Tennis Site Redesign Encounters Tough Ad Market

The Association of Tennis Professionals, the governing body of the men’s professional tennis circuit, hopes its newly redesigned site will serve as a clearinghouse for all things tennis. The organization also hopes it will be an attractive platform for advertisers looking to reach the typically affluent, educated consumers who are fans of the sport.

Attracting advertisers during the current market downturn, however, is proving to be a challenge. At launch Monday the site had only one outside advertiser, racket and accessories manufacturer Head. The rest of the inventory is taken up by ATP house ads. The launch was timed to coincide with the start of the 2009 Wimbledon Championships.

“The ad market has been difficult,” said John Phillips, SVP of digital marketing with ATP. Another reason: The new site wasn’t launched in time to be part of advertisers’ budgets for the 2009 event. “We just presented this inventory…. We’re more concerned about getting into budget cycles for 2010 right now,” he continued.

To help make that happen, ATP is searching for a partner to supplement its direct sales efforts. “We’re looking for folks who do this for a living and go out and get the best rates they can for the inventory we have,” he said.

Video advertising is among the selling points of the redesigned; ATP now has partnered with video management platform Ooyala. “It was a bit makeshift up to now, but now we have a professional operation,” Phillips said. He also said that more than 150,000 people have opted-in for a direct-marketing program launched last week notifying recipients about ticket information and scores.

The new site offers standard IAB display ads, which will be sold by ATP’s five direct salespeople who are spread across several continents. Remnant inventory is sold through AOL’s network.

Designed by San Diego-based interactive shop Digitaria, the site provides player stats and rankings, real-time tournament results, photo and video galleries, and news. The look of the site incorporates ATP rebranding, unveiled in January.

“The goal is to offer a rich, deep experience for fans,” said John Van Spyk, VP/GM of Digitaria’s sports division. “This digital platform is built to be the foundation for all ATP Tennis and tournament sites.”

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