Digital is a Winner at the 2012 Australian Open

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

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