Before I arrived, I told you all I just wanted to sit around the courts and watch a load of tennis. Well, so far that hasn’t really happened. As soon as I got here, I was practically dragged, kicking and screaming, into the press room for the WTA-Oriflame press conference.
As you all know, at the WTA Championships last year, Stacey Allaster took centre stage to announce 3247438934 new sponsorship opportunities of the WTA, ushering in a new WTA Era. One such partnership, of course, was the Swedish makeup company Oriflame. This week in Paris marks the beginning of their partnership, and so they sat down to announce it to the world, accompanied by Nadia Petrova and Andrea Petkovic.
The first part (the presser) was actually pretty uneventful. I came in prepared to record everything, but apart from a couple of typically funny lines from Andrea Petkovic, and then a few iffy lines from the Oriflame rep, it was pretty dull. They just introduced the partnership, showed a couple of videos which suspiciously lacked the champions (Venus, Serena and Kim), in favour of the “pretty” girls, and then took some questions. The best part? I got big goodie bag of Oriflame makeup products. I’m pretty sure it must cost around £250 at the very least. That’s my mum’s birthday present sorted for another year.
After a brief interlude, a round-table session began with Stacey Allaster and Michael Cervell, the Oriflame rep. Surrounding Allaster was a load of cosmetic journalists who clearly knew nothing about tennis (one of the questions I heard from afar was “what year did the tour begin?” I wouldn’t be surprised if they also, at some point, asked her to explain the rules of tennis to them.), and so I snuck into the centre seat for a rare opportunity to speak the CEO of the WTA tour.
Obviously I didn’t come prepared but it was all pretty interesting. We spoke about the WTA’s aims outside of corporate success, and she was quick to point towards Asia and establishing the WTA as the ATP’s equal partner as the main pillars for the future.
The WTA’s love of Asia has always been interesting because, from a lot of people’s point of view, it has been at the expense of popularity in Europe and particularly America. However, she was quick to refute that, stating that of the USA’s traditional sports, tennis is the only sport currently growing in the states, with more people playing it etc. And she believes that the current tour, with the events pretty balanced between the USA, Europe and Asia, is the right course of action.
We also touched on ‘the MSG Question’. As I asked, she smiled, saying that it was the one question asked wherever she went. I guess that’s a testament to the popularity of the event. She said that, while the business fit is not right, returning the Championships to Madison Square Garden is a no-go. But if there does come a point when it all adds up, then MSG will definitely be a possibility.
Finally, we chatted about the actual players, and their role on the tour. She was adamant that their views are most important, and that the WTA is a “joint partnership” between the players and tour. She accredited a lot of the positive changes of recent times to both Venus and Serena, and painted Wozniacki as someone who may follow in their footsteps in time, with La Borz enthusiastically attending her first meeting with a list of around ten things she wanted changed.
All in all, it was a pretty good experience. On the corporate side, the WTA seems to be thriving in a climate when other sports, both male and female, are moving backwards. Let’s hope the actual tennis can follow suit accordingly.