Wimbledon wants to monetize its archived content in digital push

To help secure future revenues, the commercial execs behind the Wimbledon tennis tournament are turning to the event’s past matches. The sports tournament wants to use its archive footage to reach new fans and win over more sponsors.

Wimbledon may be one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world, but it’s unimposing when it comes to revenue. Its income from broadcasters amounted to more than half of its £256.7 million ($286.3 million) turnover in the year to July 2018, per its latest filing to Companies House as reported by The Financial Times. In comparison, the Premier League sold broadcast rights for 2019 to 2022 for an eye-bulging £4.5 billion ($5 billion).

It’s harder for commercial execs to make reams of money from tennis matches played over two weeks, in comparison to a football tournament that lasts 10 months. But doing events all year-round is too costly. Instead, the Wimbledon tennis tournament stretched out the activation period from two weeks to six. Once the French Open ended on July 9, promotions for the event ran on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and, for the first time this year, the popular short-form video network TikTok. While those platforms represent more marketing opportunities to bring the tournament to more fans, the increased reach also represents a commercial opportunity. The more content the tennis tournament can share over a longer period, the easier it is to justify to sponsors why they should pay more for brand exposure beyond TV.

It’s also the reason why, as part of the extended six-week campaign, the tournament created an immersive, theatrical recreation of the 1980 final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. Billed as a virtual time capsule of sorts, the recreation of the match was backed by archive footage from the real one on the tournament’s social media channels. More than 100+ pieces of content were distributed across both the activation’s (named “Rematch”) channels alongside Wimbledon’s own. Rematch channels hosted the immersive content for those who wanted to follow the timeline in the run-up to the match and the match itself day by day. Content created by digital agency Seven League ranged from recaps of newspaper stories from the time of the final in 1980 on YouTube to vertical videos on Instagram Stories from the recreated match.

The first recreation of the tournament was more marketing stunt than commercial move. Should the content prove successful, however, then the plan for next year is to take the experiential part to other markets and sell it to one of the broadcasters that already show the tournament. Some of those deals include BeIN SPort in France and the Middle East, Telefonica in Spain and NHK in Japan. More exposure on TV channels and their online counterparts could help commercial execs at the tournament make further inroads into a sports sponsorship market in Europe that hit a record €20.07 billion ($18.5 billion) in 2018, per the European Sponsorship Association.

“We want to try and take the event to other markets so that it has an international presence,” said James Ralley, head of marketing and commercial at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, the organization that runs the Wimbledon tournament. “Ideally, we’d be working with one of our global partners as an activation platform in a market where we’re able to take the event to a broadcaster.”

While TV will be where the bulk of revenue comes from if the plan works, its execs also see scope to grow revenue from digital platforms, particularly if some of the content for the recreated match is shown online, and essentially create new inventory for the tournament to monetize. Relying on impressive follower counts to inflate the value of sponsorship deals is no longer enough for sports rights owners looking to properly profit from their digital assets.

Image courtesy of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. 


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