It’s not about tennis.

International audience

[Type of content: Opinion]

Romanian-born tennis player Simona Halep broke the news on her new apparel sponsor, on February 12.

Press headlines across the world had previously begun to heat up when WTA’s No. 1 wore a no-name red gear from China in her first tournament in 2018.

People digested the news pretty quickly and moved forward to enjoy some tennis. Well, it looks like everybody is cooled off now.

Yet, one question arises.

Are we missing the point?

How come the global giant, with powerful PR and communication resources, has kept silence around its new brand ambassador ever since?

While I am writing this, Nike doesn’t mention Halep’s name not even once on its website. Just dig into the news section as well as into Tennis and Athletes pages – and you will run into Canadian Eugenie Bouchard (WTA 116).

Scroll down, click back, search for Halep. Nothing.

Is it because Nike needs more than four days to write and spread a press release?

Or are we missing something?

Let’s dig deeper.

#1 Broken rule

There is a basic rule in journalism saying to doublecheck sources. The Romanian journalists only made a transcription of Halep’s words. But did anyone check that with Nike? Or mentioned Nike’s silence?

“Dear Media Relations Department, what do you say about your new athlete?”

Or: “Look, we were told the contract was worth EUR 1.3 million/year. Others say EUR 1.7 million. We also heard about USD 2 million. Is it a four-year contract indeed?”

“Give us something.”

#2 Dishonest PR?

Who leaked those figures to journalists anyway?

Since Nike hasn’t come up with an official statement by now, there is one possible explanation. A dishonest PR strategy coming from Halep’s team, to boost her brand after the deal with Adidas ended.

This is just a scenario.

But the fact is that the powerful sponsor is behaving as if Nike hasn’t included Simona Halep in its global collection of tennis stars, next to Roger Federer (Men) or Eugenie Bouchard (Women).

#3 Personal branding

It is not a top athlete’s job to know how to spread the news. It is not his or her job to make corrections when journalists fail in reporting with fairness and accuracy either.

But it’s a world champion’s job to hire the best available communication specialists to pamper his or her image as a strong global brand.

Halep hasn’t acted as a global brand amid her media coverage and followers worldwide.

Let’s take a press release on Nike’s website as an example (January 28, 2018). “Today, tennis great Roger Federer defended his title in Melbourne, bumping his win count at that major tournament up to six.”

Federer in the headline. Federer in the lead. Federer in the picture. Autograph by Federer.

Let’s come back to Simona Halep now. Not a single word about Nike on a website which appears first on Google*. The last press release was published on January 27, 2018.

More than that, the cover photo that Halep published on her Facebook page the very day she announced the partnership with Nike rather advertised a Romanian brand (Dedeman). Dedeman is one of her partners.

(*this article was published on February 15;)

Did Nike approve that anyway?

#4 Dear Media Relations Department

Some final questions for Nike (sent yesterday morning):

  • Is Simona Halep included in Nike’s global collection of athletes? Is it a global arrangement, as media suggested?
  • What about the figures – which is correct? (in case Nike can disclose)
  • Where was the decision made to sponsor Halep? At Nike Headquarters’ or in Romania, by its local distributor?

Let’s just understand.


PHOTOS: Simona Halep Facebook page

© 2018 Larisa Ghitulescu.