Marketing Lessons from Wimbledon: Take your Brand to Center Court


Strawberries and cream, lush green courts, the UK summer, some rain, and Wimbledon 2017! As the 131st premier Grand Slam inches towards its finale, MarTech Advisor tracks down the brands that have looked to maximize their recall and engagement at the mega sporting event.

Let’s have a look how marketers have set their tones for an exhilarating match up with Wimbledon, and how the rest of the lot can learn from the event to map their sports marketing campaigns in the near future.

Digital transformation to sync classic with contemporary

Wimbledon has always been known for its tradition, and it so far has steered clear of the millennial fervor over Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. Today, this has changed, and since last year, Wimbledon as a brand has slowly yet steadily looked to reposition itself to stay relevant to Gen Z.

Alexandra Willis, Head of Communications, Digital and Content, All England Lawn Tennis Club, explains the change in approach, “Perhaps there was a complacency, but the vision just wasn’t there to take the brand beyond the site before. We realized we didn’t want to get 10 years down the line and people don’t watch TV anymore, and therefore nobody is interacting or watching Wimbledon. We have to bring in the younger demographic now, so we don’t have a problem further down the line.”

In 2016, Wimbledon added a Snapchat-like feature to its app, which allowed users to share their tournament experiences on social media through photo-based videos. The app had an in-built feature to identify first-time visitors and creates personalized experiences for them. A debut collaborative effort with Apple TV now also covers live matches and radio. The success of these measures is reflected in the promising social numbersOpens a new window as Facebook likes increased 55%, Twitter following grew 74%, and mobile web visits rose 125%.

Multinational tech biggie IBM has had a long-term association with Wimbledon, having been the official technology partner to manage the tournament scoring for close to three decades now. Today, in keeping up with the latest martech trend of AI, Wimbledon has brought in its long-term partner’s IBM Watson to make an AI assistant available on its app. The AI assistant or bot – Fred, named after the iconic British tennis player Fred Perry, helps Wimbledon visitors by answering questions on directions to various courts, restaurant locations, and more. Fred is expected to be scaled to include capabilities that use its prediction-based assistance for weather forecast and automatic curation of match highlights. This year also witnessed the introduction of AR and 360-degree videos in the Wimbledon app, which has brought practice courts into the limelight, helping fans identify where their favorite players are training.

A key takeaway from this all-new tech-bent Wimbledon for marketers is adopting a consumer-first approach for campaigns. Technology is here to help marketers to enhance their brand’s engagement with their audiences, and exploring its potential can only work wonders.

Branding that bonds

Every marketer hopes to create that campaign that resonates. But, a key component of brand recall is also consistency. Wimbledon, like many other sports events, has brands wanting to make its presence felt. And, anyone who has been an avid Wimbledon watcher will remember Rolex – the official timekeeper, which always showcased on the scoreboard with IBM. Of course, Slazenger and Robinsons are two equally important brands that fans will recollect, the former as a brand for the tennis balls and the latter for the drink supplies on the court for the players and umpires.

For 2017, besides the regulars mentioned above, the official Wimbledon sponsors also include Lavazza, Stella Artois, Häagen-Dazs, Evian, Lanson, Ralph Lauren, Jaguar Land Rover and HSBC.

Stella Artois, the Belgian beer brand, has been unveiling engaging Wimbledon campaigns since 2014. That year, it had used the Google Cardboard app for virtual reality to let fans have a bird’s eye-view of all the Wimbledon courts with Rufus the Hawk. In 2016, Stella Artois took Wimbledon out of the courts by launching a theater production. This year, the beer brand has crafted a fully-integrated 360-degree campaign called ‘Serve One To Remember’ covering the internet, social, OOH, POP, TV, and people-centric, on-site activations that offer match tickets as well as limited edition souvenirs like branded chalices and glasses.

