Tennis Industry magazine

 

Give 'em what they want

A longtime tennis camp director says more people are looking to improve their games, and we need to deliver.

By Charlie Hoeveler

After meetings last fall with Nike Tennis Camp directors, I began thinking about all that we had discussed. At the top of the list was the fact that the game is in good shape and getting better. The latest participation figures, released at the end of the year, support this claim. More than a million more people played the game in 2005 than in 2004. There were also increases in ball and racquet sales, as well as tennis event attendance and TV viewership.

As impressive as these facts are, how many in the industry are really aware of the situation? As one of the camp directors said, “Tennis is cool again.”

Almost 11,000 youngsters, between the ages of 9 and 17, attended the 53 Nike Tennis Camps around the U.S. this past summer. That was an increase of 15 percent over the year before.

The numbers are not PR-created “feel good” figures — they are actual. Yet, there is more to the story. Many of the summer camp directors teach tennis at clubs on a year-round basis. For every one of them, 2005 was a record-setting year. Revenue was up. Tennis quietly gained market share.

Unfortunately, in recent times, there has been the tendency to view the tennis glass as half-empty, rather than half-full. A quick and somewhat informal analysis indicates (and there is a need for better figures to substantiate this) more people are taking tennis lessons because they want to get better. Any tennis teaching professional worth his or her salt has a full schedule, which means more people (as the data indicates) are buying racquets, balls, and tennis clothing.

The demand for lessons crosses the spectrum. Juniors, adults, and even seniors are looking to improve their skill level. The movement covers individual and group lessons. It involves players at all levels: beginner, intermediate, advanced, even ranked players. And it involves everyone; those who play for fun, along with league players and tournament competitors.

The key to taking advantage of this situation is to follow a tried-and-true approach (in our case, a policy that is our foundation). Said a different way: What is a brand? It is a promise to deliver. You want to make sure your brand is rock-solid, and that you follow an approach that will lead, in our case, to improvement for players.

For us at Nike Tennis Camps, we promise that a youngster will improve his or her game (and all-around confidence level) and have fun doing it.

Tennis needs to do the same thing — promote ways of improving. When people get better, they play more and have more fun. They also spend more on tennis products.

We need to be creative and aggressive. Relying on the status quo isn’t going to cut it. Whether it is selling racquets, lessons, or the game itself, we in the industry need to put ourselves on the line — and guarantee… and then deliver.

There is nothing difficult or brilliant about delivering what people want. It’s simply what we all should expect.

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About the Author

Charlie Hoeveler is the founder and president of Nike Tennis Camps. He is one of the country's best senior players.

 

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