Racket Sports

More than 45 brands have had a presence at this year’s Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of 2024, which wraps up in Melbourne this weekend—and if 2023 is any indication, is ushering in what promises to be another dynamic year in the pro tennis sponsorship industry. Sponsorships surged a remarkable 43% in 2023 versus 2022, with over 3K deals last year across the ATP and WTA Tours—the governing bodies for men’s and women’s pro tennis, respectively—signaling the sport’s burgeoning allure as a prime marketing platform for brands. 

Tourism, Hotels & Resorts, Banking, Athletic Equipment, and Footwear topped the list of 2023’s most active categories (in that order)—a mix whose diversity underscores tennis’  wide-ranging appeal to a global audience. Tennis sponsorships are evolving rapidly, with digital signage––up 25% last year versus 2022––TV-visible signage, entitlements, interior signage, and social posts emerging as the most frequently bought assets, as brands increasingly embrace digital-driven marketing strategies that cater to a tech-savvy audience that consumes tennis content across multiple platforms.

Notably, the men’s ATP Tour had more than 2.2K sponsorship deals last year—testament to its elite standing and influence in the sports sponsorship arena—while the WTA Tour encompassed more than 1K sponsorships. And while the ATP Tour scored an impressive 2.7M in total social media engagement across all platforms in 2023, the bigger story is the dazzling reach of individual men's tennis athletes, who collectively boasted a staggering 58M in total social engagement on branded posts in the last year, highlighting their massive marketability. Women tennis players also shine bright on social, with a total engagement of 34M over the same period, compared to 1.2M for the WTA. 

Men’s Tennis Athletes Ranked by Total Engagement:

  1. Carlos Alcaraz (9M)
  2. Matteo Berrettini (8.8M)
  3. Stanislas Wawrinka (5M)
  4. Alexander Zverev (4M)
  5. Roger Federer (3.4M)

Women’s Tennis Athletes Ranked by Total Engagement:

  1. Iga Swiatek (15.9M)
  2. Emma Raducanu (2M)
  3. Paula Badosa (1.7M)
  4. Aryna Sabalenka (1.5M)
  5. Caroline Garcia (1.3M)

The US Open 2023 continues to unfold as a spectacular stage for emerging tennis talent, showcasing the next generation of rising stars as they face off on center court in the country’s most anticipated annual tournament.  

At just 20 years old, Carlos Alcaraz is quickly becoming a bona fide tennis sensation both on the court and on social media. His impressive engagement score of 7.4M and a 7% engagement rate—eclipsing the average engagement rate of 2.3% for major pro sports athletes—his partnerships with luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Rolex have been resounding successes, speak to his standing as a sought-after brand ambassador whose sponsorship stable will surely explode.

While Ben Shelton—another 20-year-old phenom who just became the youngest American US Open semi-finalist in 30 years—may have only 2 deals currently, with On-Running and Yonex, his sky-high 12% engagement rate makes him a virtual shoe-in for future top-tier brand partnerships.

Americans Taylor Fritz and Francis Tiafoe are also making waves. Californian Fritz has 12 endorsement deals spanning 10 different categories and total social media engagement exceeding 140K, while Tiafoe, whose 12 deals include Barclays, Yonex, and Cadillac, has more than doubled his Instagram following to over 740K in the past year.

At just 19, Coco Gauff’ boasts an impressive sponsorship portfolio of 7 partnerships–UPS, Barilla, BOSE, and American Eagle, among them, showcasing her wide appeal to a diverse range of brands. She’s also the first American teenager to reach the final four since Serena Williams in 2001–a distinction that will further fuel her already undeniable marketability. 

Belarus’s Aryna Sabalenka's social media following has soared 148% across all social platforms (Instagram, Facebook, X, TikTok) in the last year. With an engagement rate of 8.2%, she's quickly becoming one of the most popular tennis players of her generation, and an alluring potential ambassador for brands. Her current 4 deals include Maestro Dobel Tequila, WHOOP, and Nike. 

Meanwhile, Latvian tennis star Jelena Ostapenko recently won the Birmingham Classic, upsetting defending champion Iga Świątek for her first win over a world #1 since 2017, before making it to her first US Open quarterfinal this week, where she lost to Gauff. Though she may have fewer deals than her opponent, with 6–including blue-chip brands like Emirates, Wilson, and adidas–her 125K in total engagement underscores her burgeoning appeal and potential in the world of tennis endorsements.

