Wednesday, August 11, 1999

ATP tourney to change name

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        They'll still play tennis at Mason next year, but much will be different at the 2000 ATP tournament, including a new name and network television coverage, the ATP's chief executive said Tuesday.

        The Great American Insurance ATP Championship will have a new name, as the ATP drops sponsors' names from all its “Super 9” tournaments, Mark Miles, the tour's CEO, said. The tour will adopt a common name for the tournaments and will buy time on a major network to carry the finals.

        The result: The tournament in Cincinnati will have “Cincinnati” in the name. It might also get more attention globally with bigger sponsors.

  The ATP's Super 9 tourneys will drop sponsors' names from their titles as the ATP tries to create a uniform image for the tour. New names haven't been chosen. The nine tournaments:
  • Newsweek Champions Cup, Indian Wells, Calif., March.
  • The Lipton Championships, Key Biscayne, Fla., March (moving to Miami).
  • The Republic National Bank Monte Carlo Open, Monte Carlo, Monaco, April.
  • Licher German Open, Hamburg, Germany, May.
  • Campionati Internazionali d'Italia-TIM Cup, Rome, May.
  • Du Maurier Open, Toronto, August.
  • Great American Insurance ATP Championship, Cincinnati, August.
  • Eurocard Open, Stuttgart, Germany, October.
  • 13eme Open de Paris, Paris, November.
        Cincinnati tournament director Paul Flory cheers the ATP changes. “I think everything that happens will be good, though there are some unknowns about it,” Mr. Flory said. “They're going to emphasize that this is Cincinnati. You're going to see more focus on the Cincinnati area than you've ever seen before.”

        With a bigger profile, the ATP Tennis Center in Mason may need to expand yet again, Mr. Flory said — to hold 12,000 or 14,000, compared with 10,000 today. Nothing is definite, however, he said.

        The ATP is attempting to raise the profile of its 10 big tournaments, which are the Super 9 and the ATP Tour World Championship. These rank just below the four Grand Slams (US Open, Wimbledon, French Open and Australian Open) in importance in men's tennis.

        Many of the ATP's moves involve making the Super 9 easier for fans to follow. Mr. Miles said most fans don't understand tennis' structure. Some tournaments are “open,” some are “cups,” some are “championships.” Mr. Miles said the ATP hopes that by coming up with a consistent brand name and identity, fans will see the connection among the tournaments. A new name for the Super 9 hasn't been chosen.

        The tour will also require top players to play in all of the Super 9 tournaments, and a ranking system based on performance will be instituted. As an incentive, the players' bonus pool will be increased from $5.5 million to more than $10

        million, and more players will be eligible for bonus money.

        The ATP's strategy to raise its profile includes an agreement with the Swiss firm ISL Worldwide, an international sports marketing company best known for its promotion of FIFA soccer. ISL has guaranteed ATP $1.2 billion in revenues over 10 years.

        The Super 9 tournaments currently have 212 sponsors, from international sponsors such as Mercedes to local car dealers, Mr. Miles said. As sponsorship contracts run out, the ATP will attempt to concentrate sponsorship into the hands of eight or 12 global companies. They would be sponsors at all nine tournaments, with exclusivity in their categories — just one auto company, one telecommunications company and so on.

        The ATP, then, appears to be jettisoning sponsors without the replacement contracts fully in place. With the guarantees from ISL, however, the ATP buys time to arrange those sponsorships, and the local tournament organizers won't be shorted.


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