Wimbledon on its marketing strategy: We are going beyond just releasing a pretty trailer

It’s arguably one of the most prestigious sports tournaments in the world but Wimbledon says a brand refresh and new tone of voice will prove to fans it’s not the “ivory tower” people may think it is.

“We can’t just sit on our hands and release a pretty trailer, and not be able to answer the question of what we want to achieve with our marketing.” At least, that’s the message from the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s (AELTC) brand manager Harry Kerr.

Wimbledon has been undergoing a brand refresh over the past year in preparation for the 2019 championships. The changes, namely to its tone of voice, intend to to reflect the modern game and serve a progressive audience while eliminating the perception the event is only for the posh and privileged.

Wimbledon attendees should notice updates to the graphics and language used on the website, as well as to match-day programmes and information booklets handed out around the grounds. The revamp also incorporates a change to its TV graphics.

These alterations might seem small but they’re part of a broader attempt to speak to a wider audience and shift the way fans perceive the tournament.

Speaking to Marketing Week alongside Kerr, the AELTC’s creative director Ikem Ononiwu says the look and feel of the existing dialogue was “dated and didn’t reflect the brand today”.

“It’s good to review your brand guidelines and identity every two to three years but we’d probably left it about seven to eight years so things had started to date quickly and were looking out of place,” he says.

“The look and feel was dated. The design language was a little bit corporate and we needed to find a new way to make our brand more beautiful as well as functional.”

We can’t just sit on our hands and release a pretty trailer, and not be able to answer the question of what we want to achieve with our marketing.

Harry Kerr, All England Lawn Tennis Club

The refresh is a result of a period of business growth in which the club welcomed a number of new employees on board who had new a ideas about what they wanted to do with the brand.

While this was great for the club, the old guidelines weren’t set up for new ideas and opportunities, according to Ononiwu.

“A lot of ad-hoc design decisions started happening and our brand was becoming slightly compromised. The brand refresh is a good opportunity to bring it all back together before it went an uncomfortable way,” he explains.

Echoing Ononiwu’s sentiments is AELTC’s head of communications, content and digital, Alexandra Willis, who says the old dialogue used by the tournament was incredibly formal and needed to be more versatile if Wimbledon wanted to be seen as a brand for all.

“Originally the way we wrote was very formal – almost like being  school master [talking to] school children. And the way we’d humanised that voice through our social media channels was at odds with the way we were writing our formal publications,” she says.

“This piece of work has helped achieve a consistency but also made sure there is some flexibility in the tone of voice depending on the type of information.”

Encouraging fans to ‘think forward’

To align with the refresh, Wimbledon unveiled a new marketing campaign for the 2019 championships. Titled ‘The Story Continues’, the spot – created by agency McCann – showcases headlines from Wimbledon alongside headlines from the global news agenda of the time.

For example, it shows Amelia Earhart becoming the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic and Althea Gibson becoming the first black woman to win Wimbledon. The Story Continues might be all about how Wimbledon has made headlines over the years but Kerr hopes the campaign will leave consumers considering the future.

“One of things we are slightly guilty of doing is using our hugely rich heritage and our plethora of stories coming out of the championships over the years. [That meant we were] looking back and not actually looking forward beyond the championships,” he says.

“How we bleed that idea into other communications is really important. It’s also important we invest in our future and aren’t just looking one year ahead but five, 10, 15, 20.”

Kerr says another thing Wimbledon wants to achieve with its marketing this year is not only growing audiences that are most valuable to the brand, but then owning that relationship with them.

“We know on a global scale we get 250 to 300 million people watching us but that relationship is very much owned by the media and our broadcasters, so how can we start to bridge that gap and own that relationship ourselves?” he says.

“We want to be able to control the way we speak to our audiences, we want them to know the very best of what Wimbledon has to offer. Having that direct relationship will be the best means to do that.”

The club will know whether its new tone of voice and creative, forward-looking campaign have worked, says Willis, if everything feels integrated and they’ve been able to deliver growth and scale in audience. But not just any audience, one that understands what the tournament stands for.

“Wimbledon is not this ivory tower, exclusive only for the privileged event, it has something for everyone,” she concludes.