The U.S. Open Pickleball Championship is currently underway this week in Naples, Florida, where over 3K players are facing off in pro and amateur matches across 59 courts. While relatively new to the U.S., pickleball is the country’s fastest-growing sport, with 4.8M players nationwide–a nearly 40% increase since 2020–and more than 9M Americans expected to be swinging a paddle in 2025.

Pickleball’s red-hot popularity has marketers racing to cash in on the action: in the past 12 months, more than 150 brands have partnered with pickleball properties, with each property averaging 12 sponsors. Predictably, the sport’s top category is Apparel & Accessories, while Franklin–a pickleball paddle leader–and footwear honchos Skechers and DUPR lead the list of most active brands.

Signage is key for brands keen to make a splash at pickleball events: net signage, baseline signage (fixed or rotating), and courtside signage (fixed or rotating) are the top three assets for gaining visibility among the ever-expanding throngs of pickleball fans.  

Pickleball matches are also gaining traction on social media. All PPA Tour matches are streamed on YouTube, attracting over 40K followers (and counting)  to the channel. Online car retailer Carvana serves as the exclusive title sponsor of the tour, which boasts the largest-ever professional pickleball single-season prize money purse of $5.5M this season.

As pickleball’s popularity continues to skyrocket–and more deep-pocketed investors join the long list that already includes Tom Brady, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant–expect a slew of brands from an array of industries to keep piling on to the pickleball train.

As ever-growing legions of fans get into the swing of padel and pickleball, savvy sponsors and investors–including a who’s-who of pro athletes and boldface names–are racing to grab a piece of the action.

Popular in Spain and parts of Latin America for over 50 years, padel–the world’s fastest-growing sport–is now blazing a trail around the globe, with 30 new padel clubs/organizations and 100 new courts opening every week, according to Deloitte.

The World Padel Tour began on February 18th in Abu Dhabi and will run through year’s end, with 27 Open and Master events across 14 countries–the most ever–including Chile, Finland, Germany, Mexico, and Paraguay, amongst others. Fittingly, it will be the most international tour yet, reflecting Padel’s seemingly unstoppable momentum.

On February 17th, Spanish nutrition brand HSN was announced as a tour sponsor, joining returning sponsors Adeslas, Cupra, Estrella Damm, Maxcolchon, and Nox, amongst others.

As reported in our 2022 Sports Sponsorship Year In Review, Gianluca Vacchi, Andy Murray, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Zinedine Zidane have invested in padel clubs, helping to keep the sport squarely in the headlines. Not surprisingly, social media also continues to play a crucial role in fueling interest in padel and engaging new fans: the World Padel Tour saw social media growth of 18% YoY, to more than 2M followers currently across all platforms.

Meanwhile, pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America, with 4.8M players nationwide–a nearly 40% increase since 2020. At this pace, there will be more than 9M Americans swinging a pickleball paddle in 2025.

Major League Pickleball kicked off its season at the end of January, with its next event slated for March 23-26 in Daytona, Florida. In December, MLP sent shockwaves through the sport when it merged with rival Professional Pickleball Association’s newly formed VIBE Pickleball League, whose first team owner is Mark Cuban. The surprise move allowed MLP to expand to 24 teams this year (from 8 in 2021), with six events scheduled for 2023. The news followed the announcement days earlier that Jimmy Buffett’s casual dining chain, Margaritaville, would become MLP’s title sponsor– branding the league as “MLP by Margaritaville”–marking one of its largest commercial deals to date. Michelob Ultra, Cirkul, and Ora Organic are also league sponsors.

MLP investors include Tom Brady, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Drew Brees, Heidi Klum, and Eva Longoria, among dozens of others. In late January, MLP announced that the Tennis Channel will be broadcasting the league's events on cable television throughout the season.

PPA, sponsored by Carvana, will continue its individual-competition operations with two monthly events, having commenced its season on January 12th. The 2023 Carvana PPA Tour tour will boast the largest-ever professional pickleball single-season prize money purse of $5.5M, and be the first professional tour to host 25 events in a single season. Other PPA sponsors include Molson Coors’ Vizzy Hard Seltzer, FILA, OGIO, Holland America, and Baird, among others.

As the season heats up and pickleball fever spreads unabated nationwide, watch this space for news of other non-endemic sponsors jumping on the pickleball bandwagon.

On January 12, the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA)–the sport’s national governing body and a SponsorUnited partner–announced that tennis participation in the US increased for the 3rd consecutive year in 2022 to more than 23.6M people, a whopping 33% increase since 2020. With the 2023 Australian Open now in full swing, let’s take a look at how brands activated across tennis tournaments in 2022, and what we can expect to see at the new year’s first tennis major.

