The Tennis Space: People of Influence
Number 17: Eric Babolat.
Sphere of influence: rackets, balls, strings, you name it.
Eric is the great grandson of Pierre Babolat, the first head of a family business that was established in 1875 and is the oldest tennis company in the world. Perhaps because they are French, it took them more than 100 years to become well known around the world but there can be no one in the tennis world now who is not au fait with them now. Innovation is the key; Babolat invented racket strings, the first gut string in 1925 and the first synthetic string in 1955. Eric took over the family business when he was just 28, after the tragic death of his father, Pierre, in a plane crash 1998, and has led them ever since. With Rafael Nadal the perfect representative, they are the number one racket in clubs in the UK and several countries.
What he’s doing
Over the past 14 years, Eric has been responsible for making Babolat into the world’s number one tennis brand, covering the sale of rackets, balls and strings. The new technology in strings has allowed the likes of Nadal to hit harder, with even more spin, while under Eric’s leadership and with the smart signing of Andy Roddick, Babolat hit the US market at the turn of the century and have hardly looked back. Their partnership with Michelin uses that technology in their shoes and Eric was the leading force behind getting the French Open to switch their official ball to Babolat for the first time in 2011.
The Babolat brand is synonymous with family – “tennis runs in our blood” is his slogan – and their work at grass-roots has been much admired. Their technology is such that they have been able to market equipment for longer than their rivals and in Nadal and Kim Cljsters, they have chosen brand ambassadors who reflect their values.
Did you know?
The first Babolat grand slam winner was Carlos Moya of Spain in 1998 when he won the French Open. The likes of Nadal and Clijsters (and Roddick, with one) have added a fair few since.