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Wimbledon: on the ball branding

Posted by Symon Dickinson - Creative Director at PHMG on

Wimbledon is more than just the most famous tournament in the tennis world… or even in the history of sport. It’s one of the most recognisable brands on the globe. The mere mention of its name is enough to stimulate your senses, conjuring up vivid images, sounds and memories. And this is no accident. Wimbledon’s dedication to the simplicity and coherence of its brand is exactly what allows it to stand out. So let’s examine the make-up of a brand at the peak of its competition.

During Wimbledon 2017, approximately 300 million people worldwide will tune in to watch the biggest names in tennis compete for its most coveted trophies. This makes it one of the most lucrative sponsorship opportunities in the world, so you might expect to be overwhelmed with brands clamouring for your attention. But unlike other tournaments, Wimbledon doesn’t sacrifice anything for sponsorship. It’s all carefully controlled. That, along with their famed dress-code, is how they maintain such a strong image. Switch on your TV and all you’ll see is whites, greens, purples – and, with any luck, some sporting magic. This careful consideration extends to the select brands they partner with. Rolex clocks are used on court, IBM manage the scoreboard, Robinson’s supply the drinks, and Slazenger provide the tennis balls. In a time when other sports are consumed with corporate sponsorship, Wimbledon strips it all back. Everything fits, and the overall result is branding that is as engaging as it is iconic.

Next up is taste. That might sound a peculiar thing to associate with a brand that has nothing to do with food or drink, but such is the impact of the world’s oldest tennis tournament. Wimbledon has become a staple of the British summer, and for many it’s about much more than the tennis, it’s an excuse to get out in the sun and wash down some fresh strawberries and cream with endless Pimms. So strong is the brand, that what we eat and drink has become directly intertwined into the traditions of the tournament. Whether you’re a fan of the sport or not, it’s something that resonates in our culture – so much so that the contestants on this year’s Great British Menu went dish to dish, serve to serve, all for the prize of cooking a banquet in celebration of Wimbledon’s 140th year.

And of course, there’s sound. Sound is a valuable facet of every brand, and Wimbledon is certainly no exception. In the UK, the tournament is celebrating 90 years of coverage on the BBC – and for many of those years, its classically jolly theme tune was an instant indication that we can expect action from the court. Commentary is a huge part of the audio association of the competition too, with Sue Barker’s soft, sultry tones leading the BBC’s team alongside the likes of Boris Becker, Tim Henman and Annabel Croft. Stateside, ESPN’s first-to-last ball coverage is characterised by leading names such as Pam Shriver and John MacEnroe – the latter of whom is no stranger to iconic audio. His 1981 cry of ‘you cannot be series’ is one of the sport’s most famous soundbites, challenging the umpire in a way that’s gone down in history. But outbursts of the players (and their famously aggressive ‘grunts’) aren’t the only things that make up the Wimbledon soundscape. Whether it’s the smattering of polite British applause or the impassioned cries of ‘come on Andy!’, audience participation is a huge part of the competition, and proves how much spectators want to get involved with the action.

At PHMG, getting to know brands is the foundation of everything we do. And to do that, we need to consider every single part of it, from the image it portrays to the feeling it instils in its audience. We need to get to the heart of a business and understand what makes it tick. That is what allows us to build a voice that is unmistakably theirs, a soundtrack synonymous with their identity, and copy that captivates consumers. It’s much more than just visuals that contribute to a business’ identity, and by understanding every single facet, we create audio brands that encapsulate everything that makes them unique.

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