000') but the fans also pay more and more expensive tickets to see less players. :rolleyes: And I won't talk about the 2 Bercy main draw matches that will be played for the sponsors only. :help: The sunday start matches were not broadcasted anywhere for the other Masters Series this year but now... the fans won't be able to watch them on site! :eek:


I'm in for the coup. :bounce:

Action Jackson
10-04-2007, 12:40 PM
Not only less players can enter the main draws of these events (and of the 'Masters :retard: 1000') but the fans also pay more and more expensive tickets to see less players. :rolleyes: And I won't talk about the 2 Bercy main draw matches that will be played for the sponsors only. :help: The sunday start matches were not broadcasted anywhere for the other Masters Series this year but now... the fans won't be able to watch them on site! :eek:


I'm in for the coup. :bounce:

But he loves you though.

Saumon
10-04-2007, 12:42 PM
But he loves you though.

I know but what can I do about it? I'm so irresistible. :shrug:

Action Jackson
10-04-2007, 12:43 PM
I know but what can I do about it? I'm so irresistible. :shrug:

Give him the bedroom eyes and then say hey wake up and actually think about you are doing.

Saumon
10-04-2007, 01:07 PM
I doubt he is able to think.

myrt
10-04-2007, 01:20 PM
I suspect that Mr. Disney is a spoiler sent by the golf world to set about destroying tennis.