Branding / Sport / Strategy


WTA brand power

Author Christian Martin, University of San Francisco

Posted: October 27, 2015

Tagged: athletes / branding / strategy

One of the challenges a sport CEO may have to face in his or her career will be building and managing the brand equity of his or her sport organization. Brand equity is made of the “unique, strong, and favorable associations” of an organization’s brand (Dalakas & Rose, 2014, p. 120). These associations can be derived from the attributes of the brand, the benefits from the sport product, and the consumer’s overall attitude toward the brand (Gladden, 2014, p. 7-10). It is commonly held through research that these elements work together to create brand loyalty, which can potentially drive more consumption of the brand’s products (Gladden, 2014, p. 11). An example demonstrating these effects may consist of the association of Serena Williams (an attribute) creating nostalgia (a benefit) for the sport consumer watching her play as part of the Women’s Tennis Association (a brand). This experience with Serena Williams may then create a positive judgment (an attitude) about the Women’s Tennis Association overall and lead the consumer to watch/attend more Women’s Tennis Association tournaments (product).

Seeing that brand equity can be valuable to sport organizations, many CEOs and brand managers strive to increase the equity of their brand. The brand development process can be understood through a looping system where factors related to the organization, marketplace, and/or consumption experience lead to the creation of brand equity, and the consequences of this new brand equity create further brand equity as the cycle repeats (Gladden, 2014, p. 7). For example, over the past six years, Stacey Allaster, now former CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association, has been able to increase the organization’s brand equity by signing a 10-year, half-a-billion-dollar media deal with Perform, leveraging the success of previous sponsorships that were made during Larry Scott’s time as CEO (Kaplan, 2015, p. 4). Additionally, Allaster has been able to contribute to the tour’s expansion into Asia by signing a $100 million deal to have the Women’s Tennis Association Championships in Singapore (Kaplan, 2015, p. 4).

When it comes to the brand management process, CEOs and brand managers must be able to understand and coordinate both the positive and negative associations with their brand (Gladden, 2014, p. 5). When evaluating the Women’s Tennis Association, for example, it can be easily determined that athletes Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams have been positive associations for the brand and have made the Women’s Tennis Association tour widely successful (Kaplan, 2015, p. 4). However, with regards to negative associations, the Women’s Tennis Association has received complaints about the unpleasing grunting that the athletes make during matches (Kaplan, 2015, p. 4). As a brand manager, Allaster has been able to weigh these positive and negative associations and determine that the success of Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams create more equity for the Women’s Tennis Association than the grunting takes away (Kaplan, 2015, p. 4). Therefore, so as to not interrupt the success of the tour’s athletes, Allaster has not combated the grunting issue (Kaplan, 2015, p. 4).

Due to the unpredictability and inconsistency of the sport product, the long-term financial stability of sport organizations may rely heavily on brand equity (Gladden, 2014, p. 14). To track the success of their brand over time, some sport organizations may use a brand equity measurement system that incorporates some of the measures mentioned above, including association and loyalty measures (Gladden, 2014, p. 12). They may also include other measures, depending on the organization, such as revenue goals (Gladden, 2014, p. 12). Board members of the Women’s Tennis Association have put a lot of pressure on Allaster, to continually bring in revenue from the organization’s brand (Kaplan, 2015, p. 4). Allaster, now relieved of her duties at the Women’s Tennis Association, has been praised for her efforts for keeping the brand on an “upswing” by meeting its board members’ financial goals over the past six years (Kaplan, 2014, p. 4).


Dalakas, V., & Rose, G. (2014). Developing Brand Identity in Sport: Lions, and Tigers, and Bears Oh My. In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging Brands in Sport Business (pp. 109-122). New York, NY: Routledge.

Gladden, J. (2014). Brand Equity: Management and Measurement in Sport. In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging Brands in Sport Business (pp. 3-20). New York, NY: Routledge.

Kaplan, D. (2015). Allaster kept WTA on an upswing. SportsBusiness Journal, 18(24), 4.

Malkewitz, K., & Bee, C. (2014). Undertaking Successful Brand Design in Sport. In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging Brands in Sport Business (pp. 89-108). New York, NY: Routledge.

About Christian Martin, University of San Francisco

Christian Martin is currently a graduate student in the Sport Management Program at the University of San Francisco and employed at Street Soccer USA. He aspires to be a leader in the international soccer industry and speaks four languages (English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese). He is also an entrepreneur, having started his own promotional coffee mug business (Undercover Mugs), and operates a motivational website ( A San Francisco native and world traveler, he loves experiencing the diversity of people, food, and traditions. Follow him on Twitter: @thefurnace1. This article is an edited version of a paper Christian prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Sport Marketing class at the University of San Francisco.

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