Customer-Centric Brands At Wimbledon Put People First

Rolex, IBM, and Stel­la Artois are among the Wim­ble­don spon­sors gear­ing up for a win at this year’s tour­na­ment.

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 0 comments

The Wim­ble­don Cham­pi­onships have strong roots in tra­di­tion, which means they for­go con­ven­tion­al spon­sor­ship and adver­tis­ing mod­els in favor of gen­uine brand part­ner­ships that add val­ue to the event, and for con­sumers. Offi­cial spon­sors must be gen­uine­ly con­sumer-cen­tric, use a spot of cre­ativ­i­ty, and get into the spir­it of the tour­na­ment in order to win mar­ket­ing moments at the event.

Wim­ble­don, which kicks off on June 29 this year, has nev­er been an event for high-pro­file or inva­sive adver­tis­ing cam­paigns. Despite sev­er­al decades now of glob­al tele­vi­sion cov­er­age and broad­cast­ing, which has seen oth­er tour­na­ments embrace lucra­tive spon­sor­ship deals and rev­enues, through­out, Wim­ble­don has remained staunch­ly tra­di­tion­al­ist.

Play­ers, for exam­ple, are required to dress in the tra­di­tion­al all-white col­ors of the tour­na­ment, mean­ing sports­wear brand­ing is low key, and spon­sors of the tour­na­ment have lim­it­ed adver­tis­ing vis­i­bil­i­ty com­pared with oth­er sport­ing events; around the court adver­tis­ing bill­boards are non-exis­tent, for exam­ple.

How­ev­er, that’s not to say that the tour­na­ment does­n’t deliv­er for its offi­cial spon­sors. Last year the tour­na­ment com­mand­ed an impres­sive $65 mil­lion in rev­enue for spon­sors, low­er than that of the U.S. Open and French Open, but sur­pris­ing­ly strong in the over­all total con­sid­er­ing the over­all lack of adver­tis­ing around the event.

Less Is More For Wimbledon Sponsors

The effec­tive­ness of Wim­ble­don’s Spon­sor­ship strat­e­gy lies in its abil­i­ty to fos­ter brand part­ner­ships that feel nat­ur­al and add val­ue to the event.

Rolex, the tour­na­men­t’s “Offi­cial Time­keep­er” since 1978, has man­aged to nur­ture a strong brand pres­ence at the event by embrac­ing tra­di­tion­al val­ues and not overt­ly push­ing its own brand mes­sag­ing, while also pro­vid­ing a use­ful ser­vice at the event.

In fact, the only place you’ll see Rolex logos at Wim­ble­don is on clocks around the venue, and on the offi­cial score­boards.


This brand­ing, how­ev­er sub­tle, is enough for the watch­mak­er to have built strong top-of-mind aware­ness, and a pow­er­ful con­nec­tion with the event. Tim Hen­man voiced this sen­ti­ment when he said of a vis­it to Wim­ble­don as a young­ster “when­ev­er I see the Rolex Crown on my watch it takes me straight back to Cen­tre Court in 1981.”

Sim­i­lar­ly, IBM, the Offi­cial Tech­nol­o­gy part­ner of the tour­na­ment, goes about its spon­sor­ship strat­e­gy not by pay­ing for adver­tis­ing space and bill­boards at the tour­na­ment, but by pro­vid­ing for the sport’s many tech­no­log­i­cal require­ments.

The tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­ny has designed a brand new web­site in prepa­ra­tion for this year’s tour­na­ment, which pre­miers a num­ber of new dig­i­tal tools to com­ple­ment spec­ta­tors’ expe­ri­ences.

For exam­ple, Slam­track­er pro­vides a com­plete view of the scores and sta­tis­tics of match­es being played. In addi­tion, Slam­track­er checks cur­rent game data against that of pre­vi­ous com­pe­ti­tions, such as oth­er Grand Slams, to pro­vide live insights about match-ups or game sit­u­a­tions.

This year, IBM will add a human ele­ment to their Wim­ble­don spon­sor­ship activ­i­ties: “For the first time [they] are help­ing [Wim­ble­don staff] by noti­fy­ing any­thing of inter­est, such as the fastest ball ever served.” The tech­nol­o­gy relies on a new­ly com­piled data­base of over a mil­lion pages worth of records since 1877 – the year the cham­pi­onship was born.

