Delray Beach Open Continues to Thrive Despite Decline in U.S. ATP & WTA Events

Delray Beach Open Continues to Thrive Despite Decline in U.S. ATP & WTA Events

By: Natalie Mikolich

Over the past few years, the U.S. has experienced a decline in premier ATP World Tour and WTA Tour events taking place in major cities as many have relocated to emerging tennis markets like South America and Asia.  Two of these events include the ATP San Jose SAP Open event that is being moved to Rio de Janeiro this Spring, and long time WTA Tour event held at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California, which is headed overseas to Asia in 2014.

With the exception of the US Open Summer Series events, one event on the ATP World Tour calendar that continues to thrive and experience success 21 years later is the newly rebranded Delray Beach Open.  Previously known as the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships, the event got its start in Coral Springs, Florida, in 1993 before relocating to the quaint seaside town of Delray Beach in 1999.

Going on Its 15th year at the Delray Beach Tennis Center, 2014 served-up to be one of the most exciting years yet for the event after undergoing a branding and marketing campaign overhaul at the end of 2013. 

Attracting top U.S. and international tennis stars such as Andy Roddick on the ATP Champions Tour, along with John Isner and Greatest Doubles Team of All-time Bob and Mike Bryan, the 2014 Delray Beach Open also brought out the likes of local international sports super stars such as Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus along with local Miami HEAT Assistant Coach, Bob McAdoo.

Taking the time to share with us what went into the new marketing campaign to promote the re-branded Delray Beach Open this year is Executive Director, John Butler.  He filled us in on everything from the event’s name change to its partnership with The Palazzo in Las Vegas and why the event continues to thrive on doing things differently.

For more on the famous dancing Volley Girls at the Delray Beach Open along with watching top level tennis inside a Porsche on stadium court and the new WOO Lounge serving up a spin of cocktails, here is our full Q&A with John Butler:

What have been your new marketing initiatives and campaign been for the Delray Beach Open this year?
This year we changed the event’s name from the “Delray Beach International Tennis Championships” to the “Delray Beach Open by The Venetian Las Vegas.” We wanted to be careful about using the word “open” which means anyone can enter to play, but we truly are “open” to anyone. We had two pre-qualifying events this year with more than 200 players including juniors, college players and pros. We even have one player in his 70’s who gives it a go every year.
In 2013, we also started working with WOO Creative in Delray Beach on redeveloping our brand identity and ad campaign.  We are very into working with local talent for public relations and marketing of the event. Working with Woo, we took the ATP World Tour’s campaign graphics for the players and logos and toned them down for the tournament so that the players (the product) were even more easily recognizable in the marketing materials, especially because we had to work with both the ATP Champions Tour and the ATP World Tour logos and other mandatory inclusions.  We went through several revisions with the ATP before there was consensus on our final campaign, including tweaking the player photos so they had less “flourishes” and using a darkened version of the ATP logos so they supported the ads rather than being a focal point.
Tell us more about your partnership with the Venetian Las Vegas and how that relationship came to be?
This is the first year we partnered with the Venetian Las Vegas. Last year, The Palazzo, which is part of the Venetian property, was a sponsor and they were extremely successful engaging with people who were watching their commercials on tv during the 50 plus hours of live tournament coverage while also seeing their logo rolled in during slow motion replays, the tracking numbers were off the charts.

This year, the Venetian stepped up to be the presenting sponsor and were more involved in the tv promotions including on-air interviews with their executives, vignettes within the tv programs and more signage on the courts.  We could not be more thrilled to have the Venetian as a sponsor for five years (through2018), they are one of the world’s most iconic brands and they’re finding success, strength and power in Delray Beach.
What has attributed to the event’s success on the ATP Tour, especially with the U.S. having very few ATP events (other than the US Open Series) and recently losing some big events such as San Jose?
Our city relationship with Delray Beach, municipal agreement, tv coverage and multiple-year sponsorships are what help get incredible results for the event. We do very few single year sponsorship deals and they usually renew with us before they are up. At the Delray Beach Open, we joke that we “try to squeeze tennis in” because we try to make it fun with entertaining special events, our Volley Girls, seats on the court and in the Porsche, a live music stage…the list goes on and on.

In the U.S., it is tough enough with everything else people can do with all of the entertainment options available, so their dollar is stretched to the max and they want to see the best of the best. We are not competing with the Sony Open for attendance at the Delray Beach Open, but instead the HEAT Games going on, Muvico movie theater in Boca Raton and street fairs taking place.

With most big events owned by a management company, tennis firm or federation, Delray Beach is different because it is owned by the Baron Family and has Mark Baron making strong business decisions. Having approachable ownership allows us to easily share new ideas, try things to engage new fans and keep them happy on-site.  We are fortunate to meet new, and fresh, minds and work with small business in the area to grow our business and theirs too. This year we partnered with Delivery Dudes ( who included our brochures with all of their food deliveries in the weeks leading up to the event, and then during the tournament, at the end of every session we would do a cool promo on stadium court encouraging everyone to call Delivery Dudes on their way home so dinner was ready and waiting when they got home.

We also worked with the Polaroid Fotobar who had their first store in Delray Beach (and now have another location in Town Center Mall Boca Raton with a flagship store opening in Las Vegas) who did all of the photos of the players in the stadium.  We wanted to have a “wall of family photos” featuring players in the tournament as a backdrop to the stadium action and partnering with Polaroid Fotobar on the project enabled us to use the tournament’s TV visibility to expose a homegrown brand. 
How do you try to market and promote this event to tennis fans?
We want tennis people to be proud of the way the event is promoted and want to make it just as exciting for fans who attend NBA Heat Games.  We want the Delray Beach Open to be more than tennis with its entertainment, so you will see things out of the norm like the Volley Girls dancing on changeovers, in-stadium hosts engaging fans with contests and games, and the new Woo Lounge skybox area in the middle of the east stands.  We try to take the event to the next level and want fans to appreciate the great spectator sport that tennis is, but also enjoy everything that is here so they walk away saying “that was not what they were expecting.”
What makes Delray Beach a “tennis hot spot?”
The Delray Beach Tennis Center is a public facility where members come and play and party. With Atlantic Avenue so close by, it is a special and unique site that has something for everyone. You can play or watch tennis, go to The Avenue for lunch or dinner, hit the bars or even visit a museum, all while keeping your car parked in the same spot. It’s more than just what’s going on on the court.