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Babolat On The Rise
CNBC.com | September 02, 2010 | 03:22 PM EDT

The brands of tennis are well known to the American consumer: Head, Penn, Prince, Wilson. But over the past 15 years, one company — Babolat — has virtually come out of nowhere to achieve a huge share of the tennis racket business.

It's not that Babolat is a new company. In fact, they actually invented natural gut tennis strings in 1875. It's just that they weren't especially well known in the United States until they started making tennis rackets 15 years ago.

How they went about getting to the top can serve as a lesson to any company looking to break into a niche part of a business: Work the behind the scenes.

Instead of spending big money to get veteran players to use their sticks, they decided to spend the money on grassroots marketing and get the rackets in the hands of the best young players.

It has long been done in the basketball shoe business.

The difference is players believe they can wear any shoe. Tennis players don't believe they can change their rackets at will.

So what happened?

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