Sanex pulls plug on tennis deal

Sara Lee skincare brand Sanex is pulling out of its $40m (£26m) five-year title sponsorship deal of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) two years early, amid speculation that the agreement is riddled with problems.

Sara Lee skincare brand Sanex is pulling out of its $40m (&£26m) five-year title sponsorship deal of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) two years early, amid speculation that the agreement is riddled with problems.

As well as title sponsorship of the WTA tour and the women’s rankings, the deal, which was signed in November 1999, includes signage and hospitality throughout the tour, with the exception of north America. At launch it was trumpeted by both parties as the biggest sponsorship deal ever signed in women’s tennis.

However, later on this week the organisations are expected to announce the end of this agreement, which was negotiated by IMG. The WTA has already started to look for a new title sponsor to preferably take over the sponsorship in January 2003.

Tim Crow, director of consultancy at Karen Earl, says the deal was plagued with problems such as lack of promotion of the link-up through above-the-line advertising and PR. Crow says the fact that the WTA tour does not include grand slam events such as Wimbledon meant it was severely disadvantaged as “in most markets tennis isn’t on people’s radars unless the majors are happening”.

He also claims Sanex did not secure enough top-flight players to wear its logo. Martina Hingis, who did sign up with Sanex, has spent long spells injured and has been taken over in terms of popularity and ranking by the Williams’ sisters.

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