New balls, different racket for the laddish tendency

Who says sex doesn't sell? Certainly not the men's tennis tour

The picture shown here is not of participants in a mass jailbreak pausing in their bid for freedom to voice a defiance of authority. Nor is it a publicity still from a remake of
Creatures from the Black Lagoon. Hey guys, get with it.

The picture shown here is not of participants in a mass jailbreak pausing in their bid for freedom to voice a defiance of authority. Nor is it a publicity still from a remake of Creatures from the Black Lagoon. Hey guys, get with it.

This is a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign for the tennis players' organisation, the ATP Tour, to show that there is life in the game when Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi are gone. The campaign, which is running in North America in the build-up to the US Open and due to figure in Europe (but not Britain) when the Tennis Masters series crosses the Atlantic in the autumn, set out to be controversial and in this, at least, it has succeeded, attracting comments like "crass" and "cheap".

Sampras, not someone inclined to shout and wave his arms about such matters, simply said the campaign was "not my cup of tea". All of which is meat and drink, so to speak, to Jonathan Trimble, one of the project's creative team from the London ad agency Marsteller. "Sampras's comment reminded me of cucumber sandwiches and Wimbledon, which is what we are trying to subvert in a way, to show a bit more about the characters of the players. It is deliberately provocative, harking back to the John McEnroe days, when there was quite a lot of swearing on court. Or like Nike, whose ads are called 'irreverence justified'.

"I am not ashamed to say we were half-looking for a men's answer to the Anna Kourni-kova bra campaign, 'Only The Balls Bounce'. Anna has never won a tournament but everyone wants to watch her, she is so exciting and is doing great things for the women's game."

The ATP Tour picked the players it wanted featured. They were looking, said Trimble, for those with "good attitude, charismatic, who could deliver on court". The seven are: Jan-Michael Gambill (US), Tommy Haas (Germany), Lleyton Hewitt (Australia), Gustavo Kuerten (Brazil), Juan Carlos Ferrero (Spain), Nicolas Lapentti (Ecuador) and Roger Federer (Switzerland). Also to be featured in future promotions are Marat Safin (Russia), Magnus Norman (Sweden), Mark Philippoussis (Australia), Nicolas Kiefer (Germany), Mariano Zabaleta (Argentina) and, for the Asian market, Thailand's Paradorn Sricha-phan, though he is not in the top 100 in the ATP Champions Race 2000.

However, most of the others are young and upcoming. What's more, they approve of the spotlight being directed at them for a change. Hewitt enthused: "It's fantastic to be put in such a group of élite players, the future of tennis. I think it's a good idea." Kuerten was a touch irreverent himself. "We are more beautiful than the older stars," he said. At 27, Pat Rafter is considered too old to qualify, but wishes the project well. "The New Balls campaign is great. I really like the idea." Agassi (30) is also sympathetic: "It's always good to introduce players to the public, especially if they're young. The earlier you get to know them the better it is for the game."

Setting aside his cup of tea, Sampras got to the heart of his objections. "They could probably have come up with a better slogan. I don't think the Tour needs a new attitude." But he exposed the need for the campaign by adding: "The players are getting younger, better and stronger, but I walk into the locker room and I don't recognise a lot of the guys."

Recognition was a key theme for Marsteller. "Viewers don't feel as emotionally involved with men's tennis and have less of an affinity to the players," said their document. "Winning is important, but even more so is winning the hearts of the audience." And, of course, helping the Average Joes to recognise who it is they are watching.

The brief, say Marsteller, "was based on a strategy of new blood, new attitude". From there, presumably, it was a soft bounce to new balls which, they add, "tips a hat to the establishment whilst also subverting it, withtons of sex app- eal and 'positive irreverence'.

"We didn't want to make it overtly sexual, alienating people," said Trimble. "Then right into our lap fell Pete Sampras, announcing it wasn't his cup of tea. The more people who dislike it, the better. You can't have a revolution if the establishment like it, though it is a bit unfair to say we are being crass."

The design team, added Trimble, also discussed ideas built around The Magnificent Seven or a gladiatorial theme that in tennis one must win and one must "die".

In 1968, when the sport went open, World Championship Tennis was famously built around a group known as The Handsome Eight: John Newcombe, Tony Roche, Cliff Drysdale, Dennis Ralston, Butch Buchholz, Nikki Pilic, Pierre Barthes and our own Roger Taylor. Same thing, surely? Trimble said he had never heard of The Handsome Eight.

Which clearly shows the ephemeral nature of sport, whether you're talking new balls or old.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people
News
Justin Bieber performing in Paris earlier this year
people
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips
video
Arts and Entertainment
In his own words: Oscar Wilde in 1882
theatreNew play by the Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials - and what they reveal about the man
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m
filmWith US films earning record-breaking amounts at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is more than happy to take its lead from its new-found Asian audience
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil