Tennis & Cheesecake?



Cheesecake is not necessarily something you would think of when you think of sports marketing. The well-known American restaurant chain, The Cheesecake Factory is popular for its heft portions and four figure calorie counts. It also just made a contract with its first endorser, Polish athlete, Agnieszka Radwanska.

Adnieszka Radwankska achieved a career-high singles ranking of World No. 2 in July 2012 and his currently ranked World No. 3 by the Women’s Tennis Association. She is known for making intelligent use of the court and has won thirteen career singles titles. She has also been voted the Women’s Tennis Association’s most popular player for three consecutive years. For her accomplishments in sport and for representing her country with distinction, in 2013 she was awarded the Gold Cross of Merit by Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski.

It seems a little strange that The Cheesecake Factory announced Radwanska as its first endorser on March 4 at its location in Rancho Mirage, California. This is where Radwanksa will begin wearing the company’s logo on her visor at the start of the BNP Paribas Open. This event is the Women’s Tennis Association Tour’s biggest stop.

Donald Evans, The Cheesecake Factory’s chief marketing officer says, “We hope it spurs conversation about, ‘What is that restaurant doing on her visor,’” and the answer is “she is one of our biggest fans.”

The endorsement grew from social media, which will play a major role in promoting the ties between the Polish star and the American outlet. Radwanska has tweeted her enthusiasm for The Cheesecake Factory when touring in the United States. Six months ago, one of her representatives at Lagardere Unlimited, Drew LeMesurier called the company – but not necessarily for a deal.

“Initially, I wanted to get her VIP treatment at one of the restaurants,” said LeMesurier, director of talent marketing for Lagardere. He wanted to cut the waiting lines the restaurants frequently boast about and maybe get some gift cards. This isn’t an uncommon request among celebrity customers. Donald Evans says, “We help them out when they go to our restaurants.”

So, how and why did Radwanska land an endorsement deal with The Cheesecake Factory – a multiyear pact totaling six figures – when they have so many other celebrity customers? Part of the answer stems from a long tradition in golf and tennis endorsements: the marketing people like the sport. Evans handled this deal himself. He admits he is a tennis fan and when LeMesurier’s call came, he immediately took it. Radwanska also has an apparent sincere affection for the food and her unpaid promotion of the brand made The Cheesecake Factory take a closer look. “We felt like while it is not the biggest athlete, we need to feel good about who we are working with,” Evans said.
Radwanksa is required to wear the visor with the company logo in the U.S. under terms of the deal, and she will have a number of set appearances. One of her biggest assignments will be on July 30, which the chain is hyping as National Cheesecake Day.

“She really indirectly had been an ambassador for us for years,” Evans said. “Now it becomes official.”


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