Anyone for tennis?
27 Jun 2008
Posted by: Anna Stone
Commercial Union was a major tennis sponsor in the 1970s, sponsoring the International Lawn Tennis Grand Prix between 1972 and 1976. The Grand Prix culminated each year in the CU Masters in which the top eight players were invited to compete on a round robin basis. In 1975 the competition was the most televised tennis tournament in the world.
In 1972 the Commercial Union presented two new prizes during the law tennis championships at Wimbledon, for the best ladies' match of the tournament and the best men's match. In 1974 the CU logo was positioned on a sign next to the main scoreboard and was the only commercial publicity inside the All England Club grounds. In 1975 the company went one better and became the first commercial company in 98 years of Wimbledon history to be allowed to erect a corporate hospitality marquee at the event.
Group links to tennis extend beyond corporate sponsorship and one of our sporting alumni is Sir Norman Brookes who was chairman of the Australian board directors of North British and Mercantile. Brookes, better known as "The Wizard (of Oz)", included among his many tennis achievements winning singles, doubles and mixed doubles at Wimbledon in 1907. Playing with A F Wilding, Brookes won the Davis cup for Australia in the same year, which was Australasia's first Davis Cup win.
Sir Norman is also reported to have tried to increase the number of tennis stars working for the North British & Mercantile when he offered posts to Frank Sedgman and Ken McGregor in 1953.
The pair had become the first men's doubles players to win a grand slam in 1951 and individually McGregor had reached the Wimbledon final in 1951 and Sedgman had repeated Brookes' own Wimbledon triple in 1952. They were also members of the Australian Davis Cup team which won in 1950. Sedgman played in the two successive wins which followed and incidentally the cup itself was insured by General Accident's Australian branch in 1953.
According to press reports, Sir Norman offered the pair jobs with North British & Mercantile if they remained amateurs rather than joining Jack Kramer's professional tennis circuit, starting on salaries of £1,500 a year to rise to £5,000 in 4 years. A staff magazine of the period commented that it seemed too good to be true that an insurance company would pay so well! The offer was turned down and Sedgman and McGregor went on to the professional circuit with Sedgman earning more than $100,000 in his first year as a professional player.
If anyone knows of any other Aviva tennis links I would be really interested to hear.
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