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Volume 23 No. 13
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Wimbledon looking for boost from new ad

Wimbledon may be among the last events one might guess is embarking on its first significant promotional expenditure. After all, the tournament is 140 years old, and even fans of other sports can identify it readily for its grass courts and perhaps even the strawberries.

But faced with declining ratings in markets like the U.S., starting this week the event is putting money behind a new 60-second ad (the tournament calls it a trailer) to promote the fortnight, which begins July 3.

“We will have investment behind that content to take it to as many people as possible,” said James Ralley, head of commercial and marketing at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, which owns and operates the annual grass-court spectacle. Asked whether the club had ever spent money like this before, Ralley replied, “Not to this level.

“There will be an element of media money behind the content that will be invested in digital channels across social media,” he added. The club declined to say how much it is spending.

Wimbledon’s more than 60 broadcasters, which reach over 300 million homes, will use the trailer to either supplement their own promotional spots, or as the primary marketing campaign in the buildup to the tournament. Those spots are part of their rights fee agreement with the club, so the tournament is not paying to air those.

Ratings for Wimbledon are on the decline in some markets, such as the U.S., where ESPN televises the event. Last year’s final between Andy Murray and Milos Raonic drew 1.8 million viewers, continuing an overall descent since 2009, when 5.7 million watched. On the women’s side, 1.6 million tuned in last year to watch Serena Williams claim her title, half the amount that saw her play her sister Venus in 2009.

The promotional ad, created by McCann, is titled “In Pursuit of Greatness: A Year in the Making,” and follows the preparations for the tourney from the last ball hit to the start of the next year’s tournament. It features players including Roger Federer and Andy Murray, but also ball boys and girls and groundskeepers.

Last year, the event created four one-minute vignettes around key aspects of the tournament like the event’s pigeon-scaring hawk, Rufus, and the trophy. Those were distributed through social media and corporate partners during the tournament.

Those ads carried the slogan “In Pursuit of Greatness,” the event’s first slogan. This year the event has five more, one of which will follow the journey of strawberries from fields 38 miles away to, on the same day, being served at Wimbledon.

Wimbledon is also rebranding its own 5-year-old OTT channel from “Live at Wimbledon” to “The Wimbledon Channel.” The club expects the channel to compete less with broadcasters and instead focus on events around the grounds, like the queue and Henman Hill, a key gathering spot. In past years, the channel had live look-ins at matches and revolved around a studio show.

“The idea is to be far more complementary and not competitive,” said Mick Desmond, the club’s commercial and media director.

Indeed, ESPN plans to make the channel available on its WatchESPN app during the tournament. That app offers coverage from many of the courts.

ESPN in 2012 started a 12-year, $500 million deal to televise all of Wimbledon, after several years of sharing it with NBC Sports.

The 60-second spot, “In Pursuit of Greatness: A Year in the Making,” follows preparations for the event. It will be seen in digital channels across social media and on Wimbledon broadcasters.