A Suitable Tennis Partner?
A longtime player, fan and volunteer says when it comes to tennis sponsors and advertisers, we need to aim higher.
By Pat Hanssen
I love to watch tennis. I do not tire of the sport and take interest in most any televised match — replay or classic, men or women, singles or doubles. The television coverage of this year’s clay-court and grass-court seasons has been sensational, particularly the coverage of the French Open and Wimbledon.
With all-day coverage, I am now able to catch key moments of the Slams at work. We keep the tennis on all day long in one corner of our office and this allows me to dart over and take a peek at tie-breakers and key turning points in matches. Additionally, DirecTV has been showcasing play on six different channels during ESPN’s live coverage, allowing me to choose what matches I want to see. I absolutely adore this feature, as ESPN2’s main coverage often focuses on top Americans, sometimes eschewing great matches between lesser known players. Now, I get to choose! This is great use of technology and has vastly improved the tennis viewing experience.
And the Tennis Channel’s primetime evening coverage is awesome! Not only do they show you the day’s best matches, they filter in additional stories of interest and interviews that make you feel like you are right at the tournament. Bill Macatee does an outstanding job and the interesting and insightful cast of experts Tennis Channel has assembled provides us with a unique snapshot of life inside the sport at the professional level.
Unfortunately, however, there is one part of the television coverage that I have come to despise: the incessant Cialis commercials.
My daughters — 10 and 12 years old — are not regular players but they like the game and they love to watch it on TV. They know as much or more about the top players and the sport as many adults. They will sit with me for hours taking in the Williams sisters and Andy Roddick and other favorite players.
But I abhor the fact that they are being bombarded with commercials about erectile dysfunction! What are your options as a parent when the commercial comes on? Quickly mute the TV? Change the channel until it’s over? Perhaps you start talking to them in a loud voice or simply sit there in an awkward silence.
Oh yes, I almost forgot, one option the parent has is to stop watching tennis completely, or at least forbid their children from watching.
Clearly, the folks at Eli Lilly find tennis a coveted demographic. However, the networks showing these matches need to use some discretion about whether the commercials they are airing are appropriate for their viewing audience. I have to believe (and sincerely hope) that there are many children watching the Slams. TV shows are now required to have ratings that warn viewers of unsuitable content; perhaps it’s time to do the same for commercials.
Now, I do understand that tennis and television are businesses and that now more than ever, the networks need ad revenue. Even so, this is not an excuse for tarnishing the values of our sport in the eyes of the public. I cringe to think of how many families might tune in only for the Slams and how the Cialis commercials impacted their viewing experience and their perception of tennis.
Lastly, I think our sport and its network of volunteers and associated organizations should stand up against Cialis and any other questionable product associations (think Virginia Slims). It is absolute hypocrisy to try and portray our sport as a wholesome, healthy, family activity on one hand and use the sports greatest events as a mouthpiece for discussing sexual activity on the other. It’s a highly inappropriate message for children and a total compromise of values.
I truly hope we will see the commercial selections change in the near future, because everything else with respect to tennis coverage has really excelled. Everyone within our industry believes wholeheartedly that there is not another sport on the planet that can hold a candle to tennis and to what it has to offer. So let’s look for some other, more suitable business partners that we are proud to have associated with this great game.
We welcome your opinions. Please email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax them to 760-536-1171.
See all articles by Pat Hanssen
About the Author
Pat Hanssen is the director of sales and marketing for Lee Tennis Court Products in Charlottesville, Va. An active player and coach, he is the past president of USTA Virginia and vice president of USPTA Mid-Atlantic Division.
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