Changing Wimbledon approach: Legacy to commercialisation


Is the approach at the Wimbledon – the All England Tennis Championship, most prestigious among the four Grand Slams – changing from an uncompromising legacy to commercialization. No major marketing, no gimmicks, no commercial displays in the, no added attraction to the galleries – but pure tennis. The ‘purest form of tennis’ has been earning the private, nearly 500-member club a net profits of above $60 million.
There will still not be a compromise with the legacy, at least for now, but initiatives are afoot to increase revenues and profits.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club puts propriety ahead of profit unlike majority of sports commercial ventures. The 14 acre club arena will not have sponsorship brandings anywhere, even on the Centre Court. There is a must all-white dress and designing code for players and associates. There are no corporate boxes, no music at changeovers and no giant LED screens for replays. The game must remain pure without any distractions is the philosophy.
The commercial partners support club’s vision. Rolex is content with just one small logo on the Centre Court clock. Slazenger, in a tie-up with Wimbledon since 1902, understands and supports the club approach.

Approach towards revenues has been traditional as well. The club issued the 2016-2020 issue of debentures at $85,000 each to raise $174 million. The buyers are also guaranteed a Central Court for all 13 days of the Wimbledon action.

The club owns two companies : a) the Championships; and b) the Ground Company. The second company receives the debenture money and rentals during the two-week championships. This revenue fund the modernization of the – construction of the new No. 1 Court; broadcast Centre; the new members and players building and the roof over Centre Court.

The longest-established of the four Grand Slam tournaments, the Championships also enjoy sellout crowds and hospitality every year.

The Championships has a worldwide following. But the Club is now working on to enhance this base. “We want to take the Wimbledon brand to new audiences and regions,” BBC Business reporter Bill Wilson quotes Mick Desmond, AELTC commercial and media director, as saying. “It is not just about the people here at Wimbledon, where we have sold out all spectator tickets and all hospitality again.

“We want to grow our global fan base, the same as the likes of Premier League football or NBA basketball are doing. Tennis as a sport is in great shape. But we take a long term view in terms of strategy. Not just in terms of developing physical infrastructure here on the playing site, but also about building our brand with a younger audience, and also with new audiences in different parts of the world, be it China or Colombia,” Wilson quotes Desmond as saying.

“Disruption is everywhere in the modern world, and we always have to be thinking one step ahead,” adds Desmond.

The financial reward from growing its global fan base, will come when Wimbledon signs new TV deals and sponsorship agreements, and is able to show that it can deliver a large and diverse customer base for its partners. “It all means that we add more value to our media rights, and it means we also offer more value to our commercial partners such as IBM or Jaguar,” says Desmond.

The two-week long event is broadcast to millions of fans, and made an operating profit of £55m last year. So, things certainly look rosy in the green SW19 garden, with further healthy signs being a 12% increase in the prize money pot this year to $41m.

But income from broadcasters represents more than half of the event’s turnover, and a small number of key broadcast markets, notably the UK and USA, provide the majority of that income.

With this in mind, executives from tournament operator AELTC, are looking at new ways to grow awareness and interest in the tournament outside their current Anglo-centric heartlands.

And it is with long-term partner IBM, Wimbledon’s official supplier of information technology, that the event is looking to use digital media to spread its message and engage with new fans. “We have been on a long digital journey over the past seven years,” Desmond says. He says that in 2010 Wimbledon had a very good website, but that it looked the same as the other Grand Slam tournament sites, also created by IBM, adds the BCC report.

“We wanted to enhance the beauty and grace of Wimbledon. For those who could not be here in person, we wanted to give them the next-best experience,” Desmond says. “The reaction of fans has been very positive. But we are never happy. We wanted to raise the bar for 2017.”

Wimbledon also wants to provide a rich digital experience that ensures they connect with fans at the event and across the globe, adds Desmond.

This year the AELTC and IBM have offered a whole new range of digital features.


IBM is also using all of the data and cognitive computing capabilities put in place for the Championship, to try and work out for fans the characteristics that it takes to be “a great champion”.


With such a varied digital offering, there had been criticism in the past there was no actual wi-fi at the tournament grounds to help ease access to it. This year there will be three areas where public wi-fi is available. They are, from the entrance way at Gate 3 and along to the food court, in the ticket resale area, and at the west stand area of court 12.

This is just an experimental phase. The Club authorities want to see how well this works, before looking to potentially expand wi-fi access in 2018.