Wimbledon 2013 has taught us many things:
• A Brit can win the male's single title
• Nearly all the favourites can be knocked out in the opening week
• The championships can avoid being totally altered by rain
However, the core business learning from Wimbledon was not taught to us by champions Marion Bartoli or Andy Murray, but by British soft drinks brand Robinsons. Wimbledon 2013 had 13 official 'suppliers'. If we define sponsorship success by increased brand awareness and resonance, Robinsons can claim to have 'aced' the competition.
Research among consumers who have actively engaged with Wimbledon (via live TV, TV highlights or physical attendance) put Robinsons as the primary brand believed to be associated with Wimbledon, to the tune of 37% unprompted recall - far higher than the nearest competitor (Slazenger) at 15%.
Robinsons also achieves great improvements in brand appeal from consumers aware of its association with Wimbledon (approx. ¾ ). Whilst this is slightly lower vs. Slazenger (82%), Robinson's greater awareness means its improved appeal spreads further across the total Wimbledon audience (60% to Slazenger's 54%).
But how has Robinsons achieved this and what can it teach us about event sponsorship?
First Serve: Ensure Association is Appropriate
What seems a fairly basic approach to sponsorship investment is in fact the cornerstone of a successful sponsorship campaign. Many of Wimbledon's official suppliers that lack understandable association with the championships barely gain recognition from consumers - Hertz at 19% prompted recall for example. By having a subtle, but logical, association with Wimbledon, Robinsons maintains high brand relevance - evidenced by 99% of the Wimbledon audience who are aware of its association feeling it is an appropriate fit for the championships. This is also reflected by the fact that 97% of those who acknowledge Robinsons as a supplier to Wimbledon feel it is also a good cultural fit with the championships.
In short: Ensure your brand is an appropriate fit with the event you wish to align with. Associations can be subtle, but must remain recognisable. To ensure success, this fit must aim to be both understandable and culturally relevant.
Second Serve: Put the Event at the Heart of the Brand, Not the Brand at the Heart of the Event
Viewers of the post-match Wimbledon interviews will have noticed that each interviewee had several bottles of Evian placed in front of them. In the age of the marketing-savvy-consumer, extroverted product placements are often seen as an intrusion of enjoyment. It is also a show of a brand caring more about itself than the event it is endorsing. Robinsons, have taken an opposing approach, by placing the Wimbledon logo at the centre of their - space-finite - label. Not only does this show consumers that Robinsons is endorsed by the championships, but it shows the brand to be genuinely supportive and promoting of a well-loved event by giving it exposure among its own customers.
In short: Make sponsorship a two way relationship - show you are a genuine supporter of the event you are aligned with and promote your brand subtly.
Ace: Maintain Event Relations and Build Historical Associations
Much like Novak Djokovic's semi-final match, a successful brand/event relationship needs to be long lasting. A brand cannot build association and fit with an event through spaced out ad-hoc associations. Robinson's association with Wimbledon exemplifies this, having had relations with the championships since 1934. This does not go unnoticed by engaged viewers of Wimbledon with 97% of those who recognise Robinson's association with Wimbledon also recognising its long term relationship. This recognition significantly correlates to Robinson's association with Wimbledon giving it greater brand appeal - indicating that heritage assists in achieving overall sponsorship goals.
In short: Allow brand/event relations to blossom over time. The longer your involvement with an event, the greater ROI you will likely receive on appeal metrics.
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*Research carried out among n=200 people in the UK who have either: a) been watching Wimbledon live at The All England Club b) have been watching matches live on TV or online or c) have been watching the official 2013 highlights program 'Today at Wimbledon'.
Research conducted online between 1st and 2nd July 2013.