By Barry Janoff
June 27, 2016: Great Britain may have opted out of the European Union, but they are encouraging people to join the celebration for Wimbledon June 27 - July 10, featuring story lines involving Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Garbiñe Muguruza, and supported by a roster of such marketing partners as IBM, Jaguar, Rolex, Stella Artois, Evian, HSBC bank and Ralph Lauren.
Wimbledon, the third tennis Grand Slam of the year, is coming off a strong showing in 2015 in which numbers were up across the board in attendance, social media and global reach.
Among other stats, visits to the tournament's mobile Web site last year hit 5.6 million, up 125%; Facebook likes grew 55% to 3.3 million; and Twitter followers topped 2.2 million, up 74%.
That supports such figures as a global audience reach of more than 1 billion people and a presence on radio that went up two million in 2015 to 16 million listeners.
What people will most be interested this year are such story lines as Serena Williams seeking to defend her 2015 title and going for 22nd career Grand Slam (and seventh Wimbledon title), Muguruza going for her second consecutive Grand Slam after winning the French Open (and reaching the 2015 Wimbledon finals, where she lost to Serena), Djokovic looking to defend his 2015 title, Federer going for a men's singles record eighth Wimbledon title (tied at seven with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw) and Madison Keys entering her first Grand Slam ranked among the Top Ten women in the world.
All of this has empowered the hierarchy at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, which oversees the tournament, to broaden its marketing reach — signing an integrated team of Interpublic Agencies, led by McCann London, to "help build and grow the brand of The Championships, Wimbledon, in key markets."
The agency has launched "The Pursuit of Greatness," a multi-platform effort anchored by an extended TV spot, which runs nearly two minutes. It combines historic clips with more recent action, featuring the likes of such legends as Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl, Pete Sampras, Chris Everett, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova (who holds the all-time record with nine Wimbledon singles titles), juxtaposed with current stars including Murray, Rafael Nadal, Federer, Serena Williams and Djokovic.
As part of its inclusive marketing strategy, AELTC formed an alliance with the Union of European Football Associations to cross-promote both events. Like Wimbledon, UEFA Euro 16 runs until July 10, offering numerous opportunities over the next two weeks.
A successful alliance here might lead to similar future alliances with the NFL and NBA, both seeking to expand their audiences and fan base in the U.K.
Among the other initiatives launching around Wimbledon 2016, the AELTC started a "Create Your Own Story" on its app to enable people to share photos and videos at Wimbledon on social media; and is working with Apple TV via an app that will enable people to see matches via TV and listen via radio. Wimbledon also has expanded its presence on Snapchat and Periscope.
In addition, Wimbledon's strategy team has added IBM's Cognitive Command Center to its technology arsenal. The platform "utilizes IBM’s Watson AI to understand global social media feeds to automatically understand, reason and learn the most relevant and emerging topics of conversation as they break and their relevance to tennis."
Returning to the marketing roster is Häagen-Dazs, which last partnered with Wimbledon 2006-2010. A new five-year deal signed this year includes $3.4 million marketing campaign and a limited-edition flavor, Strawberries & Cream, sold exclusively on the tournament grounds.
Jaguar is in its second year as the official auto partner.
Concurrently, some Wimbledon partners have been aligned with the tournament for many years, including IBM (since 1990), Lanson Champagne (since 2001), Ralph Lauren (2006), HSBC (2007), Evian (2008) and Lavazza coffee (2011).
The two grandaddy partnerships include Robinsons soft drink, which has been an official partner since 1935 and, via a deal signed last year, will continue its alliance through 2020; and Slazenger, which has been the official tennis ball since 1902 and this year will supply 52,000 balls for the Grand Slam.
Of course, players are hitting the courts with their own array of endorsement deals.
Serena Williams, who earns upward of $20 million in endorsements — the most among all women athletes, according to industry analysts — has alliances that include Nike, Gatorade (which features her in a new spot, "Never Lose The Love"), IBM and Beats by Dre. She also has investments in such companies as Mission AthleteCare and the NFL's Miami Dolphnis.
Federer, who earns some $60 million in endorsements and is seeking a record eighth men's singles Wimbledon title (to break an all-time tie he currently holds with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw), brings with him deals that include Nike, Mercedes-Benz, Credit Suisse, Lindt and Rolex, which has unveiled a campaign, "One To Watch," built around the tennis star.
Djokovic earns about $34 million in deals from such brands as Uniqlo, Peugeot and Seiko.
Murray earns an estimated $15 million from endorsements, including Under Armour, Jaguar, Standard Life and Rado.
Among those missing from the Wimbledon mix this year are Nadal (injury), Victoria Azarenka (injury) and Maria Sharapova (suspension).
Even with this mass of marketing, Wimbledon overseers are determined to keep the spotlight on the game and off the endorsements.
"One of the Club's key objectives is to enhance the unique character and image of The Championships by keeping our courts and grounds relatively free of commercial sponsorship and product placement, hence the lack of overt advertising around the grounds," according to the AELTC. "This helps to give the event and the Wimbledon brand a special resonance that TV and commercial companies around the world wish to be associated with, and enables the Club to derive revenue which goes towards the funding of The Championships and British tennis."
AELTC, like other major events, is well aware of, and determined to stop, ambush marketing.
"Over the years, there has been a sharp increase in the amount of free unauthorized commercial advertising material, which is distributed to the Wimbledon queue and ticket holders in order to obtain free advertising in our grounds or on television," per the AELTC. "This practice is known as 'ambush marketing' and often consists of free sun hats, free rain capes, free umbrellas, free suntan creams, free radios, free water bottles, etc., all bearing heavily branded commercial messages.
"It is an issue on which the Olympics, the Masters Golf at Augusta and many international sporting events have had to take a firm stance by confiscating such branded items at entry point."
There are 120 cameras in the stadium, 110 miles of TV cable, per AELTC.
In the U.S., ESPN has exclusive broadcast rights and will provide daylong coverage totaling 140 hours across ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC; as well as WatchESPN:, which is scheduled to have 1,500 live hours.
Tennis Channel said it would have more than 200 hours of Wimbledon coverage via Wimbledon Primetime. Tennis Channel also will provide coverage via its social media destinations and its Tennis Channel Everywhere app.
The action will climax with the Ladies’ Championship and the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Doubles Championships on ESPN on Saturday, July 9, and the Gentlemen’s Championship on Sunday, July 10; followed by the Mixed Doubles Championship.
After the Wimbledon telecast, ESPN will air the final match of the UEFA European Football Championship 2016 live from Paris.
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