A global, storied, popular event like the annual Wimbledon Championship already has a lot of marketing tools at its disposal. In addition to in-person communications on and around the courts and venue, it gets vast televised coverage, features a constantly updated roster of extremely popular spokespeople in the form of its athletes, and has more than a century-long history to leverage as its heritage. In a sense then, the toughest challenge for Wimbledon might be figuring out how to combine all these valuable tools to achieve the most consistent and effective message to spread.
In particular, today’s Wimbledon aims to be far more inclusive and diverse than its long history might demonstrate. Tennis, and the Wimbledon courts in particular, historically has had a reputation as a sport for wealthy elites, played in country clubs and according to stringent, formal rules of decorum and dress. It also has a difficult history of racism and gender discrimination that the current organization actively seeks to disavow.
Its current marketing campaigns thus explicitly address this history by showing how it is leading into the future of the tournament. For example, a television spot highlights how history has progressed in parallel with Wimbledon. It links Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean solo, with Althea Gibson, who in the same year became the first black woman to win Wimbledon. It connects Roger Federer, whose play redefined the game, with the mapping of the human genome at the same time, which redefined understanding of the human condition. By putting historical victories in their progressive context, the marketing anticipates further advancements, at both societal and sport levels.
The integrated campaign also acknowledges how the venue has changed though. Moving past the traditional limitations of weather, the club installed retractable roofs several years ago, signaling its desire to enhance the customer experience of visitors coming to see the matches. But clearly not everyone can get to Center Court during the tournament, so Wimbledon also rebranded several elements of the event to appeal better to television viewers, including the notable change of its traditionally white balls to brighter, yellow tennis balls that are easier to see during broadcasts.
Noting its wider and more diverse audience, Wimbledon also tries to appeal to fans at whatever level they prefer. For dedicated, true fanatics, it commits to live broadcasts, so they can know what is happening at the moment a point scores. For more casual observers, it offers replays and commissions podcasts, so they can keep up without having to stay up all night to watch. For those who tune in mostly to see their favorite celebrity athletes, like Serena Williams, it provides detailed reports on the players’ conditions and conditioning routines.
Even the tone of voice in its marketing has shifted. Rather than formal intonations, both announcers and written communications are taking a chattier tone, welcoming those new to tennis or to Wimbledon to get a feel for the fun of the global event. With an estimated 300 million people watching every year, it is determined to appeal to all of them, whatever their interest level.
1. What metrics could Wimbledon use to measure the success of its current campaign to appeal to a wider audience?
2. If you watch Wimbledon, which matches do you make sure to see, and why?
Source: Erin Lyons, “Wimbledon on its Marketing Strategy: We Are Going Beyond Just Releasing a Pretty Trailer,” Marketing Week, July 1, 2019; Imogen Watson, “Ads We Like: Wimbledon Serves Up Historical Moments When Sport and Society Intertwined,” The Drum, June 11, 2019; Libby Marco, “How Wimbledon Continues to Win the Marketing Game,” AutopilotHQ, July 18, 2019