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WTA appoints CSM as title sponsor search continues

(Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has appointed global marketing agency CSM Sport & Entertainment (CSM) as its new sponsorship sales agency.

CSM will now help identify, secure and develop the WTA’s commercial agreements.

The WTA currently has four top-tier Global Premier Sponsors: airport retailer Dubai Duty free, online video platform iQiyi, luxury car brand Porsche and software company SAP.

Below this sits the Global Supplier Tier, which is comprised of tennis equipment retailer Tennis Warehouse and payment services company, Cambridge Global Payments, which recently extended its agreement with the tour until 2022.

The WTA has been unable to find a title sponsor since mobile phone brand Sony Ericsson downgraded its investment in the organisation in 2010. In 2014 the WTA appointed Phar Insight, the research division of marketing and sponsorship agency Phar, to aid the search, and was reportedly close to securing a contract for the position in 2018, but a deal never materialised.

Asked about the scope of the work with the WTA, Ross Meltzer, executive vice-president at CSM Sport & Entertainment, told SportBusiness: “CSM’s effort will include an assortment of sponsor support, not limited to one lead global partner.

“The focus for CSM will be to shine a massive spotlight on the opportunities that this well-established women’s league can offer brands, specifically those looking for meaningful engagement with consumers.”

WTA president Micky Lawler said that CSM’s strengths “line up very nicely with the strategic direction in which the WTA continues to go”.

She continued: “For example, CSM delivers an established record of experience and success within tennis, specifically with its past work with the US Open. They are passionate about a dedicated approach to the WTA, free of competing sports properties, and they offer global expertise and contacts that are important to the WTA’s growth strategy.”

Speaking in October 2018 about a possible title sponsorship, Lawler said: “We have been working very hard in this regard. We hope it happens. It’s never a done deal until it is a done deal. So I can tell you that we have worked really, really hard with a potential partner on both sides.

“But it’s never easy, because the tennis phase has a lot of sponsors, a lot of partners. So you need to work through every single tournament, every single player. Will it work for the partner? Because it’s a massive investment. We hope that we get to a point of a decision soon.”

The WTA Tour is one of the world’s most prominent women’s sports platforms and claims a global audience of 700 million.

The tour’s media rights are sold by WTA Media, a joint venture between the WTA and digital sports media company DAZN Group (formerly Perform).

The 2020 edition of the tour began in early January and involves 53 tournaments in 28 countries, and will culminate with the WTA finals in Shenzhen, which takes place from November.

Shiseido will continue its title sponsorship of the finals event, which began with the 2019 edition. Shenzen will host the tournament until 2028, having signed a ten-year agreement with the WTA in January 2018. Shiseido came on board as the title sponsor last year, following on from BNP Paribas.

Lawler added: “As we appoint CSM as our sponsorship sales agency of record, we are excited to customise new platforms for our partners which will elevate the profile and commercial strength of women’s professional tennis to uncharted levels.”

Meltzer explained that CSM will utilise a “myriad of WTA assets” and bring commercial support through “high-impact integration themes such as women’s empowerment, equal opportunity, service, diversity and inclusion”.