New Wimbledon sponsors struggle to match older deals

Fans of the oldest tennis grand slam differ widely from the sponsors’ typical consumers, and while many may be targeting a new customer base, new partnerships may struggle to match the awareness of decades-old deals.

There is no doubt being an official supplier to the Wimbledon Championships is an exclusive club. Many sponsors have a long-standing relationship with tennis’s most famous grand slam tournament, but what does this mean for those brands that have new, and arguably weaker, links to the sport? Using YouGov’s Profiles and BrandIndex tools, Marketing Week’s analysis shows that the association is more effective for some brands than others.

Many sponsors do not fit the profile of a Wimbledon fan and only some see brand metrics lift in the wake of the tournament. During the 2014 championship, for example, soft drinks brand Robinsons experienced an upward trend in overall brand perception, starting with a BrandIndex score of 29.4 and ending at 34.2. This compares with Stella Artois, which remained flat throughout, starting with a score of 17.4 and ending at 16.8, while HSBC saw its score dip slightly from 2.1 at the start, ending at -0.2.

For Robinsons, Wimbledon 2014 came at the start of a period of high perception scores that lasted throughout the summer. But for other brands the tournament appears to be insignificant compared with other factors as a driver of perception metrics.

The discreet nature of the Wimbledon sponsorship opportunity lends itself to brands with high levels of affinity with tennis, given that no court-side advertising is allowed at the All England Club and each brand performs a functional role for the tournament.

Robinsons is in its 80th year of sponsorship, having invented lemon barley water for the championships in 1935. Wimbledon’s relationship with Slazenger, which is now owned by Sports Direct, is claimed to be the longest sports sponsorship in history as it has provided the official tennis balls since 1902. Rolex has been the official timekeeper since 1978.

It may be surprising that a typical consumer of Robinsons drinks – a middle-aged mother in the C2DE bracket – has a less affluent profile and less disposable income than a typical Wimbledon fan, according to YouGov’s Profiles tool. Using a sample of 9,692 people, the same tool shows that Wimbledon fans – around 25% of the population – are most likely to be female, aged 60 and over and in a social grade of ABC1, with over £1,000 disposable income per month.

Robinsons long association with Wimbledon puts it on a firm grounding to increase brand metrics even if its typical consumers are of a different profile from those of the tournament. However, newer recruits such as this year’s official car Jaguar and Stella Artois, which became official beer last year, may find it difficult to raise awareness and brand perceptions. Sailing, golf and rugby are the preferred sports of a Jaguar driver, while the Stella Artois drinker gravitates more towards boxing and football.

Analysis shows that brand choices of Wimbledon fans do not tend to correlate with the sponsors. For example, HSBC provides on-site banking for the tournament and also sponsors Wimbledon’s 14-and-under event, but has little connection with fans.

HSBC’s ‘Z score’ of 0.9, which indicates how much more likely a Wimbledon fan is to use the brand than a comparable consumer, is classified as ‘weak’ by YouGov, ranking 7th among competitors. Fans do not show a statistically strong affinity (a Z score over 3) towards any finance brand, with RBS’s Z score the highest at 1.84.

Ralph Lauren is the official outfitter for the event, but again the profile does not tend to buy the brand and, with the exception of Gant, the brands they do purchase do not fall into Ralph Lauren’s market. The fan is likely to shop at mid-market high street stores such as White Stuff, though no clothing brand has a Z score over 2.

Ralph Lauren, however, has put effort into aligning with Wimbledon’s heritage. The official uniforms it manufactures were launched in 2006, and according to the Wimbledon official suppliers site, they “recall an era of elegance in tennis and uphold the traditions of the institution”, suggesting a brand investment for both parties.

Although there are no supermarket sponsors of Wimbledon, many will capitalise on the buzz around the tournament. The fan’s profile shows a high propensity to shop at Waitrose and Sainsbury’s with Z scores of 3.41 and 3.40 respectively.

Given the disparity between the profile of the quintessential Wimbledon fan and that of the sponsors’ typical consumers, it is fair to assume some of these brands may be using the tournament in an effort to change perceptions and target new consumers rather than their usual customer base.

For those looking at alternative customer segments, attaching their names to Wimbledon may be a good strategy, but building reputation through the association may take time, given how few branding opportunities there are at the event.