I first got word of “it” from a female tennis coach at my club; then a tennis friend posted “it” on Facebook. I owe them both a big thank you. I felt it was my duty to show “it” to my tennis opponent this morning and of course the other female tennis player in the club restaurant. Both of those players thoroughly enjoyed “it”, with one of them instantly posting “it” to her Facebook page. The “it” I am of course referring to is the new advertisement for Tommy Hilfiger underwear featuring none other than tennis superstar Rafa Nadal. Here is the link: http://youtu.be/_Gcy31SJHUc – you are welcome. The ad is certainly flaunting the sex appeal of the star athlete and you could say that advertisers served an ace.
Using the sex appeal of star athletes is certainly nothing new, but does it work and is it good for tennis? What would the reaction of tennis players be if it was one of the female players in such a suggestive ad?
Who Cares that Nadal is the #8 Seed? It’s Really All About His Briefs
From my investigating, studies have shown that large sports companies with established products don’t really need to use star players; these companies can use athletes representing the average player who can relate to the average athlete in the ad. On the other hand, companies that want to show their product is of such high quality that a top superstar athlete would endorse it feel they benefit from the association with that athlete.
The brand Tommy Hilfiger has never been associated with the tennis world but it has slipped in terms of brand prestige. Former tennis champion Bjorn Borg has a very successful underwear empire in Europe and tennis star Caroline Wozniacki also has a line of underwear sporting her moniker.
It has always been easier for male athletes to flaunt their sex appeal in the media. eEven the ATP ran a campaign in 2000 to introduce the new generation of players to fans and the tag line was “new balls please”.
Soccer star David Beckham is no stranger to flaunting his sexy body for the benefit of mass retailers. He can be seen in just his briefs in ads for H&M as he endorses several items for their clothing line. But don’t miss his spoof on modeling briefs on the James Corben show.
Roger Federer is featured in TV spots for Lindt Swiss chocolates and although there are no sexy images, there are sexual connotations as the female security officers suggest that because he has a suitcase full of chocolate balls they need to do a strip search before he can pass the checkpoint.
In contrast, if any of the female players blatantly used the sex appeal of their athletic body in the media, women everywhere would be outraged–seeing this as a case where women are feted for their sexiness and not for their athletic achievements. Such was the case for Anna Kournikova, who posed seductively in ads for KSwiss but when questioned in a study, viewers of the ad really only noticed her pose and not the brand she was representing. In fact, a study showed that in general when a female athlete posed in an advertisement the reader first evaluated her appearance before concerning themselves with the brand being represented and this was true for both male and female readers. Female tennis players tend to be viewed as glamorous and this summer alone at least three of the top players were featured in magazine fashion spreads.
Last year when Canadian Eugenie Bouchard skyrocketed to the top of the women’s game she immediately signed a modeling and sports management contract with IMG. Bouchard’s image was featured in a fashion layout in Canada’s national fashion and beauty magazine, Flare.
Maria Sharapova is sponsored by Porsche and in her Facebook posts featuring the cars she is always glamorously dressed, hair and makeup perfect and her legs enhanced by her high heels. Not exactly the Sharapova one sees on the court, clenching her fist in steely determination.
As the divide between sports and entertainment continues to shrink, the opportunities available to both male and female athletes will continue to expand. Hopefully promotion of the athlete enhances the appeal of the sport and brings more fans to the matches.
At least Tommy Hilfiger has Nadal in briefs that are 99% white so he can wear them at Wimbledon.
Enjoy what you see? Check out all of our complete coverage of the 2015 US Open here.