Wimbledon is growing its global brand beyond tennis
A view from James Ralley

Wimbledon is growing its global brand beyond tennis

How Wimbledon intends to broaden The Championships' global appeal, according to the head of marketing and commercial at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet...

Everyone has their favourite Wimbledon story. From John McEnroe’s "you can not be serious" in 1981 to Serena Williams’ stunning record-equalling seventh singles title, not to mention Andy Murray’s incredible victory in 2013, the Championships have been blessed with countless historic sporting moments.

Over 490,000 spectators will attend Wimbledon over the fortnight, and a further 300 million will watch live in over 200 countries. Yet, we believe there are opportunities to grow this footprint further, not only geographically in emerging markets such as China, but also in areas where the Wimbledon brand already resonates strongly – including food and drink.

We are actively exploring ways in which we can work with commercial partners to boost the food and beverage side of the brand.

When you ask most people in the UK for their favourite five things about Wimbledon, they are just as likely to suggest strawberries and cream or Pimm's as they are the grass courts or tennis whites. Wimbledon attracts a broad audience, and we are looking to celebrate the reasons why our brand connects with such a diverse range of fans and viewers.

With this in mind we believe we have an opportunity to push The Championships beyond the confines of Wimbledon fortnight and into new territory. For instance, we are actively exploring ways in which we can work with commercial partners to boost the food and beverage side of the brand. Can we do more in-store together, or through food events? These are just considerations at the moment, but they are areas in which we believe Wimbledon can be relevant.

Through the recently launched Wimbledon Foundation we are also very active in the local community and beyond and this gives us other opportunities to connect year round by using the brand as a force for good.

Of course, this is not necessarily about becoming a "year-round" proposition, or about stretching the brand. Tennis will always be the most important thing about Wimbledon. Nonetheless, it is an event that transcends the sport and is easily connected with other passion points.

In 2016 we launched "In pursuit of greatness" – the brand’s first ever consumer facing proposition – with McCann London. It may be fair to ask why Wimbledon would require what is effectively a strapline, but our research tells us that while awareness is very high, the brand isn’t as well understood as you may think on a global basis.

It is a concept that translates very well around the world, and is absolutely true to the club’s values of looking for continuous improvement in everything we do. It is not about making spurious claims or blowing our own trumpet – rather, it is a platform from which we can tell fantastic stories that we believe our fans want to hear.

We will never have huge budgets, but we are lucky to have over 60 broadcasters covering The Championships around the world to help distribute the message for us, as well as official supplier partners and the players themselves.

This year, the content-led campaign includes a trailer telling the story of the year-round effort that goes into making The Championships happen, and then five films that offer deeper insights, such as how the strawberries eaten during Wimbledon are picked on the same day they are sold. These are wonderful stories that we believe will educate new and existing audiences around the world about what makes Wimbledon so special.

Although we do have some paid media to amplify the content through social, our strategy is very much focused on earned channels. We will never have huge budgets, but we are lucky to have over 60 broadcasters covering The Championships around the world to help distribute the message for us, as well as official supplier partners and the players themselves.

The campaign will run globally. We need to ensure  we are never complacent, and so will remain focused on core audiences and markets.

We will continuously track the health of the Wimbledon brand around the world. We are looking to enhance the reach and exposure of The Championships in a way that is appropriate to the Club’s values.

If we achieve this, and ensure new generations of fans discover their own Wimbledon stories, then we will have been successful.

James Ralley is the head of marketing and commercial at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.

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