Equity Through Added Value

For IBM and Rolex, the val­ue of their spon­sor­ship is tied to serv­ing the tour­na­ments tech­no­log­i­cal needs as best they can, and enhanc­ing spec­ta­tor expe­ri­ences of the event as a result. Both spon­sors have served the tour­na­ment for sev­er­al decades con­tin­u­ous­ly.

It’s a sim­i­lar sto­ry for the tour­na­men­t’s oth­er offi­cial spon­sors: Robin­sons cel­e­brates their 80th year as one of the tour­na­men­t’s offi­cial drink spon­sors. For many, the UK-based bev­er­age brand is rec­og­nized as being syn­ony­mous with the cham­pi­onships, which is a remark­able feat when you con­sid­er that Wim­ble­don is not inter­rupt­ed by adver­tise­ment breaks, and as a result the brand com­mands one of the most sub­tle instances of brand­ing, with their logo only fea­tur­ing on the umpire’s chair.

In fact, all of the Wim­ble­don spon­sors add val­ue to the event; From their old­est spon­sor, Slazenger, which pro­vides the cru­cial match balls, to the newest, Jaguar/Land Rover, which will part­ner the tour­na­ment for the first time this year pro­vid­ing the offi­cial cars to sup­port the tour­na­ment. Oth­er brands that make a con­tri­bu­tion include Lan­son, which pro­vide the win­ner’s cham­pagne, and Ralph Lau­ren, which pro­vides uni­forms and attire for the offi­cials.

Stella Artois #herestoperfection

The fact that adver­tis­ing is high­ly reg­u­lat­ed at the tour­na­ment means adver­tis­ers have to come up with cre­ative ways to cre­ate and join con­ver­sa­tions around the tour­na­ment. This year, the best exam­ple of this is from Stel­la Artois, the tour­na­ment offi­cial beer part­ner.

Instead of cre­at­ing an adver­tis­ing cam­paign around their own brand, Stel­la has picked out two sto­ries from the tour­na­ment that exhib­it the theme of “per­fec­tion” – tying into their #herestop­er­fec­tion tagline, which is the tagline for a wider cam­paign by the Dutch beer man­u­fac­tur­er.

The first is an artis­tic doc­u­men­tary of Rufus, the Har­ris Hawk who pro­vides the envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly, non-lethal bird con­trol for the tour­na­ment:

The sec­ond tells the sto­ry of Roman Zoltows­ki, Wim­ble­don’s offi­cial tro­phy engraver, who has trav­eled to the tour­na­ment from Poland by car since 1979:

These sto­ries share the suc­cess of some of the tour­na­ments unsung heroes, which is a great way for brands to cre­ate a con­ver­sa­tion around the event while tying it to their own cam­paigns.

Long-Term Partnerships, Long-Term Wins

For many sport­ing events, often it’s a case of sell­ing spon­sor­ship and adver­tis­ing equi­ty to the high­est bid­der. How­ev­er, the Wim­ble­don orga­niz­ers have adopt­ed a slight­ly dif­fer­ent strat­e­gy in devel­op­ing long-term part­ner­ships with brands that add val­ue to the event in a mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial way.

And in the minds of con­sumers, this pro­vides a pow­er­ful assur­ance about the val­ue that the brand can add to their lives too. As Michael Mass, vice-pres­i­dent for IBM said in an inter­view: “ser­vic­ing sports is an excel­lent way to show­case what we can do as there is [a need for] seri­ous tech­nol­o­gy behind each event.”

It makes for a excel­lent tour­na­ment expe­ri­ence for spec­ta­tors, and sets the bar high for brands that spon­sor events.

Whether it’s pro­vid­ing tech­nol­o­gy, charg­ing points, Wi-Fi, refresh­ments, or telling a sto­ry of untold heroes at an event, brands that add val­ue for con­sumers, enhanc­ing their expe­ri­ences, can hope to enjoy longer-term wins for their brand.

Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex's data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.

Inked is published by Linkdex, the SEO platform of choice for professional marketers.

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