In tennis, the phrase 'new balls please' is spoken by the umpire every time there is a ball change. The used balls are removed from the court and brand-new balls are used instead.
Why was a campaign needed?
The majority of people seemed to be getting bored with the continuous run of such established players as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, that the ATP were concerned about the drop in public interest in men's professional tennis. This was not to say that Pete Sampras' and Andre Agassi's play was tedious, but there appeared to be nobody new to challenge them.
In the 2000 ATP Champions Race, there was a boom of new players, all talented and all bearing a threat to the well-established players. The ATP leapt on this chance to increase the popularity of men's professional tennis, and created the New Balls Please ad campaign.
The New Balls Please Ad Campaign
With the success of the new players on the men's circuit in the first half of 2000, the ATP took it on themselves to launch a massive advertising campaign which would attract more people back to men's tennis.
The campaign involved various photo shoots during Wimbledon and the UBS Open, Gstaad. The eight original players who posed for the campaign were Gustavo Kuerten, Lleyton Hewitt, Jan-Michael Gambill, Tommy Haas, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Nicolas Lapentti, Mariano Zabaleta and Roger Federer.
The first phase involved the players in gladiatorial poses on black and white backgrounds. The brainwave behind the poses was akin to that of Russell Crowe on the Gladiator film merchandise.
During the week of July 24 2000, the New Balls Please campaign was officially launched. It featured in the Newsweek and USA Today print advertisements, and also in TV commercials the following week back-to-back with the Tennis Masters Series Toronto.
The players who participated in the New Balls Please campaign became known as the 'New Balls Brigade', and had increased in number. The run-up to the US Open 2000 saw them in good form, and in the tournament itself, two of the New Balls Brigade, Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin, came out in style. Hewitt reached the semi-finals and Safin went even further, not only getting to the final but defeated Pete Sampras in straight sets to become the champion.
The New Balls Please campaign was hailed a success by the media. Here are a few comments from the press:
The launching of the ATP's New Balls Please campaign came at the most appropriate time, as Marat Safin defeated Pete Sampras to win the US Open men's singles championship. Safin's win signals that the young generation of men's tennis is ready to rock and roll.
- Marc Berman
New York Post
Following the US Open 2000
The Old Ball Gets Tossed - After serving up controversy - and a lot of snickering - with its New Balls Please campaign, the men's tennis tour is getting the last laugh. One of its New Balls boys, Marat Safin is the new US Open champ. 'How Do You Like Me Now?' declares the follow-up ad, which debuted last week. Even the irreverence seems appropriate - the 20-year old Russian clearly wasn't intimidated by tennis great Pete Sampras, 29, demolishing him in a 98-minute straight-set thrashing. Once famous for smashing racquets - he says he smashed 48 of them last year and 36 so far in 2000 - in the final, Safin broke only Sampras's serve and spirit. 'I was steam-rolled,' said the legend. 'The way he's playing, he's the future of the game.'
- Newsweek: Newsmaker Section
It's a brilliant campaign, because it doesn't preach to the converted. The campaign, playing on the brashness of youth, gets it just right.
- David Williams
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, USA
Various taglines were used in the campaign, reflecting the players on the advert they were on. The original tagline was predictably 'New Balls Please.', but the tagline was changed regularly.
Some taglines used the player's names, advertising the player(s) in the picture (eg Kid Roddick) or 'rivalries' between players (eg Kuerten vs Safin).
Just for fun...
A few lines on the original advert said 'A new breed of player is emerging... see them challenge the old guard'.
Soon, the rivalry between the New Balls Brigade and the Old Guard was coming true, and recently, the ATP released the latest spin on the New Balls Please campaign.
It involved two of the best players on the circuit: Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, in poses similar to that of the New Balls Brigade. The tagline used was:
Dream on boys.
A little retort from two of the best players in the world. This advert and the New Balls adverts were featured in Paris and during the Tennis Masters Cup in Lisbon.
Ironically, Gustavo 'Guga' Kuerten defeated Andre Agassi in Lisbon in the final, and this shot him up to the top of the 2000 ATP Champions Race and the coveted World No. 1 spot at the end of the year.
Another irony is that Lleyton Hewitt defeated Pete Sampras at the US Open Final 2001 in straight sets to claim his first Grand Slam win.
The New Balls Please campaign released a 2001 calendar, with new shots of the New Balls Brigade and the Old Guard in Australia.
The campaign is still continuing, with new faces including the 19 year old highly regarded American tennis star, Andy Roddick. The ATP have planned new photos and more advertising merchandise for the new year.
Comments from the New Balls Brigade and the Old Guard
I think it's fantastic for tennis. It's fantastic to be put in such a group of elite players. You've got the Kuertens, the Philippoussises, the Safins, the Ferreros, who obviously are the future of tennis as well. It's fantastic to be labeled that, but you've still got to go out there and prove it as well. You know, you can't get lost because your in this campaign. But you know, I think it's a good idea on the part of the ATP. You have high guys up there, the Rafters, the Agassis, the Samprases, and then the newer guys 23-and-under sort of coming up and biting at their heels.
- Lleyton Hewitt
I think it's always good to introduce the players to the public or the public to the players. Especially if they're young and they're going to be around for a while. The earlier you get to know them, the better it is for the game.
The great thing about the guys in that ad is they force me to get better.
- Andre Agassi
Every day I am a gladiator.
- Gustavo Kuerten
After being informed that his photos made him look like a gladiator
I think it should be, 'Old' Balls Please.
- Justin Gimelstob
After losing to Pete Sampras
They're still healthy.
- Pete Sampras
When asked what was wrong with the 'old balls'