Women’s health specialist Hologic made waves in the tennis world last year with more than 30 new deals–including becoming title sponsor of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour, where its logo adorned the net at WTA tournaments. Notably, Hologic had no 2021 sponsorships before going all-in on women’s tennis in 2022. Will the brand also bank on other women’s sports in 2023? Time will tell.

Another brand to keep an eye on this year: Cadillac, which took center stage at the US Open in 2022, becoming the tournament’s official vehicle in a multi-year deal that will see it return to America’s premier tennis event in August. Keen to promote its debut all-electric SUV, the LYRIQ, the luxury carmaker doubled its number of tennis sponsorship deals last year–investing in the US, Miami, Atlanta, and Citi Opens–from just 2 deals in 2021.

Over 100 brands partnered with the Australian Open last year across all asset types– sponsor, digital, TV, radio, and vendor. Automotive brand Kia–the longest-standing Australian Open sponsor since 2002–was the most visible brand throughout the 2022 showcase. Major assets included venue naming rights, net signage, and a virtual activation inside of the Decentraland platform–marking the first time a tennis major activated within the metaverse. (The US Open followed suit, hosting activations inside Decentraland last summer). The Australian Open has already leveraged the metaverse again in 2023, this time partnering with the Roblox platform on a digital recreation of Melbourne Park featuring Emirates, the tournament’s airline partner.

Besides Kia–which already began activating Down Under with product displays and attendee activities–Emirates, Rolex, Ralph Lauren, Infosys, Luzhou Laojiao, and Canadian Club also returned as sponsors of this year’s tournament, after featuring prominently at the 2022 event.

Rugby World Cup

November 14, 2022

The New Zealand Black Ferns defeated the England Red Roses in a 34-31 victory that broke multiple records and milestones for women's Rugby.

Not only did the match sell out New Zealand's world famous Eden Park, but the game also broke TV broadcast viewership records with an audience of over 1.2M according to Three’s owners Warner Bros. The Black Ferns made history with their victory as well, becoming the first ever host nation to win the tournament.

Additionally, this year's competition was the first women’s Rugby World Cup that was no longer branded as the "Women’s" Rugby World Cup but instead just Rugby World Cup, ensuring there’s no difference with the men’s tournament.

Worldwide partner Mastercard was seen the most frequently of any brand during the event, leveraging signage, digital assets, and even sponsoring the "Player of the Match" award. Other Worldwide partners of the event included Capgemini, Land Rover, DHL, and Canon.

To learn more about other women's sports leagues and athletes, visit

Laver Cup | Activations

September 28, 2022

The 2022 Laver Cup was held over the weekend at O2 Arena in London, England.

ROLEX, the founding parter of the Cup, along with Mercedes-Benz AG, HEAD&UPS were some of the brands activating during the tournament.

While the storied careers of Roger Federer and Serena Williams–two of the best tennis players in the sport’s history–have just come to an end, both athletes are primed to continue their successful sponsorship careers off the court.

With over 34M total followers each on social media, Williams is the most popular female tennis player across social media, while Federer’s following ranks second behind Rafael Nadal. Though both were wrapping up their careers, Williams’ followers increased 7% in the last 12 months, and Federer’s following grew by 3%. This year alone, Williams and Federer have 4 of the top 5 social posts (2 each) across pro tennis players, ranked by total engagement.

Both athletes will almost certainly continue to leverage their powerful social platforms for brand partnerships. Williams’ 19 deals–among them Gatorade, Nike, Ubrelvy, Audemars Piguet, and Berlei–include 65 social posts, with total engagement (likes/comments/shares) of over 6M, averaging more than 324K per brand and 82K per post. Since 2020, Williams’ sponsored posts have averaged a total engagement of over 11M per year.

Racket Sport athletes have seen a total social engagement of more than 80M this year. Over 550 brands currently utilize these athletes in campaigns, with each brand garnering average engagement of over 140K per campaign.

While Federer’s sponsored posts since 2020 have averaged a significantly lesser total engagement of 1.4M per year, he’s focused on other promotional avenues over social media. Federer–who has the most deals among men’s tennis players by a significant margin over Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray–has starred in more than 8 commercials or marketing campaigns with brands including Rolex, On-Running, Uniqlo, and Switzerland Tourism, amongst others.

SponsorUnited had courtside seats for the first day of the U.S. Open, when a slew of fans–and brands–descended on the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center for the celebrated two-week event.

