Thursday, September 29, 2011

The "Best Weapon"?

As researched in the Neurofocus ESPN Case Study, sponsorships and endorsements have a great impact on consumer interest, causing an increased demand for the endorsed products.  The demand for goods increases because the athlete or consumer feels that a certain product is an easy fix or addition to their performance.  By buying a certain product, the consumer believes that he/she will receive wanted results similar to that of the idolized professional athlete.

Although Novak Djokovic clearly demonstrated his superiority by winning the US Open singles championship and had one of the best tennis seasons for a tennis player ever, playing with the Head YOUTEK IG Speed racket, Head rackets are not crowding the shelves of, Golfsmith, Academy, or Sports Authority.  The last overwhelmingly successful tennis player to play with a Head racket was Andre Agassi, and before him Arthur Ashe.  In contrast, the more popular and well known star of the Grand Slam circuit, Rafael Nadal, has generated enormous market interest with his Babolat AeroPro Drive GT.  Rafa is very well known for his extremely athletic style of championship tennis play.  Nadal's muscular definition, warrior-like head band, and his long hair drenched with sweat defines him as an athletic icon.  Many athletes inside and outside of tennis aspire to achieve the persona of Rafa.  Nadal's image and 10 Grandslam titles have allowed him to become an image that can sell products.  His racket has become extremely popular among junior tennis players throughout the world.  The black and yellow "weapon" known as "Nadal's stick" is a top-seller at popular tennis retailers and internet sites.  The demand for the Nadal image has greatly increased the "value" of his endorsed products.  It has even lead to the development of look-alike products for little kids with junior rackets.  This marketing strategy has allowed Babolat to encroach on the racket share of Prince, Wilson and Head.  Consumers aspire to be able to be a champion like Rafa, and look good doing it also.  Nadal's line of products accomplishes both of these targets for the consumer. 

It is likely that even as Nadal's career declines that his endorsed products will continue to sell well in the market.  Nadal's personal appeal, in comparison to that of Djokovic, has been a superior marketing instrument.  This is in spite of the fact that Djokovic's level of play at the recent US Open was a quantum above that of Nadal.  Nadal's appeal is partially related to his Western-European heritage compared with the more foreign Easter-European heritage of Djokovic.

The ability of Babolat and Nike to increase sales through their sponsorships is a perfect example of increased consumer expectations.  The expectations of a consumer to have the athletic edge through advanced equipment have caused a shift of demand.  The shift of demand with more people wanting to purchase Rafa's products has completely changed the point of equilibrium for the cost of tennis rackets.  Not only are the products greatly desired for aesthetic purposes, committed tennis players feel that if they do not have the product, they are actually at a disadvantage.  Tennis competitors at all levels of capability are willing to pay more and more for tennis rackets.  Consumer expectations and public appeal continues to keep tennis companies searching for the equilibrium price.

The effectiveness of sports sponsorships and advertising has been studied by researchers of NeuroFocus with regards to NBA broadcasting.  Their studies have resulted in proof to show increased focus, attention, retention and overall effectiveness of advertising through sponsorships and endorsements.

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