Mahesh Bhupathi wins a Brand Slam with Andrew Murray

10 Jul,2013

By Ravi Teja Sharma


An unlikely winner from this year’s Wimbledon is Indian tennis pro Mahesh Bhupathi whose company Globosport had signed up to manage the commercial interests of the new champion Andrew Murray a few months ago.


Mr Bhupathi was in the box at the Centre Court for the finals on Sunday and was seen hugging Mr Murray’s mother after the Scot beat world number one Novak Djokovic in straight sets to become the first Briton to win Wimbledon in 77 years.


Mr Murray’s win is a shot in the arm for Globosport, which is mandated to develop the tennis star’s off-court interest globally, with a specific focus on Asia and the Middle East, following a tie-up with London-based XIX Entertainment.


Run by British entrepreneur, artist manager and the creator of the Idol franchise Simon Fuller, XIX has been managing Murray’s commercial activities since 2007.


A person close to Mr Bhupathi said the world number six doubles player and the Globosport team led by his sister Kavita Bhupathi are working on a few contracts for Mr Murray. “A few discussions have happened with brands in recent months and some negotiations are at an advanced stage. There could be some announcements soon,” said the person, who did not wish to be named.


The person did not confirm if any of the deals being signed are with brands in India. Mr Bhupathi, who is in London, declined to comment. Celebrity managers say Mr Murray’s win is a golden opportunity for Mr Bhupathi, particularly to grow his business abroad.


“This is a great opportunity for Mahesh. I hope he has a business plan in place and he strikes when the iron is hot,” says Bunty Sajdeh, the chief executive officer of Cornerstone Sport & Entertainment, referring to Mr Murray’s win this Sunday.


The head of another Mumbai-based sports marketing firm says Mr Murray’s win will help create a positive profile for Globosport in international markets and in India. “But it will all depend on whether he is able to get contracts for Murray.”


India, where cricketers dominate the market for sports endorsements, will be a difficult market to crack for Mr Murray. “If he gets business for Murray, I am sure there will be more tennis players, especially in Asia, lining up to do business with Globosport,” he says.


But since the mandate is a global one, and Asia and the Middle East are untapped territory as far as Mr Murray is concerned, the task is certainly cut out for Mr Bhupathi. After losing his first four Grand Slam finals, Mr Murray last year won the Olympic gold medal in London as well as the US Open in New York.


There have been talks of Mr Bhupathi retiring after 2013 to focus on business. He is among a clutch of Indian tennis players including the Amritraj brothers and Leander Paes who have dabbled in business with a fair bit of success. His company has helped multiple brands connect with sports and Bollywood stars such as MS Dhoni, Saina Nehwal, Sania Mirza and Aamir Khan.


Earlier this year, Mr Bhupathi had unveiled a plan for an International Premier Tennis League in the lines of Indian Premier League twenty20 cricket tournament and the World Team Tennis that was run in the US in the 70s. The league will have teams in eight cities and will be played during the offseason starting 2014.


While some feel this plan is terribly ambitious on Mr Bhupathi’s part, the league is said to have commitments from star players like Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka. Andy Murray too is on board now.


There have also been talks of Messrs Murray and Djokovic getting equity stake in the tennis tournament, which already has investors like ATP board members and former players Justin Gimelstob and Boris Becker.


Source:The Economic Times

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