July 8, 2016
As sporting events go, at first glance Wimbledon appears to be refreshingly free of commercialism.
There are no promotional logos emblazoned across Centre Court and no giant screens blaring out adverts between points.
But Wimbledon is, in fact, the world's most lucrative Grand Slam tournament, turning over £169.7 million — and making £56.1 million profit — in two weeks.
And it's not just the All England Club that benefits from the Wimbledon windfall.
From the family-run farm growing rich from growing strawberries to the player's mothers who cash in, here is our ultimate guide to Wimbledosh...
Million-Pound Ball Supplier
Sports brand Slazenger has supplied Wimbledon's tennis balls since 1902, making it the longest-running partnership in sport.
Every year, 52,000 balls travel 6,600 miles from the company's factory in the Philippines.
Sponsorship deals expert Jonathan Hill, European head of WPP's sports marketing agency ESP Properties, says brands such as Slazenger pay between £1 million and £5 million a year for the right to associate themselves with Wimbledon.
'While they don't get the visibility that is delivered by the pitch-side perimeter boards seen at Euro 2016, they are still happy to build marketing values around the core values of Wimbledon, such as tradition, heritage and excellence,' he says.
While Slazenger gets back its investment in increased sales around the globe, it also profits at the tournament.
Used balls are sold at a kiosk next to Court 14 at £5 for a tin of six — making the brand a tidy £43,300.
Designer Deal On Uniforms
While players have sponsorship deals with sporting fashion brands including Nike, Adidas and Uniqlo, Wimbledon has a lucrative fashion collaboration of its own.
Since 2005 Ralph Lauren has been the tournament's official outfitter, designing uniforms for on-court officials in a deal thought to have cost the label up to £5 million.
Meanwhile, the All England Club makes its own towels in trademark dark green or purple, which sell for £14 in the tournament shop.
Some 25,000 are sold every year — raking in £350,000.
Food And Drink For The Masses
Certain refreshments at Wimbledon — beer (Stella Artois), champagne (Lanson), orange squash (Robinsons), water (Evian), coffee (Italian brand Lavazza) and ice cream (Haagen-Dazs) — are provided by official sponsors, all of whom have paid between £1 million and £5 million to have their products sold.
They can't set up stalls at the championships, they can advertise their association elsewhere: on TV ads, posters and online.
Wimbledon-based FMC Catering is in charge of feeding and watering hungry spectators at the tennis — supplying 190,000 sandwiches, 30,000 portions of fish and chips and 23,000 bananas over the fortnight.
On a smaller scale, other retailers are also doing well out of Wimbledon. A corner shop just inside Southfields station, where the spectators arrive by public transport for the tournament, sells £10,000 of bottled water and £5,000 of sandwiches over the fortnight — more than 50 times their usual sales.
Stealthy Sponsors Are Everywhere
Wimbledon has 13 'official suppliers' — they don't like the term 'sponsor' — but at first glance it's hard to spot even a single logo on show at the tournament.
Take a closer look, however, and you'll see stealthy sponsors are everywhere.
There's 'Rolex' engraved on every clock, 'Slazenger' on the back boards behind the court lines, 'HSBC' providing all the on-site cash machines and no player slugging from a branded drink in public unless it's Robinsons squash or Evian water.
'The All England Club has carefully crafted a 'family' of sponsors,' says Jonathan Hill. 'But this is not an easy family to become part of and Wimbledon has only ever allowed a small number of companies to associate themselves with the Wimbledon brand. Visibility for a partner at the event is extremely limited — and that's the way the club likes it.'
These companies pay vast sums (up to £5 million) for the privilege of making it on to the suppliers' list, and Jonathan says more recent additions — Stella Artois and Jaguar — are likely to be shelling out more than others as older brands have had their deals in place for several years.
Meanwhile, Wimbledon relies on them to keep the tournament running smoothly each year: technology company IBM supplies match statistics, HSBC offers banking services and Hertz and Jaguar provide more than 150 cars to ferry players and officials around. Many go all out to make sure everyone knows their connection with Wimbledon: in 2010, HSBC set up a grass tennis court in Rockefeller Plaza in New York to sell their services to Americans.
Money-Spinning Television Deals
With an ever-growing global audience, much of Wimbledon's annual income comes from contracts with TV channels here and abroad.
In the UK, the BBC recently extended its broadcasting contract until 2020 and pay TV channel Eurosport acquired the rights to show the final matches and a daily highlights show just this year.
Wimbledon also has a deal with U.S. broadcaster ESPN until 2023, and further afield it is shown in Brazil, China, New Zealand, India and Thailand.
Jonathan Hill says: 'The string of deals is closer to £100 million a year in value. Wimbledon is unique in the sports marketing world as it benefits from being a quintessentially English event, but also a tournament known and watched on a global basis.'
