Executive Point: Jérôme Pin, Babolat USA
Since being appointed managing director of Babolat USA in June 2010, Jérôme Pin has overseen the sales, marketing, logistics/supply chain and administrative departments for the company’s operations based in Boulder, Colo.
Founded in Lyon, France, in 1875, and family-run for five generations, Babolat provides racquets, strings, shoes, balls, bags, apparel and accessories. At the time he joined the company, Pin said he was impressed with Babolat’s long-term vision focused on leaving a legacy for the next generation.
TI: What attracted you to the company?
Pin: For the previous 13 years, I worked for Lacoste [as director of Latin America in Brazil, and director for the Americas in Miami]. Now I’m working exclusively in tennis, which has been wonderful. It’s a great team, with excellent relations with the headquarters in France.
TI: What’s your background in tennis?
Pin: I played when I was younger, but I don’t play now because I have a bad shoulder. Tennis is strong in France; it’s the second or third most popular sport, after soccer and maybe cycling. During the French Open, the whole population of France is watching tennis, and I’ve always been interested in what’s happening on the tennis planet.
TI: Babolat launched its first racquet in 1994. Can you talk about its expansion in that area?
Pin: Carlos Moya won the French Open with a Babolat racquet [in 1998], and that was the beginning of real important growth. We started with one or two models and became a real player in racquet marketshare in a little more than 10 years.
TI: What’s been the response to the Babolat Play Pure Drive [the world’s first connected racquet]?
Pin: It is a game-changer, which is how we consider our role in the industry. We started distributing it to a limited number of U.S. dealers in December 2013, and we’ll be expanding to more dealers and the rest of the world in the coming months. We’ve been very happy with the results, in terms of sell-out sales, dealer enthusiasm and comments on social media. Now we’re working on interesting new strings, and in 2015, we’ll be introducing a new generation of shoes. We always want to bring something innovative to the table.
TI: Are there other products that are available only in the U.S., or products in other markets that are coming to the U.S. in the near future?
Pin: We usually launch a new generation of products worldwide, but in some cases, like with the Babolat Play Pure Drive, we test a product in one market. Another example is our SFX shoe. Since there’s much more play on hard courts, the shoe was designed for the U.S. market with a wider toe box for more comfort. On the other hand, one line of product we do not distribute in the U.S. is apparel. We’re working on size labeling and fit before launching apparel here in 2016 or 2017.
TI: What is Babolat’s relationship with retailers in the U.S.?
Pin: Our philosophy is simple: a good partner is a happy partner, and that comes from building long-term relationships based on trust and mutual benefit. The tennis distribution network is very large, but we have a more selective approach: working with dealers who understand our brand, visiting them as often as we can, and providing the highest quality support. We started small in the U.S. in 2000, with a very limited number of dealers, and year after year, we’ve expanded while still maintaining the personal relationships that are so important. Today, we work with approximately half of the 4,000 total tennis dealers in the U.S., and we’re satisfied with that.
TI: Tell us more about Babolat’s official sponsorship at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
Pin: It made sense for us to partner [with Roland Garros] in 2011 to provide tennis balls, the “Babolab” where players’ racquets are strung, and specific product lines with both logos and brand identities. We have a five-year partnership with Wimbledon, and last year the ball boys and girls began wearing Babolat footwear. To mark the second year with Wimbledon, Babolat has become the official licensee for racquets, bags and accessories.
TI: Babolat equips 20 percent of the top 100 ATP and WTA players, including Rafael Nadal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Li Na, Sam Stosur and Agnieska Radwanska. To what extent do you involve players in product development?
Pin: We show them new products and ask their feelings about the design and technical aspects because we trust their opinion. But we are making products not only for champions, but for all tennis lovers.
See all articles by Cynthia Cantrell
About the Author
Cynthia Cantrell is a contributing editor of Tennis Industry magazine.