The women’s WTA tennis tour, the leading global sports league for women, is rebranding its tournaments to make the sport easier to understand for its fans.
As part of an overall revamp that also includes a new logo and a new marketing campaign called “WTA For The Game,” the women’s tour will rename its main events.
Starting from 2021, its tournaments will be called WTA 1000, WTA 500, WTA 250 and WTA 125. The ATP Tour has Masters 1000s, ATP 500s and ATP 250s.
Although the overhaul is not tied to specific ranking points (which will stay the same) or prize money, it is a sign of growing cooperation between WTA and the ATP during one of the most difficult years the sport has ever seen. All of professional tennis was shut down in March for five months due to the coronavirus pandemic, which led to the cancellation of Wimbledon for the first time since the Second World War.
“Tennis is so complicated with different governing bodies,” Micky Lawler, president of the WTA and head of marketing initiatives, said in an interview via video call from the US last week. “So in the space of professional tennis, it was important to simplify the tournament nomenclature for the fan. And we achieved that. We say this with great gratitude towards the ATP because they supported that direction and they were great to work with on this.”
Tennis is ruled by seven different governing bodies (the four Grand Slam events, the ATP Tour, the WTA Tour and the International Tennis Federation), each with their own sets of rules and tournament structures.
But the pandemic has triggered much more cooperation, with 20-time major singles winner Roger Federer leading calls for a merger between the two Tours with a series of tweets in April.
“We have done a lot of work together,” Lawler said, when asked about the WTA’s work with the men’s Tour. “Our CEO, Steve Simon, has worked very closely with all the governing bodies in getting tennis back. And we have worked on the marketing side and on the branding side…Our day-to-day operations are very closely linked. The nomenclature is completely aligned. So our spirit, or our culture in all of this has changed, and it’s clear that the benefits of working together are tremendous.”
From 2021, the WTA’s Premier Mandatory and Premier 5 events in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing, Doha, Rome, Canada, Cincinnati and Wuhan will be renamed WTA 1000. Its Premier 700 events will be renamed WTA 500, while its International tournaments will be called WTA 250. The WTA’s 125K Series will be renamed WTA 125.
“Fans really respond to the unified approach which tennis is uniquely able to provide,” said Lawler. “We see it with ticket sales at combined women’s and men’s tournaments, viewership on shared broadcast platforms and the popularity of the ‘Tennis United’ digital content series co-created by the WTA and ATP amidst the challenges of 2020. Adopting this streamlined tournament naming system is 100% about making it easier for WTA fans, corporate partners and the media to engage and follow our sport.”
The WTA, which was founded in a London hotel in 1973 by a group of women led by 39-time major winner Billie Jean King, is the leading global sport for women. Nine of the world’s ten best-paid female athletes in the past year were tennis players, according to FORBES. King has long been an advocate of both Tours joining forces, arguing their joint marketing and star power would benefit both the men’s and the women’s game.
Coinciding with its tournament overhaul, the WTA’s new marketing campaign, which gives fans new insights into players’ life stories and journeys to get to the top through a series of short videos as well as influencer stories, will be rolled out across WTA player, tournament, and affiliate channels. Tournaments will also have access to a range of marketing materials, with scope to feature a wide array of WTA stars for their own promotional needs. The WTA will also revamp its website design.
In addition, the WTA is introducing its first new logo in a decade. Developed by design agency Landor Australia, the new logo marks a return to a silhouette of a female tennis player.
“We’ve been working on a rebrand and a new logo for two years,” said Lawler. “The [old] logo, the ellipse, was great and it had a great life span, but it didn’t visually reflect women’s tennis. It was our opinion that we needed to celebrate that and to create a very visual, obvious connection between the sport and the logo, and that’s what the logo accomplishes.”
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