The 2014 edition of the The Championships, Wimbledon, which begun this week at the facilities of The All England Lawn Tennis Club in London, reminds global tennis fans of what it means to be the most prestigious tennis event worldwide. The tournament have proud traditions and a heritage that underscore how the tournament’s many rivalries, its quality of play, and its broad exposure have led to a significant and powerful role in tennis history as well as in the modern version of the game. Today’s event tells a story of the potential for a new breakthrough like when Maria Sharapova won the tournament at the age of 17, it is a story of heroes and villains exemplified in the tournament’s many intensive rivalries, and the intersection between commercialization in postmodern sports marketing and the undying traditions of ‘Wimbledon tennis’. It is a great story that shows the passion of tennis, in which the actors have written new chapters in a conservative interplay between the past and the present that gives the tournament a good degree of authentic vibe that is appealing in our ever-changing sports environment. Wimbledon seems to know what matters in its brand-building process and the tournament has a good strategic fit with its position in London and the history of tennis as a sport. So Wimbledon has preserved its role as an event to look forward to and last year’s men’s title to Andy Murray gave Wimbledon’s heritage renewed strength in the UK.
The event has also implemented some strict clothing policies. The enforcement of the policy is revealed in the sense that the tournament has sent information to all the players and their clothing sponsors that the event organizer’s reading of its ‘almost entirely white’ rule is stricter than last year. This means that we will not see Roger Federer flash his orange-soled shoes or see other players wear colorful knickers or wristbands this year. In that regard, I am curious to see if we will see some players being creative enough to paint their fingernails to work around the policy 😉 However, there is no doubt that this narrative reflects a potent tennis event capable of controlling the implementation of specific tennis clothing collections and thus part of a player’s public portrayal. Andre Agassi was known for his flamboyant style when he was on top of his game in the 1990s and even though he once refused to adapt to the rules of Wimbledon he later conformed and came back to the tournament.
Photo: Roger Federer’s orange-soled shoes from last year’s Wimbledon tournament (source: Nike).
The tournament is a visible example of what a strong heritage and proud traditions mean for the commercialization process in professional sport. The All England Lawn Tennis Club are working on expansion plans, which includes establishment of new courts on the ‘next-door’ golf course, which may boost the club by the ability to host qualifying matches here. With more than 38,000 spectators visiting each day, Wimbledon is a cash cow showing increasing ticket sales revenues that secure a profit generation of more than £30 mio. annually for the club. People’s desire to attend the event is mirrored in the high ticket prices for centre court and the willingness to spend several hours queuing to attend courts 4-19. Still, the club has realized that sponsorship and merchandise revenues are key as a supplement to ticket sales and broadcasting income while also highlighting that Wimbledon has an experiential offering to businesses and tourists, even when the tournament is not running. The tournament has also followed the trend in top tennis to enhance the amount of prize money. There is a smell of luxury around this event and there is no sign of recession in the midst of this blend of top-notch tennis, champagne, strawberries with cream and dust of celebrity extravaganza.
Wimbledon’s YouTube channel.