Wimbledon Q&A: Story behind #JoinTheStory

11 Jun 2019

By: Sport Industry Group

Sport Industry Group spoke to the AELTC’s James Ralley, Head of Commercial & Brand; Alexandra Willis, Head of Communications, Content & Digital; and Harry Kerr, Marketing Manager; to get the story behind Wimbledon’s #JoinTheStory campaign and hear the latest plans ahead of The Championships this year.  

This week sees the launch of your new campaign for 2019, #JoinTheStory, tell us a bit about it?

Alexandra Willis:  It is very easy, and very tempting, to get caught up in the bubble of sport, and in particular, put that bubble in the past. Do you remember this amazing shot, that amazing goal, that amazing player? We wanted to try and get out of our bubble a little and show that sport has a role in the bigger picture of global change.

Our industry has been influenced by other things going on around us, think of the disruption in consumption habits, but it has also played an important role in influencing some of that change directly. Through #JoinTheStory we aim to demonstrate that relationship between sport and society throughout our history, through a variety of extraordinary Wimbledon moments that have shared the front page with some of the greatest stories of our time, and suggest that they will continue to do so long into the future.

Harry Kerr: As Amelia Earhart becomes the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, Althea Gibson becomes the first black woman to win Wimbledon; as Billie Jean King leads the fight for equality in tennis, man lands on the Moon; as Roger Federer redefines the way the sport is played, the Human Genome is documented; showing that epic feats of human endeavour have made headlines alongside each other, on and off the court.

We also wanted to create a platform that any Wimbledon fan, any sports fan, any player, any athlete, could play a part in by sharing their story, and therefore also provide an opportunity to show that we are part of the summer of sport.


Wimbledon is in the privileged position that it has great global recognition – what are the reasons for your marketing campaigns and what are your measures of success?

James Ralley:  We are privileged to have an event that exceeds expectations once you manage to get a ticket. We often hear, “to know Wimbledon is to love it”. But we recognise that we can’t welcome everyone into our Grounds, and so it is so important for us to provide opportunities for our global audiences to engage with Wimbledon, to understand it and hopefully fall in love with it. We also know that generating momentum behind the build up to Wimbledon can be a challenge in the context of a busy summer of sport so we are also looking at it as a great launchpad for The Championships itself.

Success for us is three-fold; the perception of Wimbledon as a brand, the growth in our audience over a six-week period, and a greater understanding of that audience.


What are some of the challenges when it comes to putting together advertising for such a historic event?

Harry Kerr: When you have such a rich history it is difficult to look beyond it sometimes, and very difficult to predict the future. Showing that we can be both respectful of our heritage and forward thinking at the same time, within the confines of a 30 second or 60 second spot is extremely challenging.

We don’t want to rip up our heritage, it is one of the strongest aspects of our brand. We can’t push it too far, but at the same time we are constantly challenging ourselves to put ourselves in the shoes of our fans; what would engage them, what would make them think Wimbledon is an event that is just as interested in esports and gaming and AI tech, as well as strawberries and cream?  


What demographic are you trying to appeal to with this campaign?

Harry Kerr: We recognise that Wimbledon has a fantastic core audience of tennis fans. We need to maintain and grow our relationships with that audience, but we also have a tremendous opportunity to reach those people who love Wimbledon because they are sports fans, because they love the experience, because they follow certain players. This campaign is absolutely for them. Whatever your story is with Wimbledon, we have a story for you.

Younger audiences, are of course, very important to us, and that’s why it’s important that the campaign doesn’t just live through a TV ad, it exists in social, it lives in podcasts, and it works for players as well.


Who came up with the idea, who deserves a special mention?

James Ralley: We worked with our creative agency, McCann London, to whom we set the challenge to of an idea that could be forward looking, rather than simply historic celebration. They commissioned Director Elliot Dear and animation studio Blinkink to put together the trailer, ‘The Story Continues’, which we think is a really beautiful film.

