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Tennis and the sponsorship revenue generation of the four Grand Slams

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Photos: Sponsorship revenues of the four Grand Slams in tennis, 2014 (source: Sports Sponsorship Insider).

The four Grand Slams in tennis produced approximately $268 mio. in sponsorship income in 2014 (Sport Marketing Frontiers, 2014). The strong presence of tennis in the commercial sports landscape in the US and the ability to continuously innovate its sponsorship solutions is reflected in the fact that the US Open comes in as no. 1 measured on sponsorship revenues with approximately $89.5 mio.


Photos: Wimbledon, 2014 (source: Kenneth Cortsen, own archive).

What may seem surprising for passionate tennis fans (with respect to Wimbledon’s proud legacy) is that Wimbledon is no. 3 with sponsorship revenues of around $65 mio. From my perspective, that is not that surprising as the English Grand Slam prioritizes a strict balance between commercial development and its cultural DNA and thus traditions that to some extent prohibits extensive on-court sponsorship opportunities. However, there is an unexploited commercial potential linked to Wimbledon but the monetization process is dependent on whether or not the tournament wants to touch the above-mentioned commercialization-legacy-process? With that said, official Wimbledon sponsors pay more than $3.3 mio. for the right to be associated with the tournament and in that regard Wimbledon’s exclusivity has served as a strength for both sides of table (i.e. sponsors and rights holder).


Photos: Wimbledon, 2014 (source: Kenneth Cortsen, own archive).

The French Open is no. 2 with around $70 mio. in sponsorship income and helped by the joint-largest sponsorship partnership by an individual brand among these four major tennis events. This is due to the fact that BNP Paribas hands over in the range of $15 mio. annually as a head sponsor of the French Open. JP Morgan Chase pays a similar amount as a top partner for the US Open in which the corporation’s on-court exposure is divided between investment bank JP Morgan and retail bank Chase. In Australia, Kia pays just above $10 mio. to be associated with the Australian Open, which generates $44 mio. in sponsorship revenues. IBM serves as the only brand to sponsor all four of the tennis Grand Slams and for which the brand totally pays more than $20 mio. per year.

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Photos: Commercial partnerships of tennis grand slams in 2014 – top five industry sectors and no. of partners per tournament (source: Sports Sponsorship Insider, 2014).

Below, you will find some videos that display how some of the sponsors of the four Grand Slams in tennis have dealt with their sponsorship investment. For instance, you can see that Kia implemented some sponsorship activation around its slogan ‘Game On’ in which the brand invited fans to face the challenge of returning the world’s fastest tennis serve.The Australian tennis player Sam Groth holds the record for the fastest serve in the world and Kia invented an interactive game, i.e. ‘Kia Game On’, that turned passive tennis TV-viewers into active players by the use of innovative mobile technology through which fans were taken on-court to return serve against Sam Groth. I think that it is a good example of adding value to the event or TV experience. In that sense, it is vital that sports rights holders and sponsor engage in a constructive dialogical partnership in which both parties are part of the activation plans from the start of the negotiation process. For that reason, it is key that rights holders are open-minded and professional in terms of sharing knowledge about what stimulates the stakeholders and also take part in the activation idea generation phase, which may be a way to facilitate co-branding initiatives between different sponsors. Moreover, that provides a good foundation for making sure that the right activation vehicles are integrated into the event.


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