Wimbledon is the embodiment of traditional British culture. The world’s oldest tennis tournament has many rules: players must wear all white – no exceptions – and there is no advertising allowed around the courts. Umpires use formal forms of address when communicating with the athletes, and the ball boys and girls are trained to be as unobtrusive as possible. Things are fancy enough that Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam tennis event attended by the British Royal family, and the Queen is said to be quite a fan.
Perhaps that’s the reason a few eyebrows were politely raised when it was announced that Wimbledon has entered into a three year agreement with Snapchat to cover the tournament. Wimbledon doesn’t actually have a Snapchat presence, but for the duration of the tournament, snaps from people attending the qualifying matches and finals will be collected in the Snapchat Live for the UK. There will be global coverage available on Snapchat during the opening ceremonies and finals.
There are a couple of important takeaways from this. Sports coverage is slowly but inexorably shifting from television to social media; in addition to Wimbledon’s deal with Snapchat, the NFL is working with Twitter, and the NHL credits social media for the stunning surge in the number of people following hockey.
To keep its messaging clear and consistent with the tournament’s many traditions, the Wimbledon team is in charge of their own Snapchat content; they’re not working with a third party agency. “To properly reflect what Wimbledon is and what it’s like, you need to understand it and live the tone of voice,” Alexandra Willis, head of digital for Wimbledon, said in a Digiday interview. “We have a better output because we do it ourselves.” It should be noted that during the tournament, the number of social media staff increases eightfold – running a high-profile, intense campaign like this is a lot of work.
Balancing a legacy of traditions with today’s hottest social media platforms certainly can be done. This year, the tennis won’t be the only thing to watch during Wimbledon. It’ll be fascinating to see how Snapchat serves this marketplace as well.