With the 2016 Wimbledon tournament officially behind us, this offers a great opportunity to reflect not only on the history of the tournament and the all-time great players that have been crowned champion, but also to take a look at the business side of it all that often gets forgotten in the lore and prestige that the tournament offers. How does this fortnight of the tennis year after year seem to financially transcend the year prior? It has to go deeper than just more strawberries and cream or Pimm’s Cups being consumed by spectators.
Wimbledon has created a brand that rivals that of the Masters Golf tournament when it comes to annual sporting events. Both tournaments take great pride in limited sponsorships as both truly believe in ‘Less is More’. With sports sponsorships growing by the year, Wimbledon has strategically gone the route of remaining loyal to a select few sponsors that help support and promote a successful brand image that has been created since Wimbledon was founded in 1877. This has been accomplished while adhering to the strict dress code of the All English Club and limited signage around the tennis grounds.
The longest standing sponsor of the Wimbledon tournament has been Slazenger, which became the official tennis ball in 1902. The other main sponsors include Robinsons (1935), Rolex (1978), IBM (1990), Ralph Lauren (2006) and recently implemented sponsors Evian, Stella Artois and Jaguar who all have seen great success in just a short period of time with their greatly increased ‘brand awareness’. Rolex directly connects to the Wimbledon luxurious, upper-class image being the “Official Timekeeper” of Wimbledon and simultaneously has taken on player sponsorships such as the one with Roger Federer who is arguably the greatest player to play on grass and possibly to ever play the sport.
While Wimbledon without question enjoys the financial benefit of all of the lead corporate sponsors mentioned above, the fact of the matter is that Wimbledon sponsorships can’t simply be bought. There must be a clear, relevant connection to the already successful brand image of Wimbledon. Campaigns must not only help with the sponsors overall awareness, but should also enhance the spectators experience as Evian recently implemented with its #LetsPlay campaign. This is arguably more important to Wimbledon than the cost of the sponsorship itself.
In addition to all of the sponsorship revenue that Wimbledon benefits from, TV revenue actually accounts for the majority of the revenue that Wimbledon brings in annually. Broadcasting rights to BBC in the United Kingdom and ESPN in the United States, as well as numerous other countries, account for more than half of the annual revenue. Ticketing accounts for approximately 1/6th of the annual revenue. Wimbledon does a great job of even allowing the non-wealthy to gain access to see the action live as a Grounds Pass can be bought for as low as £15 (less than $20).
It doesn’t stop there. One of the strongest assets in the sport of tennis that Wimbledon, as well as other major tournaments, implements is equal prize money for both men and women. You don’t see this in golf or many of the other major sports and while tennis without question is struggling in overall global popularity, this is one area in which it shines. Recently crowned champions Serena Williams and Andy Murray both won £2 million for their recent Wimbledon titles. Unfortunately for Serena, this equated to a loss of $340,000 thanks to a large drop in the currency exchange rate. (Thanks, Brexit!)
If you ever have the privilege to walk around the Wimbledon tennis grounds at the All English Club during the summer fortnight, you should without question head over to Henman Hill with a bowl of strawberries and cream to watch the live tennis action on the jumbo screen and wash it down with a Pimm’s Cup. After that, take the time to head over to court #18 where John Isner and Nicholas Mahut played the longest tennis match of all time over three days with a 70-68 final set. After all this, take a moment to reflect on everything else that Wimbledon has to offer: the freshly cut grass, the all-white attire, and the lack of commercial signage. There is a reason Wimbledon is held on a pedestal all by itself. As writer, John Viccars, mentioned in an article last year; “Simplicity is the key to Wimbledon’s success”.