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The winner of the 2015 French Open is: Audemars Piguet

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June 2015


Brands don’t just battle it out on the market but also on the sports fields, through their respective brand ambassadors.

As you tennis fans out there might have already known, the French Open (also known as Roland Garros, named after the famous French pilot) just wrapped up last weekend. On the men’s side, it was Swiss star Stan Wawrinka who took home the Coupe des Mousquetaires. On the women’s side, it was living legend Serena Williams of America who lifted the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen.

The 2015 French Open Champion and his Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph
The 2015 French Open Champion and his Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph

Great news for tennis fans, but what does that have to do with the world of watches, you might ask? Well, last weekend was also a great weekend for Audemars Piguet, which just happens to be the sponsor for both Stan and Serena.

Serena Williams wearing a Royal Oak Offshore 41mm
Serena Williams wearing a Royal Oak Offshore 41mm

If you follow tennis at all (I think it’s clear by now that I do) you might have noticed that immediately after a match, win or lose, the player/brand ambassador immediately puts on his or her sponsor’s timepiece. That is the current marketing climate, which fuses the worlds of professional sports and advertising in a tight package, that often goes unnoticed by consumers or sports fans.

Product placement has become so integrated in sports, that in some cases the brand ambassador does two jobs at the same time. In this case, it’s playing tennis and promoting a certain timepiece. Take this year’s winner, Stan Wawrinka. He actually wears his Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph while on the tennis courts. He can afford to do so because Stan plays with one hand from both the forehand and backhand side, leaving his left wrist free for a sponsorship deal.

Rafael Nadal, who has lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires at the French Open 9 times, is already considered among the greatest tennis players of all time. He is equally known for his mannerisms and idiosyncrasies on-court. So maybe it’s a surprise to learn that Rafa also wears a watch while on the tennis court. Because he has a two-handed backhand, the added weight of a wristwatch on one wrist can affect a player’s swing and shot accuracy, as the ultra-precise Nadal would tell you. Let’s also not forget that the violent swings of a tennis racket can also upset the inner-workings of a normal timepiece.

Rafael Nadal's ultra-light Richard Mille RM 027
Rafael Nadal’s ultra-light Richard Mille RM 027

In this case though, neither is a problem, because Nadal’s Richard Mille RM 027 was specifically created to stand up to the game of tennis and Nadal’s quest for the perfect, balanced swing. Part of the research and development Richard Mille invested into the watch resulted in a movement that weighs only 3.35 grams! This means that Rafa most probably doesn’t even realize that he is actually wearing a watch.

But let’s not forget that in a tournament packed with superstar athletes, who are also celebrities as a result, there are many sponsorship opportunities for brands. Take, for instance, Novak Djokovic, the finalist in this year’s French Open.

The Novak Djokovic inspired Seiko Astron GPS Solar
The Novak Djokovic inspired Seiko Astron GPS Solar

The Serb lost to Wawrinka, but it was surely still a victory for Seiko, Novak’s sponsor. The brand’s limited edition Astron GPS Solar watch was on display in the closing ceremonies after the match. As a side note, Novak formerly represented Audemars Piguet, which is now the sponsor of the man he lost to in the final on Sunday, Stan Wawrinka. Djokovic’s loss is Audemars Piguet’s gain, it seems!

And who did Novak Djokovic beat in the semi-final? None other than Rado brand ambassador, Scotland’s Andy Murray. Who did Novak beat in the quarter final? The “King of Clay” himself, Spaniard Rafael Nadal and his Richard Mille.

Andy Murray and his Rado D-Star 200 at the 2012 US Open
Andy Murray and his Rado D-Star 200 at the 2012 US Open

And what about those guys with the Rolexes around their wrists? Well, Stan Wawrinka defeated them both! Swiss compatriot Roger Federer, and his Rolex were the victims in the quarterfinals. And Frenchman Jo Wilfried Tsonga was the next one to fall in the semi-final.

Roger Federer, his Rolex Day-Date II, and his Wimbledon 2012 champion's trophy
Roger Federer, his Rolex Day-Date II, and his Wimbledon 2012 champion’s trophy

By the way, Rolex is the official sponsor in the upcoming tennis tournament at Wimbledon, so maybe Federer and Tsonga will fare better there? Or maybe not, because the French Open this year was sponsored by official timekeeper Longines.

Jo Wilfried Tsonga for Rolex
Jo Wilfried Tsonga for Rolex

By now you probably get the idea. Tennis players (and all athletes, for the matter), do not only represent their clubs, or the flags of their respective countries when they play. They also represent the brands that sponsors them. So in the end, which player wins the championship match might be just as important as which brand wins, because of the additional publicity that goes along with it. Let’s just hope that some day sponsors’ names do not replace the players’ names on the scoreboards and trophies. (VJ)