Managing a tennis tour is a bit like being a player. You have to be competitive but prepared for setbacks. Certainly that is the view of Brad Drewett. Following a successful stint as a player, and an even longer career as a businessman, the current president of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) believes there are many similarities between the two industries.
That said, you don’t need to have played the sport prior to managing the tour, nor does it give you a spring board into the organisation, he says. Despite his experience, Drewett believes “business is business”, and feels lucky to have been given the opportunity to be involved.
“It’s fairly unusual to have someone with a tennis background in the senior management,” he says, speaking from the grounds of the ATP 500 tennis championship in Dubai. “I feel very fortunate to be involved. I love the sport, but I also love the business. To be able to combine the two, I feel very fortunate.”
Of course the last few months have been particularly exciting for Drewett. Though he has held the title of CEO of the ATP's International Group since 1993, it wasn’t until December last year he was appointed president of the non-profit organisation, replacing Adam Helfant. Seeing in the 2012 world tour, he says everything seems to be running smoothly. Not only has the business come out of the economic crisis largely unscathed, but if anything, the industry seems to be in better shape than ever.
“As a sport that relies on sponsorship, we rely on marketing budgets to support us, so when you hear that many marketing budgets are being cut, obviously we were very worried, and kept a close eye on that trend,” Drewett says. “But what was gratifying for us was that... all sponsorships remained intact, which I think is a reflection of how strong our tournaments are in individual markets.”
This in turn, reveals a lot about men’s tennis today, he says.
“Men’s tennis right now is in what I call a golden era, both on and off the court. What is happening on the court is as good as it’s ever been. The quality of play and also the personalities that we have drives core interest in the sport, from the public, from television and from the sponsors. We’re a sport that’s at the top of its game.”
Certainly the figures would have us believe it. According to Drewett, ATP revenues earned from the purchase of television rights increased 30 percent over the last three years, whilst sponsorship of the tour as a whole and of individual tournaments was up by half. Attendance also reached a staggering 4.3 million viewers in 2011, having risen five percent on the year before.
In a bid to keep this up, Drewett says it will be important to maintain the hype around the sport.
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