Activating Australia’s Biggest Annual Sports Event: Australian Open 2016

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While supporters of the AFL, the NRL, the Melbourne Cup and Grand Prix and perhaps now (after this year’s success) even the Big Bash League might make rival claims, from an international perspective it is the country’s Grand Slam tennis tournament that has the greatest global reach.


The 2015 event set many all-time records – from attendance of 703,899, 14.5m unique website visitors, 24.3m video views, 1.5m Facebook likes – and it acts as a showcase opportunity for both domestic (13m TV reach) and international (370m TV reach) brand marketers.


The event’s international reach is illustrated by top tier major sponsor Kia’s activation approach which blends its global X-Men movie tie-in with its tournament rights and its Rafa Nadal endorsement deal.


Below Kia sit associate sponsors ANZ and Jacob’s Creek and both brands are also taking an international approach to their activation – in fact both brands have linked up with current champion and world number one Novak Djokovic.


ANZ has paired up with Djokovic to raise funds for charity World Vision on a funny fan picture driven donation initiative called #HeadbandForGood, while for the second year running Jacob’s Creek’s work is led by a set of Djokovic fronted ‘Made By Moments’ short films.


IT sponsor IBM is also activating globally: its Australian Open campaign (in alliance with Serena Williams) launches its major new (international) IBM Watson-driven ‘Cognitive Era’ campaign. Is this the first sign that artificial intelligence be one of the stand-out marketing and sponsorship trends of 2016?


Official beer partner Heineken’s Australian Open ‘Star Serve‘ work also dovetails with its global strategy of focusing on the quality of both the direct product experience and the indirect brand experience.


Even overseas based brands with tennis assets – like Standard Life and its ambassador Any Murray – are leveraging the tournament with ambussh activity.


Brands with a more domestic focus – like official partner Medibank (‘Second Serve’ with Kokkinakis) and health brand Swisse (‘Reflections’ with Hewitt) – typically run campaigns fronted by Aussie tennis stars.


Indeed, the tournament’s status means even big Australian brands without official rights, like telecoms and media giant Telstra, feel it necessary leverage tennis interest via Leconte-led ambush activity.


Even the Australian Defence Force is capitalising on domestic tennis fever with an air force ‘Ground Up‘ recruitment drive fronted by big serving Aussie star Sam Groth.


As for the activation approach of the tournament’s official betting partner William Hill (see case study), we will leave it to you to make your own mind up considering the media storm and controversy around illegal betting and match fixing in tennis.




Tennis Australia:


Australian Open Website


Australian Open TV YouTube


Australia Open Twitter

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