The new Lagos Open embraces an old heritage

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A new name and a new logo 18 years in the making, the Governor’s Cup Lagos Tennis championship, Nigeria’s leading international tennis event, has changed its name to the Lagos Open.

The rebranding was unveiled at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club on Tuesday, August 14, with excitement and hope that it can finally become a modern product capable of sustaining itself.

The Governor’s Cup dutifully served its role as an ITF ProCircuit Tournament, the Futures, an entry point for professional players seeking ranking points in the ATP and WTA circuit. All but one of the tournaments since its inception has been held at the 123-year-old Lagos Lawn Tennis Club.

However, from this year, the tournament embraces an old heritage by taking on the name of an international tennis tournament that took place in Lagos from 1976 until 1991. The original Lagos Open hosted such great stars as Arthur Ashe, Nduka Odizor and Dick Stockton. The new Lagos Open hopes to become a bigger international tournament with eyes set on becoming an ITF Challenger Circuit event by 2020.

The Challenger Circuit is the tournament just below the ATP and WTA Tours where the biggest tennis players in the world feature. Attaining the Challenger Circuit is a goal that will help propel the Lagos Open into the big leagues and ensure that the tournament can become a truly international event that will attract bigger and better players.

While announcing the change, Engineer Afolabi Salami, vice chair of the Central Working Committee of the tournament, who represented its chair, Chief Pius Akinyelure, said that the renaming had come at a time of maturity.

“We are moving the tournament up to the Challenger Circuit. A little step after this and we would be having the likes of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, the Williams sisters (Serena and Venus), Angela Keber etc. coming to our shores to compete,” he said, noting that it would take about 18 months to complete the process. Tall dreams though it is.

The biggest leap taken by the CWC has been the engagement of a marketing consultant to power the rebrand and ensure it chimes with modern day expectations.

One of the reasons that the competition, when it was the Governor’s Cup, remained handicapped, was the dependence on the Lagos State government for the funding of its $100,000 prize money. With OE&E Consulting in charge, things should improve and the tournament could truly start to reach its potential as the premier tennis competition in Nigeria and West Africa.

The first work of OE&E was obvious at the rebranding where a new logo was unveiled for the Lagos Open. Out with the old, in with the new, the fresh Lagos Open logo looked vibrant, a yellow tennis ball in motion with Lagos Open written beneath.

Tony Agenmonmen, the marketing consultant, said that the new name will ensure that anybody in the world will be able to know where Lagos is situated on the map.

“The new logo is symbolic because we’re progressing from the Future Series to the Challenger Circuit. It is very modern and aspirational and its major strength is its simplicity. It reveals the dynamism that we expect the Lagos Open to represent,” said Agenmonmen.

Several tennis majors have rebranded in recent times. The Australian Open and US Open have changed their looks to reflect modern trends. The Lagos Open and its new brand image are toeing that line.

There are many opportunities that the new name offers from a marketing perspective, different from the Governor’s Cup of old. While the Governor’s Cup evoked government ownership and restriction, the Lagos Open could comfortably issue naming rights to sponsors while retaining its identity like many other tournaments across the world. Examples abound where sponsors attach their names to tournaments in order to gain mileage with one major example being the Mutua Madrid Open.

It was almost impossible to attach a sponsor’s name to the Governor’s Cup. The Lagos Open now makes it possible.

The Lagos Open unveiling looked professional and tidy in a well-planned event. It is a good move by the CWC and its hardworking Tournament Director, Prince Wale Oladunjoye, to allow the championship embrace new thinking to become bigger and better. It should become a tournament that everyone wants to see this year.

The unveiling also ensured that the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club was able to show off its brand new toilet and changing room facilities ahead of the Lagos Open. LLTC president, Mr Gbenga Lufadeju, expressed the delight of the club at welcoming players from 40 countries at this year’s tournament.

The Lagos Open will take place from September 29 to October 13.

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