Elliot, who you may know for the BBC Christmas ‘Supporting Act’ campaign and ‘The Bear and the Hare’ for John Lewis, did a great job at layering the epic Wimbledon moments alongside historical achievements using a highly innovative mixed-media process, seamlessly blending live action, stop-motion, CGI, and stock footage. And, knowing how important music is, we were really happy to get Oasis in there through an orchestral re-record of Live Forever.


We’ve seen the trailer for the campaign, The Story Continues, what else is there to come?

Alexandra Willis: Throughout the build up to Wimbledon, we will be running a social content series that evolves Wimbledon’s headlines from telegraph, to paper, to mobile phone, to tweet, and, during the week before Qualifying, we will be releasing an innovative mini documentary series, all under the #JoinTheStory banner.

The mini-series, produced on our behalf by LiveWire Sport, showcases five of these stories through the mediums of audio and video, tapping into the podcasting trend with over 50 different voices coming together to reflect on Althea Gibson, Billie Jean King, Boris Becker and Steffi Graf, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg, and Andy Murray, and the impact they have had on sport’s place in society. The series will be released across Wimbledon’s channels from 24 June.

Lastly, we have opened up the opportunity for our fans to login to wimbledon.com to develop their own story with us, through myWIMBLEDON, our personalised digital experience, and thus give them control over what they see on our platforms.

James Ralley: We are also proud to be working with new events provider Rematch to debut Wimbledon Rematch 1980, a live re-creation of The Championships in 1980.

We know that fans love to re-live moments of amazing sport. The 1966 football World Cup, the 2003 Rugby World Cup, the London 2012 Olympics Opening ceremony. These are moments which still register today, even though many of us didn’t get to see them in person. Imagine if you could not just re-live it via a screen, but re-live it in person, and fall in love all over again with the drama of a live sports event?

We thought this concept would resonate with the millennial audiences of today who enjoy shared experiences, and so we have decided to test it with an epic year of Wimbledon. Give an audience the chance to see what Wimbledon 1980 looked like, felt like, smelt like, sounded like, all in the company of friends and family.


Is it important for you to control the campaign, rather than rely on host broadcasters to produce their own?

Harry Kerr: We have long-standing relationships with brilliant broadcasters, but we also recognise that they have more and more on their plate, the demands of being a media partner today are ever increasing.

The more we can support them and add value by creating the content that they can make use of, the better. It also helps those who don’t necessarily have the same understanding of Wimbledon that we have so that the Wimbledon story is being conveyed consistently throughout the world across all platforms.  


Has your overall audience increased every year? What are the limiting factors to future audience growth?

James Ralley: As I’m sure all businesses try to do; our aim is to control what we can control. We are always at the whim of the tennis. It is stating the obvious but a Federer v Nadal final and a Williams v Osaka final are bound to generate more buzz than other match-ups. And we can also be affected by what else is going on at the same time as our event.

So, to some extent, the size of our audience isn’t within our control. What we focus on is making sure that we are exploiting and maximising every opportunity available to us through strong relationships with our broadcast partners, using our channels and platforms to educate our fans on the next generation of players, localising content to different territories, and working with other events on cross-sports collaboration. If we concentrate on that, our audiences will take care of themselves.


What’s your biggest concern ahead of The Championships and what are you most looking forward to?

Alexandra Willis: Our greatest challenge as always is that we have no dress rehearsal and so only the one opportunity to get things right. But we are excited to be trying out a significant number of new things this year, some will work, some will need review, but most importantly we are challenging ourselves to continue to put Wimbledon right at the heart of change in the industry.

The podcasts are hopefully a really good example of that. And thankfully this year we have less need to worry about the rain with the launch of the new roof on No.1 Court alongside the Centre Court roof. But fingers crossed regardless for sunshine! Lastly, we are all really excited about the summer of women’s sport and being in a great position to take the momentum from the football Women’s World Cup through Wimbledon and into the Netball World Cup.