Ask anyone at the U.S. Tennis Association to sing the praises of their game, and they’ll oblige. For starters, it’s great cardio exercise, it’s open to all ages and demos and it requires little equipment.
And maybe most important for those who’ve been locked down by the coronavirus pandemic for three months: Tennis can get you out of the house for a sport that is, by its very structure, social without being too close for comfort.
That’s the foundation for the USTA’s new campaign, “Get Out and Play,” which launches with a 30-second spot highlighting a handful of popular shelter-in-place hobbies such as binge-watching, baking and DIY beauty treatments that have lost some of their appeal by now.
“The campaign takes advantage of the fact that people have been cooped up and they’re hungry for activity,” said Amy Choyne, CMO of the USTA. Meanwhile, “local communities are opening up, restrictions are lessening, and there’s an opportunity for people to learn or relearn a healthy sport.”
To put it more bluntly, it may be time to put down the devices and pick up a racquet. (Digital animated banner ads for “Get out and play” will have taglines like, “From frayed nerves to awesome serves,” and “From quarantine to love/fifteen.”)
Tennis has an advantage over some other activities, whether played competitively or for fun, because it’s not a team or contact sport. In fact, it “lets you keep your social distance without being socially distant,” according to the videos.
The USTA, closely associated with leagues and pro players, is using the campaign to reposition itself, Choyne said, targeting a broad audience, including weekend warriors and those who’ve never stepped onto a court.
Along with the ads, there are digital resources like player safety guides—as well as tips on where to find public courts and how to pick the right racquet—and community-based programs via the group’s nonprofit foundation to help reopen tennis facilities for youngsters this summer. In April, the USTA committed $50 million to spur grassroots tennis initiatives.
“Get Out and Play” comes from the USTA’s in-house team and a group of freelancers, including director Norry Niven, art directors Tony Bennett and Bob Chimbel and strategy executive Kevin Foote.
Filming took place in a Dallas park with 20 crew members and about a dozen on-screen talents staggered through the shoot. At any given time, it was a skeleton crew. There was a medic on site, Choyne said, with strict production guidelines about social distancing and sanitizing were in place. Everyone wore masks when possible and had their temperatures taken repeatedly, she said.
Choyne and her executives, who did not travel for the shoot, worked via Zoom calls to approve wardrobe and deal with other logistics. The video village was entirely remote.
The group tackled the production “in the same way we approached returning to the tennis court—safety first,” Choyne said. “Tennis is inherently a fun, social distancing activity and we were able to safely showcase that as organically as possible.”
The media plan for “Get Out and Play” will include digital, social and radio ads, with TV spots in local markets starting in July. As part of the PR plan, former tennis pros Chris Evert and Patrick McEnroe are appearing on various national talk shows.
The next phase of the campaign will premiere later this summer to take advantage of the anticipated hype around the U.S. Open. No announcements have been made yet about that annual tournament, usually held in late August through early September, but there are discussions taking place about holding the event without fans. Other professional sports like the NBA, the NFL, the NHL and MLB are planning a similar return, with empty arenas and stadiums, in the coming months.