By Andreas Plastiras. Check out his blog: Snap-Shot Sport

I was fortunate enough to get hold of a ticket to Court 3 at the All England Championships for the middle Saturday of the event. The day comprised beautiful weather, a stunning view of the action and I even witnessed history, as Yaroslava Shvedova won the first set of her match against Sara Errani in just 16 minutes and without dropping a point – a first for the WTA.

I also used my time at Wimbledon to keep a watchful eye over the sponsor activity both at the event, and around the surrounding area (Images at the bottom of the page)…

At the Event:

– On court branding, as per usual was seen from Slazenger (balls), IBM (service speed boards), Rolex (above scoreboard), Robinsons (bottles places strategically below umpire chair), Evian (water bottles provided to players) and Ralph Lauren (umpire, line judges and ball kids uniforms.)

IBM and HSBC booths located alongside one another near to Centre Court, and whilst the former raised awareness of the technologies it uses to generate statistical match analysis, the latter took the opportunity to enable its customers to gain a voucher offering free strawberries and cream.

Sony also acquired its own booth whereby fans could sample its 3D television technology. Upon entering, visitors were handed a leaflet that invited them to successfully guess the correct number of games that will be played in the men’s final (which will be shown in 3D at various cinemas) to stand a chance of winning a 40” Bravia television.

– As the official champagne of the championships, Lanson handed out leaflets that entitled spectators to a a £5 discount off of its products, whilst a competition enabled entrants to win a case of its new White Label champagne.

– The bright pink coloured Evian café included a large image of ambassador Maria Sharapova (who recently signed an extension to her deal with Evian) and gave people a chance to enjoy a quiet drink ahead of a busy day’s play

Digital:

– The stand out digital activity has been seen from Evian, where its #evianballhunt campaign gave consumers the chance to win VIP tickets to Wimbledon. Participants were given clues via Facebook and Twitter (@Evian_UK) as to the whereabouts of an Evian ball boy, and were asked to check in upon finding his location to stand a chance of winning.

– Official timekeeper Rolex invited visitors to its global YouTube channel where classic Wimbledon moments could be relived, whilst long-term ambassador Roger Federer also featured in short video interview as part of its “Rolex Rendezvous” series.

Slazenger launched a game via a Facebook app that required competitors to play a game of “keepy uppy” and score as many points as possible in a set period of time. Scores could be shared on Facebook.

Hertz launched a video diaries series via the “Live @ Wimbledon” tab accessible on both the official Wimbledon website and accompanying mobile app. Content consisted of player interviews whilst en-route to the grounds – official automotive partner of the French Open, Peugeot also did something similar earlier this year as part of its “Road to Roland Garros” series.

IBM has been raising awareness of its services through the launch of a video uploaded to its YouTube channel showcasing its new cloud technology. Along with the informative video, the brand is responsible for the official mobile app of the championships. A new feature on both the official Wimbledon website and the mobile app is the “Live @ Wimbledon” tab, which enables users to drop in at matches during key points.

Other Prominent Signage/Messaging:

– Upon walking through Wimbledon Village on my way down to the courts, I couldn’t help but notice prominent Evian branding, primarily through a number of flags that had been placed above shops around the village featuring the Wimbledon logo.

– Meanwhile, logistics company and ATP partner FedEx continued to use its “Live to Deliver” strapline on the sides of busses in the local area to promote its various business offerings

Hertz branding was visible on the sides of taxi’s transporting visitors to and from the grounds, outlining that is “driving the championships.”

– Upon exiting Wimbledon station visitors were greeted by an M&S display promoting its half price strawberries and cream offer. Platform ads could also be seen.

– Web domain site Go Daddy.com had acquired a large outdoor space opposite Wimbledon station and used tennis imagery and the tag line “take advantage” to promote its services (the brand has become well known in the US for its edgy and sexy Superbowl commercials.)

– ATP partner Compeed sent its “hit squad” to the surrounding area to issue free samples of its blister protection pads to spectators, demonstrating an understanding of the long distance walking required for those queuing for tickets.

NB Compeed ambassador and women’s world number one Caroline Wozniacki has fronted much of the brand’s recent advertising including this Pan-European TV commercial.

All in all, a cracking day out, and from my experience of the Wimbledon championships 2012, it seems clear that OOH has been a key part of the strategies of ambush advertisers, whilst official sponsors have in the main sought to put smiles on the faces of spectators by making the day out as stress free and enjoyable as possible, whilst also throwing in the odd competition or two…

All pics by Andreas, except Sam Stosur’s pic (source Sam Stosur Official Facebook)

When Novak Djokovic cut his ties with adidas in favour of agreeing a 10-year deal with Sergio Tacchini in November 2009, many saw the announcement as being no great loss. Particularly when you consider that a player of similar stature (at the time) Britain’s Andy Murray signed a long-term, multi-million pound deal with adidas shortly after. Since that point however, the man they call ‘Nole’ has been formidable, blitzing all those that come before him, winning Grand Slam titles in the process and building a huge global following. In contrast, Andy Murray has now lost in three Grand Slam finals, and until recently has been struggling for form, casting doubt over his potential to achieve his ultimate ambition of winning a major championships.

For now however, the focus has to be on Djokovic and indeed Sergio Tacchini. The Chinese-owned brand has quite rightly bombarded the homepage of its central website with images of the tennis superstar, highlighting his position as global ambassador, referencing his third Australian Open win and even launching his own clothing line. A recent post I published on the Insight Sport blog touched upon the benefits of sponsors of major sporting events such as the Olympic Games aligning themselves with a portfolio of athletes as opposed to ‘putting all their eggs in one basket’ so to speak and focusing on one specific athlete – for a company the size of Sergio Tacchini it has little choice.

With an annual revenue of less than $50 million, the sportswear brand is reliant on Djokovic continuing his excellent form, whilst it can also fall back on his long term tennis heritage, having sponsored players such as John McEnroe, Pat Cash, Martina Hingis and Goran Ivanisevic in past times. In comparison, the likes of adidas and Nike are in a different league, with both sponsoring a number of high profile tennis stars across the men’s and women’s games. And with Nike recording revenues of $2.55 billion and the adidas $4.7 billion in Q3, 2011. At this point, one can only wonder at the impact Novak Djokovic could have had as an ambassador for adidas should it have retained the World Number one as an ambassador.

However all is not lost…

Adopting a long-term perspective, should Britain’s number one win a Grand Slam – he is showing signs of improvement under new coach Ivan Lendl – the effect could go beyond that of his close friend and nemesis. Given his nationality and the popularity of tennis in the UK, his appeal would reach out not only across his homeland, but also globally, given his delay in achieving what many say is his destiny. Djokovic meanwhile has hit his mesmeric heights now, there is evidence to suggest that Murray is slowly closing the gap, whilst Djokovic’s relatively small home market of Serbia is not one of significant importance to the adidas brand.

For now, one thing is clear, Djokovic is the driving force in men’s tennis, and deserves the accolades he is receiving, and Sergio Tacchini is revelling in his successes. Until Andy Murray wins a Slam, adidas must simply face up to the fact that they missed a trick in releasing Djokovic, although should that day arrive where Murray comes face to face with destiny, expect adidas to turn around and give a big ‘I told you so’ in the direction of those who doubted.

By Andreas Plastiras

Check out Andreas’ blog Snap Shot Sport

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