Bjorn Borg, one of the best tennis players on the planet was also the hottest personality throughout the 1970’s and 80’s. Why? He dominated the tennis world with his unbelievable topspin and calm demeanor. Borg preferred to play with the Donnay Borg Pro which made it the most popular tennis racquet of his era. It was a very elegant, black wooden Racquet with orange designs on its head. It was so popular that it made it almost difficult to find anything else comparable.
Interestingly enough, other brands kept their competitive edge. Slazenger for example, was known for their tennis balls and racquets made for serve and volley game. There were other brands like Kneissl, Ellesse, Le Coq Sportif and Tretorn that were carried around the pro tour during the 70’s and 80’s. So why aren’t these brands as trendy today?
What is apparent is that technology redirected the evolution of tennis and this change might have been the reason why these brands could not keep up.
Wilson, Head and Prince were the brands coming up with new technology that improved power and control. Wood disappeared so fiberglass and graphite took over. Tennis players got away from hitting topspin and started coming up to the net more. Service got a lot more important for the game and tennis was more of an entertainment than anything else; it became exciting. People loved emulating John McEnroe’s serve and the aggressiveness of Jimmy Connors. It was a new era.
Ivan Lendl entered the pro tour demonstrating excellent fitness, hitting huge forehands and made an impact on many fans around the world. Adidas, the new favorite brand, became even more popular than it used to be. Nike was steadily increasing its popularity in the tennis world.
But on the other hand, the brands that were admired in the past started to decline at a rapid pace.
Boris “Boom Boom” Becker, Stefan Edberg, Michael Stitch, Pat Cash among others developed a new tennis by combining speed, power and skills never seen before. Tennis racquets evolved so much in that era, from material to flexibility and weight. The Wilson Pro Staff was therefore born and made a huge impact on the game. Most people were using it because it was the ideal tool to use for a fast pace game.
Jumping ahead to the Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier period of the 1990’s, was an all American era. Pete stayed with Sergio Tacchini for a while but eventually got sponsored by Nike. By the mid 90’s most of the old brands were fading out, at least in the US, in Europe players remained loyal to their brands but they became less and less popular over time.
Nowadays you can observe that some popular brands in tennis are Lacoste and Sergio Tacchini. They were on the verge of fading out until the companies made efforts to recapture their legacies and images. They introduced a better quality, younger and more vibrant brand. They were able to keep their loyal customers and even gain new ones.
So why doesn’t Donnay, Ellesse, kneissl, and Coq Sportif try to recapture or change their image? Is it a lack of effort or is it that they can no longer afford to be in the game?
Malik Benyebka is a tennis pro with 25 years competitive experience around the world, has a Masters in marketing, is passionate about the game and dedicates all his efforts into coaching, writing, sharing experiences, giving tips and opinions concerning tennis, products and fitness.