Nike presented yesterday its "Grapple in the Apple" campaign behind next week's U.S. Open with a boxing-match-style media event featuring Mr. King and the sport's No. 1- and No. 2-ranked players, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
The two have met in the finals of the last two Grand Slam events, the most recent of which was an epic five-set, four-hour battle at Wimbledon in July, which many have called the greatest tennis match in history.
Nadal and Federer are gearing up for their next potential face-off at next week’s U.S. Open.
"These years I have always had one person in front of me, better than me in everything,” said Nadal. “So when I look to Roger in front of me all the time, having better forehand, better backhand."
"This is definitely one of the great, great rivalries I've been in,” said Federer. “And I mean he's definitely been also the one who has been pushing me the hardest to improve as a player and stay ahead of him. But you know, he got me in the end, but obviously I'm going to try to get it back."
Nike, which has endorsement deals with both players, is looking to capitalize on the attention this rivalry has recently brought to the sport by touting a potential finals showdown between the two at the U.S. Open as a heavyweight prize fight. The players have even been given boxer-type nicknames: Roger "The Magician of Precision" Federer and Rafa "Matador of Spin" Nadal.
Nike would not disclose the cost of the campaign but described it as the most significant tennis campaign it has done in quite some time.
The risk for Nike is that both players don't make it to the finals.
"We're keeping our fingers crossed that they do meet -- that's the whole point, and we honestly think that they will, especially the way they have been playing lately," Mr. Dice said. "[But] even if they don't, it will be a great moment for Nike, tennis and these two players and the city of New York."
Eric Wright, VP-research and development, Joyce Julius & Associates, which specializes in measuring the impact of corporate sponsorships, said the campaign will ensure Nike gets seen during the tournament.
"Those ads serve a lot of purposes, and one of them is ensuring that [Nike] doesn't get shut out of the tournament," he said. "I suppose you run the risk of a little egg on the face if they don't have a great performance, but we're still talking about that Amex deal all these years later. We're still talking about the brand -- it's not in the greatest way, but it's still generating buzz all this time later."