Firstly, I guess Wimbledon is much more than just a tennis tournament? Can you tell me how it has developed into a brand?
The name ‘Wimbledon’ has worldwide recognition and appeal and is synonymous not only with the premier tennis event in the world but with quality, tradition and heritage. Because of this the brand has been able to be licensed by a large number of companies not directly related to tennis or sport such as Waterford Crystal and Links of London in the UK and other diverse categories in other parts of the world.
What have been some of the brand’s highlights to date?
The partnership with Ralph Lauren which began in 2006 was a significant highlight. Ralph Lauren provide the uniforms for all umpires and ball kids during The Championships and have created a Wimbledon Clothing Collection which has been extremely successful both on site during The Championships and in retail in Europe and the US.
What qualities does Wimbledon have that makes it stand out? Its association with top tennis players around the world must be one? Do they have any bearings on deals etc?
Obviously without the players The Championships would not exist! Most players regard winning Wimbledon as the pinnacle of success. However, Wimbledon licensees have no direct right to individual player images since their licensing agreement is directly with the All England Club. This is very different from an agreement with, for example, a football club, where rights to player images would be part of the contract. The Wimbledon brand has a long heritage and will last forever whereas a player is on the circuit for an average of ten years.
As the licensor/licensing agent what role do you play?
We work very closely with our client, the All England Club, in securing agreements with licensees and then working with them on product development. In addition we run all the retailing at Wimbledon both during The Championships and year-round with a shop on site that is open seven days a week. This means that our relationship with our licensees goes much further than a normal agent/licensee relationship since we are also one of the largest customers of our UK licensees. It is also significant that IMG works on behalf of the All England Club in a number of other areas apart from licensing including TV rights sales and TV production, Official Supplier (sponsorship-type) sales, Digital sales, etc so the relationship between our two companies is very strong.
Does the fact that the competition is for a certain amount of time once a year impact on the brand’s performance?
Naturally interest in the brand and branded products peaks in June/July, but with the success of both the Museum Shop which is linked to the Wimbledon Museum and tours of the Club, and the online shop run by Kitbag, sales of Wimbledon product in the UK are steady year-round. In China there are now 34 Wimbledon Shop-in-Shops, Japan has had an established Wimbledon licensing programme for some 30 years and we have recently secured some exciting new licences in India.
It is worth noting that the Club continues to derive significantly more revenue from its licensing around the world than from the on-site retailing.
How was this year’s tournament?
It was a particularly successful tournament this year with great weather in the first week leading to long evenings of tennis, record attendances and lots of shopping for licensed product. The Men’s Final will go down in history as one of the most exciting Finals ever. 2008 saw the opening of a third major shop of over 4,500 sq ft, nearly half of which was occupied by the Ralph Lauren Wimbledon collection. Sales in this shop exceeded expectations and the additional shop made for a much more comfortable shopping experience for consumers with twelve separate retail outlets around the grounds selling Wimbledon licensed merchandise.
What plans do you have for the brand moving forward?
To consolidate on the brand’s success to date, working with existing licensees to expand their product categories where relevant and to introduce new products and new designs. Our strategy in the UK is to add additional licensees only if the product category is really going to enhance the Collection and lead to incremental sales rather than reduce sales opportunities for existing licensees. In addition we are looking to expand the brand in the Far East, capitalising particularly on the potential in China and the interest in tennis because of successful Chinese players.