Elite Seats And Corporate Guests
While the All England Club will not reveal exactly how much it makes from the 500,000 ticket sales, much of its profit comes from more exclusive seats — in particular, debentures, an elite loyalty package that guarantees holders a single seat in Centre Court for five years running for the eye-watering sum of £50,000.
There are 2,500 of these, plus 1,000 debentures for No 1 Court, priced at £13,700 each, raising £138.7 million in total.
Sponsors are also guaranteed a slice of the action, with companies entitled to lavish hospitality suites hosting champagne-fuelled lunches and luxury afternoon teas, as well as courtside tickets (around 700 for each of the main suppliers) so they can reap the benefits of injecting all that cash.
Strawberry Farm Kept Afloat
Strawberries and cream are synonymous with Wimbledon, so it's no wonder 140,000 portions of the soft fruit (costing £2.50 a punnet) are being sold this fortnight, topped with 10,000 litres of cream. That's £875,000 worth of strawberries.
Far from coming from a large supermarket supplier — this was said to have been rejected as being 'too commercial' — all the strawberries come from the 480-hectare Hugh Lowe Farm in Kent run by Marion Regan and her husband Jon.
Marion's great-grandfather started the farm 100 years ago and she won the exclusive contract to supply strawberries in 1993. They are picked each day at 5.30am by two teams of 40 staff before being chilled, sorted and transported to South-West London.
Though the farm also supplies M&S, Waitrose and Goodwood Races, Marion says Wimbledon is a key part of the farm's income.
'For us, sales are equally important through August and September as the earlier summer months,' she says. 'But events like Wimbledon are a fantastic shop window for British strawberries.'
Gardener Who's Sitting Pretty
Denny & Son is the family nursery and landscaping business based at the All England Club — and Roger Denny, 66, is the man responsible for tending to the 50,000 blooming plants and shrubs around the 44 acres of grounds.
The contract has kept the small company, founded by Roger's father, in business since 1946, and it doesn't just guarantee income during the tournament.
'Care for perennials, planting, pruning and feeding is a continuous process,' says Roger.
'Tours of the grounds — and their use by club members — continue year round.'
Not Forgetting The Stars...
Wimbledon's winners pocket £2 million in prize money, with runners up taking home £1 million each, but almost every star you see on court has several money- spinning sponsorship deals to his or her name.
However, with the club enforcing a strict 'all white' rule when it comes to clothing, they have to think of more inventive ways to show their sponsors' support.
Serena Williams, who earns £15 million a year in endorsement deals — that amounts to £578,461 alone during Wimbledon fortnight — is 'associated' with (that is, paid by) more than a dozen brands —from Beats headphones to Berlei bras. Her nails are painted a rainbow of colours by nail brand Opi, for which she has designed her own range.
Of the male players, Swiss star Roger Federer rakes in the most from sponsorship and branding: it works out at a staggering £1.74 million during Wimbledon fortnight alone.
His most prominent association is with Rolex, a contract thought to be worth £10 million a year.
Andy Murray earns significantly less than his two rivals — but still £434,615 for a fortnight's work isn't bad. The British star has deals with companies including Jaguar, Standard Life and a £15 million contract with sportswear brand Under Armour, which he wears for every match.
...And Mums Are Cashing In, Too
Judy Murray, Andy's mother, has been shamelessly promoting three brands around the All England Club.
Last week she was spotted hawking cups of Lavazza coffee, for which she is an ambassador, to fans waiting in the queue outside the club, and she has been seen in HSBC branded clothing.
But it's her association with Pimm's that seems to have caused the biggest outcry.
Users of the social network Twitter have said they are 'sick to death' of her advert for the drink on the website, which shows Mrs Murray training bar staff to make the perfect Pimm's.
It's been reported that her string of lucrative deals net her at least £70,000 over Wimbledon fortnight, with the coffee company association worth £25,000.
Freebies For The Players
If all that sponsorship stash wasn't enough, each player — whatever their ranking — is given a Wimbledon goodie bag worth £450 on arrival at the tournament.
Inside is a branded DVD, annual and poster, as well as a smartphone charger, a £250 voucher to spend in the club shop, a leather washbag and a pair of theatre tickets — costing up to £100 each — to use during their time in London.
There's a Ticketmaster booking office at the tournament and players are invited to choose 'anything they like', explains a Wimbledon spokeswoman.
'They are eligible for two top price seats. Last week, the most popular shows were Wicked, Matilda and the Beyonce concert.'
With 256 players at the tournament, the goodie bags alone cost more than £115,000.
The Wimbledon towels are another boon, with several top-tier players — including Novak Djokovic, who confessed that he leaves half his suitcase empty to fill with towels as gift for friends once the tournament is over.
The club gets back only about a quarter of the 6,000 towels it issues each year.
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