Smash Tennis Mag for Teens to Debut in July
By Mitch Rustad
The executives at Miller Publishing Group (the folks who publish Tennis magazine) seem to think so. The company recently announced the launch of Smash, a slightly oversized, highly innovative tennis magazine aimed at one the most coveted markets around — teens.
“Tennis is getting a kick-start thanks to a lot of younger pros like Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal, and Maria Sharapova,” says Norb Garrett, the editorial director for Miller Publishing. “The sport is being re-energized by fresh-faced, young players who are doing very well, and tennis is being talked about again. It’s top of mind for a lot of people, so now we feel there’s another up cycle, another wave, for tennis.”
Recent big-dollar sponsorships like the WTA Tour’s new six-year, $88 million deal with Sony Ericsson, not to mention corporate America’s overwhelming interest in young players like Wimbledon champ Sharapova — whose endorsement deals now include Motorola, Canon and Tag Heur, and reportedly total some $23 million annually — are clear indicators that tennis is white hot again.
“That tells you that corporate marketing departments are taking the sport seriously,” says Garrett, “and that consumers are telling them that tennis is something they care about.”
The launch isn’t merely a knee-jerk reaction to a healthier industry, however. Smash will have a built-in audience right out of the gate — it will be mailed directly to the USTA’s 100,000 strong junior membership list, with another 25,000 distributed to tennis camps, clubs, and tournaments throughout the summer. Plans call for the magazine to be on newsstands, and to go quarterly, in 2006.
But why teens?
“There’s an enormous desire by everyone in the industry to tap more into the youth market,” says James Martin, editor of Smash and a senior editor for Tennis. “There are a significant number of kids who are rabid tennis players who play hundreds of times a year on teams and on junior circuits. They’re passionate about the game in ways only a kid can be.”
Though Martin says the magazine’s “sweetspot” is the 14- to 18-year-old readers, he believes that “anyone who likes a cool magazine is going to like it.”
An early look at editorial plans is intriguing: Gustavo Kuerten interviewing surfing idol Kelly Slater, a shopping spree with Serena Williams and a talk with rap icon (and tennis fanatic) Snoop Dogg, not to mention plenty of eye candy, says Martin.
“Today’s tennis players are hot, good-looking athletes, and we’re going to celebrate that,” he says. “We’re going to peel the back of the tennis ball off and give this young set a look at the world of tennis the way they want to see it.”
The first issue of Smash debuts July 12.
See all articles by Mitch Rustad
About the Author
Mitch Rustad has been a long-time freelance writer based in New York City.