With everyone else, I learned this morning that Stacey Allaster is resigning as Chair and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association. As someone who covers the sponsorship business, I’m saddened because Stacey is one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. But how can you not admire a decision rooted in a desire to spend more time with family?
I’m certain that over the coming days there will be plenty more written about Stacey from people who knew her much better than I did. I first met Stacey Allaster when she was Tournament Director of what was then known as the du Maurier Open. Through The Sponsorship Report, I was privileged to cover the evolution of her career as she led the shift of tennis’ audience from the blue-rinse set to a younger demographic, built partnerships that began with the Rogers-ATT Cup, now the Rogers Cup, helped spearhead the construction and naming rights sale of what is now the Aviva Centre in Toronto, and then, in 2006, took the reins of the Women’s Tennis Association and oversaw the tremendous growth of that organization.
She spoke at one of Sponsorship Toronto’s predecessor conferences. It was 2002 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and I had invited Stacey to be our luncheon speaker. Later that evening, she would accept the award as female sports executive of the year.
I’m not a particularly tall man, to understate the obvious, so I guess it never registered on me that Stacey is not a particularly tall woman. She was barely visible over the podium, so she simply grabbed the mic and wandered, holding the audience in the palm of her hand. After her talk, when she realized she had gone way over her allotted time, she told me I should have shut her down sooner. I confessed that I had lost track of time as well.
It was around that time that a new generation of exciting young men was emerging onto the international tennis scene. Stacey wanted to leverage that with a slogan that would help shift the tournament demo to a much more sought-after cohort for her marketing partners. Remember that tennis back then was a very conservative sport. Stacey’s slogan: “New balls, please.”
We remained in contact only occasionally via email after her move to Florida and the WTA. Yes, I made a couple of attempts to lure her north to speak at Sponsorship Toronto, and she was always timely, apologetic and gracious when declining. November, it turns out, is an impossible time if your job is running the WTA. I did get a chance to exchange a few words with her this summer, though, at CSFX in Edmonton. She was bursting with exciting new plans for the WTA. I certainly I look forward to watching how her successor carries them forward. But for me, at least, without Stacey at the helm, it won’t be quite as much fun.
You may read the official announcement of Stacey’s resignation here.