Nadal Makes Smart Marketing Decision By Keeping Current Look

As the US Open began Monday, word leaked that Rafael Nadal, fresh off his gold medal and carrying the #1 ranking for the first time, was leaving his teen idol days behind for the more conservative traditional tennis look. When he took the court we saw Nadal and Nike scrapped the plan. Top-seeded Nadal decided to stick with his current wardrobe through the Open, preferring not to change on short notice before a big tournament.

Whether he didn’t have time to break in the new duds, or he simply doesn’t like the idea, Nadal should make this a permanent decision. Tennis oozes conservatism and lacks popularity. Each generation boasts a champion with flair – from McEnroe to Connors to Agassi, even Boris Becker brought a certain energy to the court. Federer and Sampras are all-time great players, but their stoicism only garners the interest and respect of the most die-hard tennis followers. Tennis needs Nadal to hold the torch for this generation.

His management team and endorsers may want Nadal to move away from the teen heartthrob days, but they can do it without losing style or deferring to the traditional tennis white uniform. Right now to the casual tennis fan, Nadal is the new kid on the block, the upstart that unseated Federer. Long shorts and bright shirts with cut-off sleeves to show off his muscular build define Rafa. Like they say in Vegas, let it ride. He just ascended to the top, take advantage for awhile, sell him as the top player before deciding he needs to phase into a new part of his career.

He stands out in a sport defined by blandness. Nadal’s look is unique, his game elite, and his accolades rank among the best. He could draw the casual sports fans back to the tennis courts. He may not display the passionate behavior of a McEnroe, but his image pervades it. In addition, Nadal speaks at least three languages and has the looks to appeal to the broader audience.

Traditional tennis sponsors like high end watch retailers and luxury car brands can still leverage Nadal because his personality is polished and professional, while his attire and fan base attract a different set of marketers. The conflict may not work forever, but now it opens the door to marketing deals from two diverse sets of endorsers. Nadal can have that younger appeal to move tennis into the Web 2.0 era of social networking. Important, not because of the additional revenue it may generate, but because that’s where the young fans are, the fans tennis needs to sustain itself in the future, the age group tennis executives want playing the game now.

And while we haven’t seen the new wardrobe Nike planned for Nadal, there are ways to remain on the cutting edge of style without going to the boring all-white tennis look.

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