Häagen-Dazs has collaborated with Björn Borg, an apparel and accessory brand, for pop-up stores in London and theme-based strawberry and cream ice-cream bars during the games.

Lavazza has set up over 200 coffee machines across its 60 service points.

Many brands have opted for the traditional branding exercise of signing up tennis legends to endorse their products. Lavazza has chosen Andre Agassi and Jaguar has added Milos Raonic as their brand spokesmen besides Kei Nishikori and Andy Murray, who are already their brand ambassadors.

Pimm’s, the liqueur brand, sold 280,000 glasses of drinks during the championship in 2016. This year, Pimm’s is celebrating Wimbledon by introducing a special cocktail called ‘The Pimmbledon’ to their menu in the Ivy Cafe at Wimbledon Village. For those unable to make it to the courts, all the action can be enjoyed live on The Selfridges Dock at The Pimm’s Wimbledon Bar.

Brands have also used social channels optimally to their advantage. IBM is promoting its cloud and cognitive solutions through its #WhatMakesGreat campaign, while HSBC launched its #goneabitwimbledon campaign, which allows for fans to redeem their strawberries and cream vouchers. Evian, the official mineral water brand for Wimbledon 2017 has initiated a ‘Snapcode’ feature for its target audience, which encourages shoppers to unlock digital content by scanning their phones. To ensure the appropriate timing of the content, Evian’s campaign will be promoted on digital screens that have been set up in London at various strategic locations by leveraging time and geo-targeting technology.

Key takeaways for marketers to serve an ace

All the campaigns mentioned above can provide learnings for marketers to replicate, which easily extends well beyond Wimbledon.

Being strategic is wise, but being flexible is important

Wimbledon has shown that while strategy is pivotal, being flexible with what has been chalked out is also important. The Grand Slam moved out of its traditional thinking and adapted well to the millennial requirements. Social media, for instance, requires brands to have quick reflexes and customer connect. Agile marketing is the maxim for marketers today, and failing fast and reworking strategies is a better approach than sticking to rules. Being proactive about your customer’s negative feedback and comments on your campaigns or products helps brands form a connect while also improve on their offerings.

Know your niche

Creating a brand value and engaging your audience in a market that has stiff competition from big names is challenging. Analyze your competitors, see what they are doing right, see the niche or unique position your brand can have in the market, and then make the strategy. IBM brought in its unique AI feature with its Watson offering.

All channels go

Marketers in the modern-day use plenty of channels and platforms to connect and engage with audiences. All of them need to be attended to, responded to, and embraced. To get the best results, align the messaging to the channel and not splash the same posts across all networks, as the audiences that consume on different channels are different mostly, and if they are the same then being swamped with the same content will only drive them away.

Humor can hook your audience

Be it Wimbledon, or any mega sporting event, the mass fan following is because it entertains, brings joy, and creates lasting memories. Build on emotive elements, add fun to make an impression that resonates with your audiences. Be humorous, but ensure that none of your content hurts any sentiments.

Collaborate to excel, but choose sensibly

It takes two to tango! That’s true of all marketing campaigns, and especially so for sports marketing. Collaborate with another brand that shares a similar passion or vision as yours, to explore possibilities. For instance, Wimbledon 2016 coincided with UEFA Euro 2016, even both the finals were on the same date. Instead of feeling threatened that their reach would suffer, Wimbledon joined hands with UEFA to promote each other where football and tennis players also supported the cross-promotional campaign.

Marketing needs to have an emotional connect

There is glory, ecstasy, sorrow and pain. Sports is a mix of all these and many more emotions. Therefore, brand marketers must keep in mind that the campaigns, which can strike an emotional chord with the audience are the ones that generate the maximum recall and engagement.

Wimbledon would be over soon, but there is plenty more to come. US Open 2017 will be here soon, and for marketers, the takeaways – serve audiences aptly by making deep, emotional connects, and it will be game-set-match for your brand’s sports marketingOpens a new window campaigns.