For the last two weeks, Wimbledon has been the source of much conversation up and down the country, and even across the world. As always brands have taken the opportunity to embed themselves in the annual tennis extravaganza. We’ve seen all the historical sponsors driving awareness through influencer and celebrity endorsement, product integration and branding; but some also took a leap towards the creation of bespoke social content that went beyond documenting the event.
One of the best ways to engage a fanbase is to democratize sporting experiences, especially something as iconic as Wimbledon where only a tiny percentage of the fan community will ever attend in real life. If a brand can make people who didn’t attend an event, benefit from or feel part of it, they can dramatically increase their return on investment and prove they have a valid voice within any passionate fan community.
In order for content to perform this powerfully, it’s imperative - as with all marketing - for it to be useful and/or entertaining. The middle ground is easily forgotten and vanilla. With a surplus of sponsors and content how do you make sure you’re entertaining or useful, in such a crowded environment?
Sponsorship ranges from the strategically perfect - Rolex as official timekeepers; to the iconic long-term partners - Robinsons and Evian; and the new kids on the block - Oppo and New Balance. Regardless of who you are or how long running your partnership, it’s no longer enough to show up hoping for one-way awareness. There are key considerations to make sure you land it, game, set, match:
How can you be here in a way no one else can be?
Understand why you are here, what justifies your role and what uniqueness you bring as a sponsor. How will you - and your content - fit into the overall event landscape in a way that is seamless with your brand proposition?
This year, I loved the concept behind Haagen-Dazs’ rivalry campaign. Using content to compare the intense rivalries on the court, to the competing camps of strawberries & cream and cookies & cream fans. This is pure entertainment, inclusive of players of the game and giving a nod to the cultural flavour of Wimbledon. However, we couldn’t help but feel there were some missed opportunities for some of the major sponsors this year. For example, we would have loved to see coffee brand Lavazza push their #LavazzaCold content out reactively just as players were flagging, games ran long and spectators were getting tired.
What do fans want that you can provide?
Ensure that all fans - whether they are there in person, or as the vast majority will be, watching from afar - can engage with your activation.
Amex had a great presence with it’s AI Champions Rally using Andy Murray and championed the voice of the referee by providing radios for spectators; however they missed a trick by not creating a daily referee round-up podcast or social soundbites, for all those fans and AMEX customers not lucky enough to be in SW19.
Wimbledon is an exclusive experience for a small group of people who win in the ballot or are prepared to camp out for a ticket, so it’s worth thinking beyond that small audience and the two-week competition window. Iconic though the partnership is, it would be great to see brands like Robinsons keep their connection to tennis alive throughout the year - enabling kids to play tennis up and down the country all summer long. Whether this be through tennis summer camps or an on-going social video series with tips and tricks from their long-term brand advocate Tim Henman or even better from the 100s of ball boys and girls who represent their target audience perfectly.
How can you make room to be reactive?
Don’t just spend months planning how you’re going to show up, but make sure you’re reacting to what’s actually going on. There is a reason Oreo stole the spotlight with their real time Black Out content during the Super Bowl in 2013. If you’ve pre-defined a simple, visual approach with maximum graphic and text flexibility, you can create the opportunity to ‘be there’ as iconic moments unfold.
Wimbledon themselves did this brilliantly throughout the tournament with almost instantaneous release of Insta stories as scorelines evolved, Serena slipped and Coco Gauff stole our hearts.
I would have loved to see some of the brands with youth strategies, such as Evian with their #LiveYoung campaign, come out in support of up and coming talent like Coco Gauff ahead of her match against Venus, for example.
For any brand thinking of putting money into Wimbledon 2020 I have some requests;
Think about how your brand can enhance the experience before investing in it.
Build a way of working and approving that allows for timely, reactive content to show you’re in tune with what’s going on
Use content to leverage your activation beyond the live audience and make people at home feel like they’re a part of it and that your brand is the access point
Be purposeful regarding what this sponsorship demonstrates about your brand and why you are there. Don’t leave any consumer wondering.
Be entertaining, be useful...or go home.
Ultimately, engagement is earned and brands need to ensure that sponsorships are a sustainable part of the marketing calendar. Content should be inspired by the actual event, not ticking a box of deliverables. Challenge yourself - if you were enjoying Wimbledon from home, would the brand’s involvement enhance your experience of the event?
Rebecca Sykes is the global chief executive at MOFILM