By Sierra Krebsbach

When you’re asked to list the top sporting events in the world, what comes to mind? The Olympics? The World Cup? The Super Bowl?

Now imagine you’re sitting in a hotel room in Japan and you turn on your TV. If any of the above mentioned events were playing and all you saw was the field of play, with no context, would they be instantly recognizable? Probably not. Each event changes venues from year to year, and with that come changes in look and feel.

Now think of Wimbledon. What comes to mind?

Grass courts. White attire. Centre Court. Henman Hill. Strawberries and cream.

That is exactly what the brand team at Wimbledon is hoping for.

img_5903_1024As a current IMC graduate student, I’m spending five weeks in London studying Global Brand Management with a group of 20 other students from Medill. In London, we’ve studied various aspects of brand management, from overseeing brand portfolios to brand finance. Recently, we had the opportunity to meet with a member of the Wimbledon team to discuss what makes the brand so unique.

Wimbledon is deeply rooted in tradition and its English heritage:

  • The tournament is the oldest major tennis tournament in the world.
  • It is the only major tournament still played on grass.
  • The tournament has been held at The All England Club since 1877.

The Wimbledon grounds can hold up to 39,000 spectators at any one time. And roughly 3,250 media are accredited for the tournament. The Wimbledon grounds house both broadcast centers and studios. Wimbledon owns the exclusive rights to all photo and video taken on the grounds during the tournament.

During our visit to the grounds, we discussed how fiercely protected the Wimbledon brand is. The tournament has a strict all white dress code policy, a limited commercial presence, and minimal on-site branding for sponsors. Wimbledon is also extremely selective about the other brands it partners with. All sponsors are aligned with the elite status of the tournament. A few current sponsors include Rolex, Jaguar, Evian and Slazenger.

The team at Wimbledon is strict about how its brand is portrayed in media and advertising. During our site visit, we analyzed an ESPN intro segment to identify primary Wimbledon brand elements in the piece (in 2011, ESPN penned a 12-year television rights deal with Wimbledon).

Take a look at this segment from 2014:

This clip captures Wimbledon’s timeless and classic appeal.

The Wimbledon brand is unique compared to many of the world’s top sporting events due to its timeless nature and a heritage deeply rooted in a single place. During our visit, our host emphasized again and again the great lengths that the Wimbledon team goes to protect the tournament’s classic identity and simplistic primary brand identifiers.

Strawberries and cream, anyone?

Sierra Krebsbach is currently an graduate student at Medill working towards a masters degree in Integrated Marketing Communications. She has a B.A. in Communication Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College.