Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic are making millions from sponsors attracted by their ability to make headlines, but former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash warns their antics are damaging the reputations of all Australian players.
Cash, who now commentates for American television network CNN, is concerned that lower-ranked Australians are battling for sponsorship due to the constant controversy created by Kyrgios and Tomic.
Kyrgios was in the news again on Tuesday after wearing an explicit, anti-Donald Trump t-shirt following a match in Sydney.
Cash fears that organisations are looking away from other Australian players fearing they will bring negative attention to their brand, but a sports marketing expert told The New Daily the our two top-ranked male players are banking big money precisely because they offend, incite and outrage.
“You’ve got to say that young Australian male tennis players, in light of what has been happening over the last couple of years, do not have a very good reputation and they’re struggling to find sponsorship,” Cash told ESPN.
“Brands stand back and say ‘we don’t want bad publicity’.
“And that’s kind of what is happening to [the other young Australian players].”
Cash’s comments come despite Kyrgios having an extensive range of sponsors.
He has official relationships with sportswear brand Nike, tennis manufacturer Yonex and headphone company Beats, among others.
One of Kyrgios’ agents, Carlos Fleming, told The New York Times in August last year that the NBA were also interested in working with the tennis player, in part because of the controversy which follows him.
He and the likes of Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem are the new faces of tennis, as the careers of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal wind down.
And Kyrgios looks likely to sign another big-money deal in the coming weeks in an extension of his partnership with William Morris Endeavor and IMG.
The New Daily contacted the organisation for comment but it did not respond.
Sports marketing guru: ‘Nick is instantly recognised’
Dr Gary Grant, a lecturer at the University of Canberra and a consultant on tourism and sports management in Asia, has previously been involved in the sponsorship of some of Australia’s top athletes.
He said that he would have no hesitation sponsoring Kyrgios if he still worked in the field.
“Nick is instantly recognised which is important for any organisation,” he told The New Daily.
“He commands media attention and people associate him with excellence.
“The exposure that comes with sponsoring Nick is significant, and as a sponsor, you like the people you have relationships with to be in the news.
“If they’re on page three of the paper or do a spot on TV or radio and your product gets seen or mentioned, it is very valuable. That would cost a lot of money in other circumstances.”
Dr Grant said companies were after athletes who were young and talented – boxes that Kyrgios and Tomic tick.
He thinks the Aussie pair remain attractive to sponsors because their bad moments are largely on-court and not off it.
“Companies are looking for athletes who are set for a long career and stay in the media, largely through performance,” he added.
“Longevity is key. You don’t want much controversy and it is a fine line for athletes. Some of the criticism they get is right but some is unjustified.
“But personally, I didn’t have a problem with them [athletes] being outspoken. That’s fine – and much better than other athletes who get arrested, which we’ve seen in the news recently.
“These guys [Nick and Bernard] are not doing that.”
Kyrgios and Tomic will both be in action in the Australian Open, the first grand slam of the tennis year that starts next week at Melbourne Park.