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The&Partnership on helping the LTA encourage people to play their own way

Tennis was considered stuffy, full of rules and strict dress codes.

The&Partnership London won the ‘Sport & leisure’ category at The Drum Awards for Marketing 2021 with its campaign for the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). Here, the team behind the winning entry reveal the secrets of this successful project…

The challenge

Tennis had an image problem. It was considered stuffy, full of rules and strict dress codes. It was confined to the four corners of the court, dependent on good weather and reserved for the elite, with 72% of British people believing ‘Tennis is not for people like me’. (Nat Rep Tennis Participation Survey, Toluna, January 2020)

And although it is the seventh most played sport in the UK (Sports Participation Report, Mintel, October 2019) and climbs the sporting agenda once a year as Wimbledon fever helps to entice over 11 million fans into the sport, it faces a much harsher reality of declining participation, with only 13% of those fans actually playing the sport. (Tennis Fan Segmentation and Sizing, JIGSAW Research, 2018)

So, our task was simple. Change the age-old perceptions of the sport by inspiring new audiences to pick up a racket and play, helping to grow participation numbers nationwide.

The strategy

We decided to face these misconceptions head on and, as part of the LTA’s ongoing commitment to open tennis up to the nation, we developed ’Play Your Way’ - a new brand platform that challenges the stereotypes and rewrites the rules. ’Play Your Way’ helps to inspire, invite and celebrate people of all abilities, ages, genders, locations andbackgrounds to pick up a racket and play – any time, any place and any way.

In order to win the hearts and change the mind of new audiences to get playing, while also encouraging those that may have retired their racket to the back of the cupboard, we needed to be fresh and bold with our communications. But then Covid-19 hit and turned the world upside down. March saw us quickly forced into the first nationwide lockdown, with all non-essential services being ordered to close and our daily exercise restricted to a short walk/run in the park.

But this didn’t deter us. We knew as restrictions eased, tennis would be one of the few sports people could play due to its natural open access. We needed to capitalise on inspiring the nation to experience both the enjoyment and mental health benefits as a result of playing the sport. So, we rapidly worked to establish our phased return to Tennis and aligned our campaign activity effectively.

The campaign

Our first phase coming out of lockdown was aimed at awakening all fans, players and sporting enthusiasts alike, to bring tennis back from hibernation and consider getting on court. To help deliver the cut-through required, we used bold and provocative statements such as ‘Out’s the new in’ and ‘Big timers and mis-timers welcome’, set against a vibrant and energetic new visual identity.

The creative was deployed across an array of geo-targeted traditional and digital OOH sites (within 500m proximity to over 300 park courts and clubs) and was supported by a mix of static and moving image social assets, helping to drive consideration among our new and existing audiences.

Our second phase aimed at further inspiring those already reached and engaged, to get out and start playing their way, by utilising a mix of broadcast channels to help achieve mass reach and awareness. However, with Covid-19 restrictions remaining a constant challenge, and not being able to utilise a large cast of players or film in certain locations, we had to completely rethink the creative approach.

Remotely working from living rooms across Europe, we went from script to screen in just 12 days, using an array of emotive and nostalgic vignettes of tennis balls being hit, lost and found, set against a backdrop of modern Britain. As our audience follows tennis balls bouncing off garage doors splashing in the canal or being stuck in the rafters of Centre Court, they are able to transpose themselves into each moment, without judgement and are left wanting to join the fun of playing their way.

By adopting a documentary style approach, our agile team filmed across 25 locations in just 48 hours, battling every type of British summertime weather along the way. The entire edit and post-production was completed on Zoom, including a memorable voiceover recording with comedian Guz Khan, who helped give tennis a cheeky new voice. Alongside this the talented team were able to recreate some of the harder to reach shots with clever use of CGI.

The final phase of the campaign was focused on sustaining the awareness, interest and participation of our audiences. To achieve this, we developed some social films for retargeting, that unexpectedly followed a tennis balls journey in reverse, with each of the three films being created for a specific product and target audience.

The results

Our 30-second brand film was deployed across linear TV, VOD and social channels, reaching over 33 million people and recording over 50million views, achieving an average view-through rate 211% higher than industry benchmarks. (Facebook: Benchmark = 3% / Actual = 8.94%; YouTube: Benchmark = 40% / Actual = 49.4%)

Audiences within social channels were able to seamlessly click through to the LTA’s online platform Rally, where they were able to locate and book their nearest court, with the campaign activity helping to deliver a four-times increase in online bookings and 19% year-on-year growth for web site visits. (LTA Surveys/Trackers, Google Trends, Google Analytics/Google Ads)

The campaign film was covered by 60+ national and regional consumer titles and trade press, including being named Campaign’s Ad of the Day, plus the LTA’s Facebook page received the second highest engagement of any UK National Governing Body during the month of July.

As a result of the integrated campaign activity and support of our 1,500+ registered venues, coaches and national partners, we have helped move towards a more inclusive sport and deliver long term change, by significantly moving the dial on many perception and attitudinal metrics:

  • 13% increase in ‘tennis is for people like me’ statements (LTA Surveys/Trackers)
  • 14% increase within BAME audiences, 5.3% within 16-34 age groups, 8.8% with female audiences
  • 8% increase in consideration of people playing tennis within the next 12months (LTA Surveys/Trackers)

Additionally, we also managed to inspire new audiences to enter the game for the first time, helping grow participation nationwide:

  • 7% increase in the number of people playing tennis (LTA Surveys/Trackers: 3.7m to 4m)
  • 24% increase year-on-year in people playing tennis on a weekly basis (LTA Surveys/Trackers)
  • 567% increase in bookings made on the LTA booking service compared to the same period in 2019 (LTA Surveys/Trackers)
  • 16% increase year-on-year of those playing tennis twice a month. (LTA Surveys/Trackers)

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for Marketing 2021. Find out which competitions in The Drum Awards are currently open and don’t forget to visit our new interactive calendar.