Conquering Kiwi is a fitting face to front campaigns that can raise the profile of the game the world over
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Paul Coll is not only the new men’s world number one, his likeable, wholesome image can help to transform the sport.
That’s the view of the management company guiding his commercial affairs, who are confident that the New Zealander’s warm personality and stupendous success story can transcend the game itself and help to lead squash into fresh areas of exposure and marketing.
Coll’s rise up the squash rankings has been accompanied by an astute business sense.
His phenomenal athleticism and a winning smile that’s often accompanied by flashing those impressive guns of his has made him one of the most marketable faces in squash. Just check out his YouTube videos of some brutal gym workouts that have made him the fittest and strongest guy on the PSA World Tour.
The Kiwi has been working with sports management company Activate Management since March last year to develop his commercial profile.
Oliver Morgan from Activate Management says: “Paul is an athlete that brands will want to work with. His performances of late have been exceptional and that success attracts interest.
“Potential partners can also buy in to the story of the young man who left his family and friends in Greymouth to pursue his dream, and through sheer guts, determination, and a relentless desire to improve himself, he became the greatest player on the planet. That’s an inspiring story and it’s powerful stuff to marketers.
“In Paul I see a young man who is physically supreme, utterly dedicated to his craft, has a likeable character and behaves impeccably on court. You couldn’t ask for more than that in a role model. He is the complete professional.
“The biggest challenge is not selling Paul but selling squash. Dwindling participation numbers and a lack of mainstream media exposure means that major consumer brands allocate their marketing budgets elsewhere.
“In New Zealand for example the ‘heartland sports’ of rugby and cricket get lots of interest but motorsport, snow and surf also. Brand marketers want to know why they should invest in squash over these sports and that can be a tough conversation.
“For the first time in years you have a potential superstar in Paul who can transcend the squash bubble. Everyone in squash knows him but how many people outside of squash do?
“In the 1980s Jonah Barrington was a household name. I don’t think you could say that about any player now, with the exception possibly of some of the Egyptians.
“There’s also a bigger opportunity here which is to use Paul to raise the profile of squash globally, revamp the image of the sport and drive participation numbers.
“That isn’t my remit but I certainly think the powers-that-be in squash should be focussing on how they can use him to promote the sport.”
For the next few weeks, squash will take centre stage here in England.
The Optasia Championship (formerly known as the Channel VAS tournament) has switched from St. George’s Hill to the Wimbledon Club and take place from March 6-11.
It will be immediately followed by the GillenMarkets Canary Wharf Classic (March 13-18) with the Allam British Open in Hull from March 28 to April 3.
Squash has an opportunity to promote itself in a shop window lasting almost a month, and we will then be looking towards the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham from July 29 to August 8.
Paul Coll will be returning to Canary Wharf and Hull as reigning champion, the number one seed and ranked one in the world.
He will also be favourite to win the men’s singles gold medal in Birmingham. He and Joelle King are also likely be be top seeds in the mixed doubles.
All of this underlines the marketability of this engaging Kiwi who has been adopted as an honorary Brit by the crowd at Canary Wharf.
Back home in New Zealand, he is the ideal poster boy to launch a major squash revival in a sports-mad nation.
He is a fitting face to front the fun and fitness elements that squash can deliver and, with professional support behind him, high-quality marketing campaigns can only help to raise the profile of the sport as we fight to combat falling playing numbers the world over.
Coll takes out Tarek Momen on first day as number one
Paul Coll marked his first day as world No.1 by seeing off former world champion Tarek Momen in a thrilling semi-final in the Windy City Open, triumphing 12-10, 8-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-5 in 89 minutes.
In tonight’s final, he meets Egypt’s rising star Youssef Ibrahim, who beat Marwan ElShorbagy in a feisty encounter that ended with a bizarre scoreline of 11-5, 6-11, 9-11, 11-1, 11-0.
The women’s final features Nouran Gohar and Haniah El Hammamy. Gohar beat Joelle King in straight games but El Hammamy fought back from two games down to beat top seed Nour ElSherbini in an epic battle.
2022 Windy City Open Presented by the Walter Family
Men’s Semi Finals:
Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) bt  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-2: 11-5, 6-11, 9-11, 11-1, 11-0 (56m)
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-2: 12-10, 8-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-5 (89m)
Women’s Semi Finals:
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-2: 5-11, 15-17, 11-5, 11-6, 11-5 (66m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Joelle King (NZL) 3-0: 11-5, 11-4, 11-3 (32m)
Pictures courtesy of PSA