Don King branching out to tennis


Don King branching out to tennis

Promoter will consult on U.S. Open publicity

Press Release: Nike has invited boxing promoter Don King to join them in creating a significant campaign to bring all the people to follow the top greatest tennis players in the world— #1 ranked Rafael Nadal and #2 ranked Roger Federer—and to help them reach even greater fame and acclaim at New York’s annual U.S. Open Tennis Championships, which begins this week.  They have dubbed the players’ potential Open showdown “The Grapple in the Apple” and believe they can help expose Nadal and Federer to all of the people, from the masses to the classes. “This rivalry is unrivaled in mankind, history in the making,” King said.  It is an irresistible force against and immovable object, and something has got to give—and give it will at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships in New York. I  guarantee you it will be a September to remember.”

The 2008 U.S. Open—one of four Grand Slam events in tennis each year—begins today and runs through Sept. 7 in Flushing, N.Y., and Nike felt the indefatigable boxing promoter (who turned 77 last week) would be the perfect person to join them to help bring the players’ exquisite brand of athleticism to the largest audience possible. 

King will serve as a creative partner and a voice for the promotion.  Nike is working with longtime creative agency Wieden & Kennedy and Don King Productions. 

“We worked with Wieden to develop the Don King idea,” Nike Vice President of U.S. Brand Management Ken Dice said.  “When we brought Don in, we restructured our original idea around some of his insights.

“How often do we bring in a third creative partner to the table with a veteran marketing agency and shake things up by saying, ‘Hey, we have this idea and we think you can help us.’ And Nike has always been about collaboration with its athletes, so we brought in a promotional expert to help promote the U.S. Open and this rivalry in a way that maybe we haven’t done in a very long time.”

Newspaper advertisements, taxi toppers, mobile billboards and two “First Amendment Ad Vans”—one for Federer and one for Nadal—launched the campaign in New York City as did a Thursday press conference hosted by King, where he regaled the tennis stars and assembled media with his soaring oratory.

Nadal and Federer sat on a dais separated by King, enjoying their first experience of listening to the legendary promoter describe them to the audience.  They seemed to genuinely appreciate King’s enthusiastic pronouncements about their tennis prowess—not to mention snappy one-liners and rhymes that left both the players and the assembled New York media howling in laughter.

“I know Rafa and Roger ain’t no kin, so they can bend,” King quipped.  “Don’t let the smiles and embraces fool you.  These two want nothing more than to walk off with the 2008 U.S. Open championship, and there will only be one man that does that.  Will it be Rafa, or will it be Roger?”

Federer and Nadal have created a tremendous rivalry on the court over the last five years—while remaining good friends off the court—and their recent, epic four-hour, five-set finals meeting at Wimbledon was so tremendous that many have proclaimed it the best tennis match ever played.

The two tennis greats have made it to the final match in the two most recent Grand Slam events, and if they make it to the finals at this year’s U.S. Open, the hope is to bring on added attention to them and their hoped-for showdown at Arthur Ashe Stadium main court on Sept. 7 that millions more would be watching on television around the world.

King said the marketing plan was put together in what he called, “Creative Mental Ecstasy.  It was a great exchange of ideas.  Working together works.  This is a great example of two entities creating something even greater for the benefit of the people.”