In the world of sporting goods, one of the most recognizable logos is the ‘flying D’ logo from Dunlop. The logo is a part of tennis history dating back to over 40 years ago! You’ll not only see it on Dunlop tennis racquets and bags, but products from other sports like golf and squash. While it’s not surprising to find this logo in different sports, what is surprising is to see how many other industries use the same logo.
The Dunlop brand is named after a Scottish veterinarian and inventor, John Boyd Dunlop. In 1888, he had patented the pneumatic tire and started manufacturing tires for bicycles at his company, the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company. A couple of years later, however, the patent was declared invalid, because another Scot, Robert William Thomson, had patented the idea in France and the U.S. about 40 years earlier. Nonetheless, Dunlop continued producing tires for bicycles and ten years later, started manufacturing tires for automobiles. The company would later become Dunlop Rubber, which continued operations until 1985.
Trying to concisely nail down the ownership of the Dunlop brand is a little like a detective trying to locate someone named John Smith. The brand has become incredibly fragmented as it is owned by several different companies and encompasses many different products. This is further complicated by international boundaries. One company owns the rights to the brand for tires in the U.S. but another company would own the rights for the same product in India. The flying D logo is tied to a variety of different products globally. In addition to sporting goods like tennis racquets and golf balls and automobile tires, the brand is also found in products like aircraft tires, hydraulic hoses, conveyor belts, air spring bellows and air suspension systems.
As far as tennis history goes, many notable champions have played with tennis racquets by Dunlop, such as Rod Laver, Steffi Graf and John McEnroe. In 1969, Laver became the only male to win all four Grand Slam events in the same calendar year. In 1988, Graf became the only female player to reach the same milestone. As a tennis umpire’s worst nightmare, McEnroe won 17 Grand Slam events throughout his career.
In recent years, Dunlop has not had the iconic spokespeople that it had in the past. In terms of Grand Slam champions, the only two players using Dunlop tennis racquets were Amélie Mauresmo, who won Wimbledon in 2006 and Thomas Johansson, who won the 2002 Australian Open. Presently the most noteworthy stars are Nicolás Almagro of Spain, currently ranked tenth by ATP and Dominika Cibulková of Slovakia, ranked 15th by WTA. Almagro’s best Grand Slam performances are three quarterfinal finishes in the French Open in 2008, 2010 and 2012 where he was unable to get past fellow countryman, Rafael Nadal. Cibulková has quarterfinal finishes in the 2010 U.S. Open and Wimbledon in 2011.
There have been several innovations in the design of racquets bearing the Dunlop name. In 1985, the 150G racquet was developed using an injection molding process. Aerogel, considered by many to be the world’s lightest solid, was first used in 2007. This technology was further enhanced with 4D braiding in 2009.
The ubiquitous Dunlop brand has a rich history dating back to the development of inflatable tires for bicycles over 120 years ago and expanded into automotive tires, sporting goods and a slew of industrial products. Although there is no company operating autonomously with this brand, Dunlop branded products from conveyor belts to tennis racquets remain in high demand.
Christopher Mohr is a San Diego based freelance writer. In addition to writing about tennis, he also writes about other sports and covers a variety of sports topics dealing with the business of sports and sports technology.