By  on March 14, 2005

NEW YORK — Advantage, Polo.

Polo Ralph Lauren today is expected to announce that it has secured a partnership deal with the United States Tennis Association, the national governing body for tennis and the owner and organizer of the Grand Slam U.S. Open tennis tournament.

Polo will be the official apparel sponsor of the U.S. Open tennis tournament for the next four years, taking over from Fila, which recently ended its investment after more than 20 years.

The tennis sponsorship will catapult the Ralph Lauren name to even more people worldwide in markets in which he may not have strong representation. Typically the tournament attracts over 600,000 visitors, and last year’s was watched on television by over 86 million viewers worldwide.

“Sports and Polo Ralph Lauren have always been integral, and the name Polo is symbolic of that,” David Lauren, senior vice president of advertising, marketing and corporate communications, told WWD. “We always dabbled in tennis through our lines, whether it’s a great tennis sweater or a Polo shirt or different items that have been inspired by tennis.”

Arlen Kantarian, chief executive of professional tennis at the USTA, said: “The worlds of fashion and sports have collided, and this will provide a new worldwide stage for their coming together.”

Lauren and Kantarian declined to disclose the size of Polo’s investment, but industry sources estimate $20 million.

This is Polo’s first tennis sponsorship. In the past, the company has sponsored sports tournaments such as the America’s Cup, and individual athletes in golf and biking and skiing teams.

“Tennis has been something we have been looking to get a better foot in the game,” said Lauren. “The U.S. Open is the ultimate prize because it is such an upscale event. It is the most prestigious tennis event in America, if not the world, and it attracts the highest- caliber audience and the best players in the sport, so we are very proud to be a part of it.”

As part of the deal, Ralph Lauren will open a temporary 3,000-square-foot boutique at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., which will be open for the duration of the tournament, which this year will take place from Aug. 29-Sept. 11. The store is expected to offer classic Polo pieces, as well as co-branded U.S. Open/Polo Ralph Lauren merchandise, which will also be available at select Polo stores. In association with the USTA, Polo will also open a shop on, featuring sports tips, videos and information about tennis and the collaborative merchandise.

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