Business

Wimbledon 2015: Turning 'humble' Kvitova into a global star

Petra Kvitova in action Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Wilson and Nike are two of Petra Kvitova's major backers

Petra Kvitova may be one of the lowest-key double-Grand Slam winners in the recent history of tennis.

The talented Czech left-hander has won two of the past four Wimbledon titles and is a familiar and popular player with fans of the game.

But the current holder of the Venus Rosewater Dish does not yet have the instant public recognition enjoyed by players such as Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams, and was famously uncomfortable with the media attention after her 2011 Wimbledon win.

However, last year's repeat success has made her more prepared for being in the media spotlight, and that is something her new team of business advisors is seeking to capitalise on.

Although top players can earn millions through prize money, the majority of their earnings - in what can be a short career - comes through business deals and endorsements.

'Girl next door'

"We believe she has great potential to become a successful global brand and commercial property," says her agent Marijn Bal of IMG, with whom she has signed a worldwide marketing and representation deal.

"We have got to look at the personality, she is totally different from a Maria Sharapova or a Genie Bouchard.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kvitova has a more laid-back personality than some other current players

"Those girls are a little bit more outgoing, Petra is more humble, she is like the girl next door, approachable. I am not saying the others are not like that, but they are all different personalities."

And Kvitova herself tells the BBC business website that it would be unwise to try to package her as something she is not.

"I think for me it has been important to remain 'Petra from Fulnek'," says the Wimbledon number two seed. "I am a simple girl from a simple background and I think fans have appreciated my authenticity, What you see is definitely what you get with me.

"I don't pretend to be any different just because I win tennis matches, so hopefully brands appreciate my approach and my likeability, because it's who I am."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Wimbledon champ says she is better prepared for the pressures of the role than after 2011

'No formula'

Bal says they hope to repeat the sort of success they had with Novak Djokovic, another player from a not-particularly-large geographical or commercial territory in Eastern Europe, in his case Serbia, and who they were able to transform into a global brand.

According to Forbes, Djokovic made some $48m (£30.5m) from tennis in 2014, with just over one third of that coming from competition prize money and the rest from commercial ventures.

But Bal adds: "There is no formula, there are different strategies for different players. When we start working with a player we don't look at how we did things with a player before. We look at their interests and personality. And we need to have the right brands that fit their personality. "

He also says that there is no strict timetable to securing deals, but that products Kvitova is associated with have to be of high quality.

"An athlete's brand is not created for 12 months, but over their lifetimes. We are starting that process having signed her late last year," he continues.


Petra Kvitova

Image copyright Other

Born in Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) on 8 March 1990

With the Williams sisters, is only current female player to have won Wimbledon more than once

The only female player born in the 1990s to have won a Grand Slam title

Major deals with Wilson, Nike, Unicredit Bank, and Czech Post

$18.5m (£11.7m) career prize money to date

Writes a monthly blog for the BBC Sport website

Is an enthusiastic global ambassador for sports charity Right to Play


'Spiritual sister'

The WTA world number two's commercial market has traditionally been on her home ground in the Czech Republic, but IMG now intend "to expand her brand globally".

One of the first tasks is to build up her continued presence in Western markets, and Bal believes her success at SW19 can help trigger British interest.

"The UK is an important market for us. Having won Wimbledon twice is important," he says.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Li Na bids an emotional playing farewell to Petra Kvitova

Bal says there is another - perhaps seemingly unusual - part of the world which could prove commercially fruitful, namely China and East Asia.

"Her relationship and friendship with [former Chinese player] Li Na is well documented," he says. "At Li's farewell event last October, she made it known she considered Petra 'a sister off the court'.

"It kick-started a bit of a personality spike for Petra in China and Asia."

That was helped by the 25-year-old winning the Wuhan Open in Li's home city at around the same time, and then by her appearance at the end-of-year WTA finals in Singapore.

"So it was a bringing together of a lot of things," says Bal. "We do believe this is going to be an area of the world where there are going to be opportunities, and she is going to be able to capitalise on her personality."

Long-term vision

They have are also promoting her brand through a deal with watchmaker Ritmo Mundo, with the US luxury firm signing her up in April.

"They are a California based company, they are young and they are growing fast," says Bal, who added that the player's "laid back" personality was well-suited to the California lifestyle.

Image copyright Other
Image caption Petra Kvitova's agents say that any product she is associated with has to be of high quality

He also says his client is interested in expanding into jewellery and beauty products, and she recently worked in London with global brands Atelier Swarovski and Maybelline at pre-Wimbledon events.

Meanwhile, Kvitova says she is better prepared this time round for the sporting and commercial aspects of being the defending Wimbledon champion.

"I am hoping that I will cope better with being defending champion this year because I have done it once before, I know what to expect and the emotions that are involved. I will really try to enjoy it this year and just absorb the atmosphere and try to give my best."

She adds: "The most important thing is definitely success on the tennis court. I know that if I win matches everything else will fall into place and the money and sponsors will follow."

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