Wimbledon should be nothing more than lawn tennis

So it would seem that this year, Wimbledon (courtesy of The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC)) will attempt to be as much a brand-free domain as physically possible. In order to maintain brand equity and values, “commercial sponsorship and product placement” shall be purged at the 2014 Championships. Don’t be fooled though as they are not taking a half-hearted stance, initiating the attack on two fronts:

1) The competitors

2) The spectators

The pre-existing Clothing and Equipment rule has been rehashed with a more stringent and definitive set of instructions to those taking to the courts this summer.  Concerned that standards have slipped in years gone by, Wimbledon spokesman Jon Friend commented this week that “the players have been reminded, and there is now a clarification and if there was a question in years gone by those questions have been well and truly answered.”

The rule originally stated that all those competing must do so in almost entirely white, but the development of this rule means that this now even includes players’ underwear. Wimbledon also insist it be known that “White does not include off white or cream.” A small trim of colour no wider than 10mm is permitted at the very edge of garments, including sweat bands, socks and undergarments.

From a branding perspective it is the following official statements that bare most influence, “logos formed by variations of material or patterns are not acceptable.” and “large manufacturers’ logos are not encouraged.” Indicating that the AELTC are keen to keep corporate branding far away from their little nest egg. This does indeed pose a problem when many of those competing at The Championships are sponsored by industry heavyweights such as Nike.

Wimbledon insist that these procedures are in place to protect the spirit and the brand of these games, allowing it to once again be an event certain “TV and commercial companies around the world wish to be associated with”. Zeelous thinks it’s evident that many sporting goods companies do want to be associated with the games through branded competitor outfits, however Wimbledon wish they to pay the toll first.

In regards to action against spectators, in another official statement from Wimbledon, heavily branded products featuring commercial messages shall be confiscated at the door. In reaction to the described ‘ambush marketing’ Wimbledon have said any free sun hats, free rain capes, free umbrellas, free suntan creams, free radios, free water bottles, etc that advertise selected brands shall not be allowed to enter the Grounds.

We at Zeelous believe that the brand is king (from marketing backgrounds we would!), it is therefore understandable that the AELTC wish to eliminate piggybacking from companies who can afford to be official sponsors or affiliates; and stick by their guns in terms of tradition and what Wimbledon should be. It is true that during the French, Australian or US Open player’s may wear what attire they see fit, but preservation of rules and etiquette are key in this sense to maintaining high brand equity which is then transferred to official associates such as Lanson and Stella Artois. If standards were seen to slip we doubt Lanson would want to be associated with a brand that “used to emanate class and tradition”.

However, whilst we understand the reasons why, going as far as to dictate competitor underwear colour is tad too far even in our eyes. Colour is often used as a guerrilla marketing technique especially during competitions such as these where white is abundant. It is used to improve retention, as well as drive home brand associations and assist the perceived fit of the sporting goods company with those that they sponsor based on complementary colours (Serena Williams’ aubergine purple wristbands and headband during the 2012 games).

While they should preserve the heritage of this event, and the spirit of all that is British, perhaps Wimbledon need to re-evaluate what aspects they can consider a dilution of the brand (does underwear truly contribute?). In addition, Wimbledon wouldn’t be what it is today without a little guerrilla/ambush marketing over some strawberries and cream.



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