Growing tennis in Canada as interest in the sport increases
Tennis star Bianca Andreescu rewrote history when she won the Rogers Cup tournament earlier this month, making her the first Canadian to do so in 50 years.
Not only did Andreescu take home the prize and instant fame – but the 19-year-old from Mississauga, Ont. may have also launched herself to become Canada’s next tennis darling when it comes to attracting sponsors.
Andreescu’s rise was not lost on another fellow Canadian tennis star, Eugenie Bouchard, who received backlash for her Twitter reaction to Andreescu’s victory after an emotional Serena Williams was forced to withdraw from the final due to an injury.
It wasn’t all that long ago when Bouchard was under a similar spotlight that now shines so brightly over Andreescu. Yet, while No. 119-ranked Bouchard’s list of sponsors have reportedly dried up. Andreescu may just be getting started, both on and off the court.
To put Andreescu’s meteoric rise into perspective, her career achievements in a short timeline can’t be ignored. In a year Andreescu has risen from No. 208 to No. 14 in the Women’s Tennis Association’s rankings. Meanwhile, her entire professional earnings prior to 2019 totalled over US$200,000, but in just the past eight months Andreescu has amassed more than US$2.2 million in prize money, according to the WTA.
A quick rise to fame can sometimes be accompanied by a cautionary tale, but Andreescu’s Rogers Cup win showed sportsmanlike qualities that many took notice of. After Williams announced that she was retiring from the match, Andreescu went to her opponent’s bench to console the 37-year-old tennis veteran.
Andreescu said in a post-match interview that her victory over Williams wasn’t the way she wanted to win, though she was still “really happy.” But some marketing experts say it was just what she needed, showing another side to the athlete that has captured companies’ attention.
What’s interesting about all three of these partnerships is that they were signed prior to Andreescu’s Rogers Cup win.
“With sponsorships, there’s always an expected value. We’ve expected Bianca to be competitive, but to actually win two tournaments this year, no one could have predicted that,” David Soberman, professor with the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, said in a phone interview.
“She’s playing beyond people’s expectations, and in this way she is kind of phenomenal.”
Since tennis is a global sport, the marketing opportunity for an athlete like Andreescu continues year-round. And with her active presence on social media, the tennis star also offers advertisers another channel with enormous reach.
“Tennis is largely an individual sport. You can actually see the athlete in all their glory in the sense that they don’t have a lot of equipment on,” Soberman said.
Soberman adds that Andreescu will likely attract more sponsors as her career progresses, including other sports equipment sponsors that do not directly compete with Nike or health-food companies.
With Andreescu set to compete in the U.S. Open in New York beginning Monday, there may be ample opportunity to expand the spotlight on herself even more. If she were to win a Grand Slam tournament, she would be the first female Canadian to ever do so.