Ginepri gives Under Armour prime exposure

Updated: September 7, 2005, 10:20 PM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Robby Ginepri's rise to prominence at this year's U.S. Open has turned into an incredible product placement deal for Under Armour.

The market leader in moisture-wicking equipment that has challenged the likes of Nike and adidas, has its interlocking "UA" all over Ginepri. The endorsement deal is not traditional in that Under Armour doesn't specifically market to the tennis crowd. Only two other players have been spotting wearing the company's logo at the Open -- Martina Navratilova and Jill Craybas.

"It's so unique," said Ginepri, after defeating Guillermo Coria in a five-set match dressed in a green and yellow outfit. "No one has it. That's what I love about it the most."

Ginepri presented Under Armour with an excellent chance at exposure, which can be bought a relatively cheap price these days. Only a select few players among the top 10 have the opportunity to make millions off their shoe and apparel deals as the tennis industry hasn't faired well at retail in recent times.

"Companies are more selective than ever before," said James Blake's agent Carlos Fleming. "The top companies don't want guys that aren't a lock for the second week of the grand slam."

After Nike passed on renewing Lleyton Hewitt, the Australia signed a shoe and apparel deal with his racket maker Yonex, which is not a major player in either category.

Ginepri, who came into the U.S. Open ranked No. 46, didn't have tens of millions of dollars waiting for him, so he went with a brand that seemed to jive with his personality.

"Under Armour is a young, hip brand and they are the underdog," said Phil de Picciotto, president of Octagon, the sports management firm that represents Ginepri. "Robby is also young and hip and like Under Armour, which is challenging Nike, adidas and Reebok, Robby is set to emerge as a challenger to Andy Roddick. So his persona is very similar to their brand positioning and where they are in the growth cycle."

De Picciotto says that in the tennis world today "players tend to be famous for 15 minutes rather than 15 years and that is limiting the value of their personal brand for commercial purposes."

This has resulted in companies using tennis players in order to get much needed exposure. Close-ups on television coverage make placement on clothing in tennis more ideal than almost any other sport.

It's one of the reasons why Lacoste signed Andy Roddick after his deal with Reebok was over.

"Andy will be a key element within our program, but we're really not a tennis line," said Robert Siegel, chairman and CEO of Lacoste USA. "Andy could wear a white T-shirt and the people will come to the store and say, 'I want Andy's T-shirt. Andy has the charisma to make a statement with something."

Ginepri has never been on this big of a stage before, but if he is able to continue his run, perhaps Under Armour will start a tennis line. And young kids everywhere will start wearing sleeveless tennis shirts, lifting weights and wearing half-inch wristbands on their forearms.

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at darren.rovell@espn3.com.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter