Serving aces or dropping shots: What social data tells us about Wimbledon’s sponsors


Forget the tennis – we want to know what’s happening in the digital world for Wimbledon’s sponsors. And thanks to Starcount’s data technology, we’re getting the Hawk-Eye view.

In some eyes, ‘sporting event of the summer’ is an understatement. To many fans, tennis or not, it’s the sporting event of the year. A whopping 473,372 people entered the hallowed tennis grounds this year over the course of the exciting fourteen days. Certainly, it is up there amongst the most watched sporting events on the planet, with an estimated 13.3 million tuning in for this year’s men’s final. So, it’s no wonder that brands are lining up to be sponsors of the ‘Christmas of tennis.’ But as much as we’re used to seeing the famous logos scattered across the grounds, are they getting as much out of it as they hope?

To find out, we logged in to check out what Starcount’s sophisticated social insight technology could reveal, and the results were fascinating! Our data gurus mapped which brands and sponsors were followed by people on the same day that they had followed Wimbledon on social media, going back until early 2015.

Starcount's Wimbledon scoreboard

In the build-up to Wimbledon in each year since 2015, we can see a sharp increase in the number of people who start following the tournament’s social media channels. Of course, that’s a given. As thousands of fans flock to watch their favourite tennis stars battle it out, they’re increasingly being given new ways to follow the action, most notably through social media channels, which can provide updates throughout the working day.

Following the ‘Wimbledon pattern’ of spikes starting just before the tournament, and then declining steadily afterwards, are sporting brands and transport brands. Again, no surprises here. As we enter the summer months, more people look to get out under the sun and do some physical activities, whether it’s professional or simply social. And with a consistent roundup of summer sports taking place, this only adds to the sporting brand fever. The same goes for transport, although this is more directly related to Wimbledon. As fans from across the globe arrive in London, they’re looking to make sure they know how to get around, and where better to get that information quickly then through the social media of Transport For London and other important transport providers.

So far, so predictable. But what is going on with the specific sponsors themselves and why are some spiking, whilst others flop?

Jaguar serves up a hat trick

Jaguar's impressive 2015 biometric activation. Source: Youtube

Jaguar signed a deal to be the official automotive sponsor of Wimbledon back in 2015, and it’s fair to say they’ve nailed it each year. Their social media spikes accurately follow those of Wimbledon, peaking each year in the buildup to the tournament and throughout it. The story behind this? Their consistently original brand activations. In 2015, they launched their #FeelWimbledon concept, a social media campaign but with an interesting twist: they installed biometric sensors around the courts and gave out biometric wristbands to selected fans, all of which were designed to analyse the mood of the spectators. These devices would collate crowd locations and audio levels, and capture heartrates and movements. This would then be combined with sociometrical tracking and the data could all be accessed via Jaguar’s social media. Tennis fans could tune into live updates of mood and emotions, which could then be matched to specific points of play. And boy, did it work. Jaguar reported an increase of 11-12% social media engagement across the tournament.

In 2016, Jaguar continued with the #FeelWimbledon campaign, signed Andy Murray as a brand ambassador and gave fans the chance to play him in a VR experience. This year, they began building hype for the tournament by taking the Wimbledon trophy (held by Murrary) on a tour of the UK. So, all in all, a successful three years.

Match point for HSBC

HSBC's Court 20, where you can play against a legend. Credit: HSBC

HSBC's Court 20, where you can play against a legend. Credit: HSBC

The official banking sponsors have also had a successful few years. They’ve matched Wimbledon’s social media spikes as well, not surprising since their logo appears almost everywhere and the high street bank has had some exciting activations. Their ‘Court 20’ stunt has become ingrained in Wimbledon over the last few years, a place where fans can play against tennis legends. Added to that are the other amusing installations such as their 360-degree VR experience, their Centre Court fan zone, where you can take a picture and they will send it to you as a postcard, and the free strawberries and cream for HSBC customers, all of which take place at different times and are announced through their social media. So, if you want free strawberries, give them a follow.

Fighting back in the tie break: IBM, Pimms and Slazenger

IBM is another which achieves ‘Wimbledon pattern’ spikes, a result of its technological activations such as this year’s ‘Ask Fred’, an all-knowing chatbot designed to answer any questions and who’s namesake is Fred Perry. Of course, Pimm’s experiences minor spikes, as the branded mid-summer drink, and Slazenger, whose partnership with Wimbledon is the longest running sponsorship in sports history (they have supplied the tennis balls since 1902 and contributed 54,250 to this year’s tournament!) sees some action, although it’s tiny in comparison to HSBC and Jaguar.

Robinson's can't hold their lead

One of Robinson's 'hidden tennis balls' located in Swansea. Credit: @DrinkRobinsons

One of Robinson's 'hidden tennis balls' located in Swansea. Credit: @DrinkRobinsons

Robinsons, Wimbledon’s second longest sponsor (1935), saw a gigantic spike in followers around the time of the 2015 tournament, after the success of ‘The Great Robinsons Ball Hunt’, which saw the juice company hide 15 giant tennis balls across the country, with prizes, including Wimbledon finals tickets, for the finders. During the tournament, Tim Henman used their Twitter profile to post clues to the location of each ball. The following year, they didn’t manage anything quite so magnificent, something reflected in their social metrics.

Game, set and match

And so, another Wimbledon comes to a close. The first tournament was played over 140 years ago, and since then it has evolved in countless ways, through radio, then television and now, through social media. It’s easy to imagine that sponsors will see a rise in social media followers around the same time as Wimbledon, but the real magic lies in using data technology to pinpoint that activity and then match it to the brand activity, which helps explains why some sponsors do well whilst others get left behind. After all, who can refuse free strawbs and cream?

If you are interested in what social data can tell us about consumers within the entertainment industry, Starcount will be hosting 'The Many Faces of Entertainment' on 3rd October 2017, which will showcase how we are using the latest in digital and social data to understand how millions of consumers think. For more information, email jade.wood@starcount.com.

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