I spent a few days in London last week and I was thrilled to have tickets for the wheelchair tennis event on Friday and to take part to the Paralympics as a spectator.

Victoria Gate

On my way to the Olympic Park:

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A swift and hassle-free passage through security and here I am.

Olympic Stadium

The 80,000 capacity Olympic Stadium played host to the Olympic and the Paralympic Athletics as well as all the opening and closing ceremonies.

Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium and the Orbit

London 2012 Megastore

London 2012 Megastore

McDonalds

World’s largest McDonalds:

McDonalds

Olympic Park musicians

Olympic Park

Following Dutch fans on my way to Eton Manor for the women’s singles finale between Esther Vergeer and Aniek Van Koot

Olympic Park

RUN

RUN

Panasonic 3D Theatre

There were lots of free activities provided by Paralympic sponsors, like the Panasonic Theatre, Samsung booth, Coca Cola Beatbox… but I was there to watch some sports and I’m not a huge fan of lines, so I can’t report on them.

Panasonic 3D Theatre

Coca Cola Beatbox

Coca Cola Beatbox

Park Live

British Airways have sponsored a giant screen perched in the middle of the River Lea. Park Live is the only place to catch up on sport if you’re not inside a venue.

BT Park Live

Mascot House

Mascot House

The Olympic Park is really big, from one end to the other it’s about two kilometres. It took me more than 20 minutes from the Olympic Stadium to Eaton Manor, at the northern end of the park.
For people having trouble getting around, there were stacks of Games Mobility Vehicles parked up, with Games Makers ready to spring into action.

Olympic Park

Basketball Arena

Basketball Arena

Velodrome

Velodrome

Velodrome

Olympic Park

And finally, Eton Manor, where I spent most of the aftenoon watching the women’s singles final and the women’s doubles bronze medal match.

Eton Manor

Eton Manor

Eton Manor

Esther Vergeer vs Aniek Van Koot

Dutch fans

Esther Vergeer

Enjoy more pics and videos of the final between Esther Vergeer and Aniek Van Koot here.

If you visit the official Australian Open 2012 website, you will soon realise that a concerted effort is being made to engage tennis fans via digital channels. Its social media hub – ‘Fan Centre’ even provides a ‘social leaderboard’, highlighting which players are being ‘liked’ ‘Tweeted’ about the most throughout the event. Official sponsors have recognized the opportunities presented to them through digital channels – none more so than automotive sponsor Kia.

Kia celebrates its tenth year as the major sponsor of the Australian Open, having aligned its brand with the event event back in 2002. In that time, it has provided transport to the players, officials, VIP’s and the media to and from Melbourne Park, whilst gaining exposure by featuring prominently on perimeter advertising around the courts throughout the two-week event.

Its activation around the 2012 Australian Open has featured ambassador Rafael Nadal (signed in 2006) in its global brand campaign ‘I Like It’, driving consumers online to its various, market specific Facebook pages where visitors can engage further with the brand. Its Kia Australia Facebook page contains the ‘Tennis Ball Hunt’ tab and invites fans to play an online game or download the official app, encouraging both iPhone and Android phone owners to capture tennis ball logos featured on KIA TV ads, car dealerships and outdoor posters to stand a chance of winning daily prizes, and the ultimate prize of a Kia Ria Si car.

Again via Facebook, the brand has asked the question ‘what does Nadal like?’ and featured a trailer video outlining how fans could submit their guesses in order to win tickets to the 2012 Australian Open. The competition provides a clear example of the way by which Kia is relating its wider brand communications to sport – with Nadal a key figurehead in its tennis-specific activity.

Further digital activity includes its ‘Open Drive’ video series which has has shown players providing their answers to a number of intrusive and light hearted questions whilst en-route to Melbourne Park via its YouTube channel. The campaign bares striking similarities to Peugeot’s activity around the French Open in 2011 (series of idents on Eurosport), and is clever way for official car sponsors of sporting events in general to humanize sports stars and provide genuine, engaging content to consumers both on and offline.

Additional digital activity from sponsors has seen official TV, camera and air conditioning sponsor Panasonic launch ‘Cool Moments’ via its Facebook page. The brand is using its sponsorship of the event to promote its CS/CU-E18MKR air conditioner, given the excessively hot conditions in Australia during the summer.
Official outfitter Lacoste has picked up from where it left off at December’s ATP World Tour Finals enabling fans of its Facebook page (reviewed in Insight Sports blog) to create their own virtual tennis ball, whilst racquet manufacturer Wilson is enabling fans to gain behind the scenes access to the lives of the players during this year’s first major event through video uploads to its YouTube channel.

It is clear that digital activity has been a key part of sponsors’ strategies at this year’s Australian Open – with platforms such as Facebook and YouTube being heavily utilized. It will be interesting to see whether a sponsor at one of the forthcoming Grand Slams this year turns to new social platforms – the likes of Instagram and Tumblr, for example provide creative and unique photographic opportunities to sponsors.

Enjoy the rest of the tournament!

By Andreas Plastiras

First off, I would like to wish you all an Happy New Year! I wish you all the best for 2011.

And now, a few tennis news:

After Dementieva, Moya, Hrbaty and Dent, Nicolas Kiefer announced his retirement.
A gifted player, Kiefer -like Haas- was expected to be the next Boris Becker, and even though he reached the semifinals at the 2006 Australian Open and the top 4 ranking in 2000, he never was a major threat. Turned pro in 1995, he captured 6 singles titles, the last one ten years ago in Hong Kong, beating Mark Philippoussis in final.
He played for Germany in the Davis Cup and teamed with Rainer Schuettler for a doubles silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics (lost to Gonzalez/Massu).
Honestly, I won’t miss this player but I wish him good luck for his new life.

Speaking of Dementieva, she was named Vice-President of the Russian Tennis Federation, after retiring from playing two months ago.

Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer in the final of the Abu Dhabi exhibition, and Kim Clijsters beat Caroline Wozniacki in Hua Hin, Thailand.
Well, I must say that I don’t get why players can’t stop complaining about the length of the season, and then keep playing those stupid exhibitions. Would it not be better to rest a bit or spend some time with the family?
That being said, here’s a nice pic of Kim Clijsters and Caroline Wozniacki .

Tournaments to follow this week:
– the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, Aircel Chennai Open in Chennai, Brisbane International (ATP)
– the Brisbane International and ASB Classic in Hobart (WTA)
You can find the complete 2011 calendar here.

And to begin this new year in style, Tennis Buzz will feature Tennis Buzz Marathon. From Monday til Friday, I will watch and comment a match from the past:
– on Monday: Graf-Hingis, Roland Garros, 1999
– on Tuesday: Laver-Newcombe, Wimbledon, 1969
– on Wednesday: Borg-Nastase, Wimbledon, 1976
– on Thursday: Nadal-Gonzalez, Olympic Games, 2008
– on Friday: Edberg-Courier, US Open, 1991

Have a good tennis week on Tennis Buzz!