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Wimbledon sponsorship is invisible but in demand

Photo of Matt Riches by Matt Riches
Get ready for Murray mania as the Brit storms into the semi-finals
Get ready for Murray mania as the Brit storms into the semi-finals


The discreet nature of Wimbledon proves that sponsorship is about more than just badging, says Matt Riches.

Murray mania is set to reach fever pitch on Friday. But Wimbledon has found itself somewhat overshadowed by Euro 2012 and the Olympics in terms of sponsor visibility. 

Wimbledon is a unique property in that it has some of the longest-running and most synonymous sponsorships in the whole of the sporting world. Slazenger and Wimbledon go back 110 years, Robinsons and Wimbledon 75 years, and Rolex and Wimbledon 30 years. 

These sponsors, or ‘suppliers’ as Wimbledon classifies them, receive no traditional field of play branding and none of the other usual rights associated with such a tournament or event. You won’t see any perimeter boards at Wimbledon. The sponsors have persisted for so long for the association with the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament and the high ABC1 viewership it attracts, and product placement is equally important. 

IBM manages the tournament scoring so is present on the scoreboards. Robinsons supplies the drinks so Robinson’s bottles appear on the umpire chairs ready for the players to grab. Rolex is the official timekeeper so their clocks are used on-court, Slazenger provides the tennis balls, and Ralph Lauren the officials and ballboy uniforms. 

All serve a purpose for the tournament and appear exactly where consumers expect to see them. The link to Wimbledon is logical and this helps the brands to build an emotive relationship with tennis fans from its target audience. 

In fact the equity in the Wimbledon brand is so strong that many other brands pay to be part of the event, even though they are invisible to the TV audience. And here’s the key for sponsorship. It’s not just a badging exercise. 

Licensing the equity that Wimbledon has allows brands to use the association across their own marketing mixes. Those who integrate their sponsorship more reap the rewards when it comes to consumer behaviour and perception. 

But you don’t even have to be an official sponsor to gain from the event.

FedEx, a Carat Sponsorship client, is an ATP World Tour sponsor but has no specific rights to Wimbledon. It has chosen to have a presence at Wimbledon by taking over Southfields station. This sees its Live To Deliver tennis creative adorn the station on OOH billboards, turnstiles and escalators. This tactical approach enhances the tennis association amongst fans, allowing FedEx to have a prolonged UK presence outside of the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals at The O2 in November.

It remains to be seen if Andy Murray will eventually triumph at Wimbledon but one thing’s for sure, the majority of the current sponsors at Wimbledon will be there long after his career finishes.

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