As the world’s oldest grand slam tennis tournament kicks off this week in South London, brands will be out in abundance looking to align with the heritage and spectacle of an event that commands a global audience of 1.8 billion people across 178 countries.
Many of the usual suspects will be gracing the lawns of SW19 this year, including IBM, HSBC, Evian, Robinsons, Slazenger, Sony and Rolex, not to mention the slew of sponsors attached to individual players. Japanese clothing brand Uniglo, for instance, has just signed Novak Djokovic up to a five-year partnership deal to act as the brand’s global ambassador.
Due to the staunchly traditional nature of the event, brands have had a limited amount of clout within the grounds itself, outside of product placement and tech sponsorship, i.e the Rolex Clock. However, this year the creation of a Wimbledon Village - on the golf course that sits smack next to those long winding queues for tickets - will offer up added visibility for brands pre-game. Evian, for example, has set up a Live Young experience inside a pink shipping container, featuring table tennis, style guides and photo competitions. The brand has also been busy running a digital scavenger hunt whereby tennis fans are invited to search for a ball boy across London in real time to win VIP tickets and ball’s signed by women’s world number one Maria Sharapova.
There is certainly no shortage of activity, however, the question here is whether Wimbledon could be leveraging entertainment (beyond just sports ) more, opening the event with more of a bang – both for brands and fans. The Olympics has its opening ceremony, the Superbowl has its iconic halftime show and even Euro 2012 had a major series of opening concerts. A slew of private pre-Wimbledon parties see their fair share of music guests – from Professor Green to The Saturdays this year – netting lots of press column inches. Naturally this garners brand sponsors, be it Virgin, Ciroc Vodka or Dubai Duty Free, a reasonable dose of PR mentions, but it doesn’t have the gravitas or emotional leverage of a full, public, entertainment experience.
With sport and music increasingly pairing up, maybe it's time to kick-start this uniquely British event with a more inclusive entertainment spectacle. One which celebrates not just the action and talent on court, but also leverages the raw passion of the fans who crowd Henman Hill/Murray Mound year-on-year.