Rafael Nadal: French Open Legend and The Future of Poker Sponsorship

TAGs: Daniel Negreanu, david ferrer, french open, Jake Cody, Lee Davy, poker news, poker sponsorship, PokerStars Pro, rafael nadal, wsop 2013

As Rafael Nadal was destroying David Ferrer, on the clay courts of Roland Garros, en route to an incredible eighth French Open championship in nine years, there were so many superlatives laid out in the pages of the world’s media, and yet all I kept thinking was: “what an astute signing this was for PokerStars.”

Rafael Nadal: French Open Legend and The Future of Poker SponsorshipNadal inked his deal with Scheinberg et al whilst in the midst of the lowest point in his professional playing career. There were whispers that the Spaniards knees were ready for the scrap heap and that he would never be the same again – a thought that also crossed the mind of Nadal and his backroom staff.

“Five months ago nobody in my team dreamed of a comeback like this. We thought it would be impossible – but here we are. It’s fantastic. I’m very, very happy.” Nadal told the world’s media after his mauling of Ferrer.

The comeback that Nadal is referring to is his amazing sequence of nine finals in nine events since he picked up that lonely racket back in February. Defeats to Horacio Zeballos, in Chile, and the world number one Novak Djokovic, in Monte Carlo, the only blots on a copybook that shows ‘12-Grand Slam titles won’ on the last entry.

I have always been skeptical of poker sponsorship and the value that it brings the company who is shelling out the green. When you take a birds eye view of the online poker community you can only see one giant landmass, and it’s called PokerStars. If you are new to the game then this is where you are likely to flip your first coin irrespective of who represents them.

So I never really understood how a Team PokerStars Pro is going to manage to attract enough new fish to the game to justify their salaries. Try as I might I just cannot imagine a young player watching a televised poker event and choosing to play at PokerStars because Jake Cody, Daniel Negreanu or Eugene Katchalov has a patch on their arm.

But Nadal is different gravy. This is one of the most recognizable faces in world sport, and at the age of 27, has so many more years at the peak of his career. What makes the relationship so impressive is the fact that Nadal is still playing, and winning, the most prestigious tournaments in the world. This boys face is never going to be far away from the media spotlight when a major tennis tournament comes rolling into town. The global exposure that a poker site will gain from the attention that this man receives puts a very different spin on the value of poker sponsorship.

Boris Becker, Fatima De Melo, Marcus Hellner and Ronaldo are all great sportsmen and women in their own right; but Nadal is still smashing it across the net with the big boys. I tip my hat off to a man who was obviously not worried about an affiliation with a gambling company whilst coming back from such a terrible injury. The signing of Nadal is the future of poker sponsorship. The superstars of poker that have that unique aura can be counted on the one hand of a sloth, and superstars of sport, who have long since retired from the games they once dominated, are just not in the same ballpark as someone of Nadal’s standing…hell they aren’t even on the same planet.

I think the only way that PokerStars could get even more exposure than that offered by Nadal is if they moved for a major star of music, the silver screen or a famous soccer player. When you consider the punishment doled out to the young Tottenham Hotspurs winner, Andros Townsend, for making bets on football matches that he was involved in; it’s difficult to see any relationship growing out of the most popular sport in the world. So for the time being you have to look at the Nadal deal and wonder how it could ever be topped?

Nadal is the first man to win Grand Slam singles titles in nine consecutive years and has dominated a Grand Slam {French Open} like no player has ever done in the history of the game, all at a time when competition is most fierce. You can’t see an end to this man’s domination and the same is true for the home of the red spade.



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