This year, Cadillac replaced Mercedes-Benz as the elite tournament’s official vehicle, a long-term agreement that was announced in mid-August. The American carmaker’s presence was felt from the start, thanks to the fleet of vehicles that transport players and staff around New York during the two weeks of play stationed outside the tournament complex.

Inside the tennis center, Cadillac’s sponsorship gives the brand net signage on all 17 tournament courts at the Open, including practice courts and the match courts seen on ESPN, the event’s broadcast partner.

Located directly next to Arthur Ashe Stadium–the tournament’s premier venue–the Cadillac Pavilion features an immersive experience for fans that showcases the brand’s plans to be fully electric powered by the end of this decade, as well as its new electric SUV, the Lyriq, onsite for visitors to ogle. Along with the pavilion activation, Cadillac placed another Lyriq vehicle next to the practice courts for passers-by to peruse.

Another marquee sponsor, JP Morgan Chase, enjoyed pride of place at the Open with its Chase Lounge, located near the center’s entrance and exclusively accessible to cardholders.

American Express, a partner of the U.S. Open since 1994, is also making a splash with its Amex Fan Experience venue. Activations include glow tennis–a virtual game where fans volley a neon ball back and forth on a digital court–tennis-themed nail art, and a cardholder-only lounge where fans can enjoy refreshments while charging their devices. The venue also features a mini tennis court, a tennis-ball version of Connect 4, and a claw machine where skillful fans can win an Amex radio to listen to the tournament matches on ESPN.

Other brands are showcasing an array of predominantly tech-driven activations alongside the non-stadium courts. Wilson Sporting Goods’ virtual reality activation allows fans to don a headset that inserts them into a tennis match, while CHUBB sponsors a game where they pick up a racquet to “hit” a virtual ball that splatters virtual paint across a screen. Meanwhile, Chase’s outsize activation invites fans to play an array of video games, and also offers a photo opp in a mirrored selfie photo booth. Moderna gives fans the chance to sign a screen and have their signature emailed to them on a selfie, while a U.S. Open campaign, #BeOpen, lets fans use a selfie to create a GIF.

Besides touting its sleek seat design and in-flight leg space with a display and photo opportunity, Emirates Airlines also sponsored the NextGen Kids Zone, which offers a variety of onsite activities for little tennis fans like basketball, hockey, football, soccer and other sports.

For fatigued fans needing a pick-me-up, IHG Hotels & Resorts offers massages for joining their membership and rewards program.

2022 Citi Open

August 15, 2022

Nick Kyrgios won Washington’s 2022 Citi Open, his second Citi Open championship in just over three years.

Citi was the title sponsor for this event. Host sponsors included Kastle Systems, Events DC, CityRidge, Emirates and Tennis Channel.

Citi Open
Citi Open pt.2

Congratulations to Novak Djockovic and Elena Rybakina for taking home the men's and women's singles title in the 100th anniversary of Wimbledon at Centre Court.

Take a look at some the unique ways brands activated at the 14 day tournament.

Wimbledon Activation Spotlight

The 135th Wimbledon Championships began today, with many big names competing in the largest tennis event of the year.

We highlight the endorsement deals for the top two seeds in both Men's and Women's singles.

Roland Garros 2022 was not a tournament to be missed, but if you did you heard about it. Not only did Rafael Nadal win his 22nd Grand Slam title (which cements him as the greatest winner of all time), Iga Świątek continues her unbeaten streak of 35 wins consecutively and became the new number one women’s tennis player in the world.

The official sponsors of the event reaped the benefit of these history-making moments as all eyes were on the players and surrounding tournament signage. The brands making the biggest impression through the tournament were BNP Paribas, Emirates, Lacoste, Renault, Wilson, Oppo, Perrier, Rolex, Engie and Infosys.

On the athlete endorsements side, Nadal has over 44M followers on social media that over 11 brands have the privilege of leveraging. His partnerships provide a voice to brands like Babolat, Nike, Kia, Telefonica, Amstel Ultra, and Richard Mille, among others.

Nadal’s highest engaged posts were for these brand partners:

  • Kia: 635K
  • Telefonica: 470K
  • Amstel Ultra: 440K
  • Cantabria Labs: 260K
  • Babolat: 99K

Within the women’s bracket, the Polish Iga Świątek has agreements with PZU Group, Tecnifibre, Asics, Rolex and Xiaomi. Iga also has an impressive social following like Nadal and has a total engagement of over 12M across 83 branded posts with five brands. With 10.93% of her audience engaged per post, each brand has received nearly 2.5M likes/comments/shares.

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