So .. it’s that time of year again; it’s that quintessentially British and much loved jamboree that is Wimbledon.
When Winter finally turns into Summer (we had Spring last week) and we all dash home sharpish to watch another late evening nail-biter with Andy Murray getting some practice in another 5 setter (why does he always lose the 3rd and 4th sets..?) we witness – and largely without noticing – a consummate example of how to police and control a brand firmly and consistently. And the great irony is that a key element of the Wimbledon brand itself is the deliberate avoidance of anything to do with .. branding.
So you ask, am I talking about the linesmen’s blazers, the miles of green painted everything, the curtseying to the Royal Box or the strawberries and cream? No, I am of course talking about the wearing of white by the players, and where any infringement, however minor, is swiftly and abruptly dealt with Stasi fashion, no matter how high profile the perpetrator.
Although of course, the more high profile and senior the player, the more they respect the Wimbledon brand and naturally and invariably extol the virtues and traditions that underpin them, and as a result add even more value to the brand … without branding!
The rules/guidelines for the clothing of the players is short, to the point, succinct and unmistakable – as all brand guidelines should be. According to Wikipedia, the guidelines regarding the prominently white clothing rules include:
1. No solid mass of colouring
2. Little or no dark or bold colours
3. No fluorescent colours
4. Preference towards pastel colours
5. Preference for the back of the shirt to be totally white
6. Preference for shorts and skirts to be totally white
7. All other items of clothing, including hats, socks and shoe uppers to be
It’s incredible to think, in this world of corporate endorsement and the branding of everything (usually by our friends from the Emirates), that the world’s premier tennis event and one of the most important global annual sporting events has managed to avoid selling out and giving in to the rapacious and highly aggressive world of corporate sponsors. As every other sport on the planet seems to have done so, we’d understand and forgive them if they did too.
But the fact that they haven’t, makes the white clothing rule unique and unequalled in both the world of sport and in the world of branding… and which defiantly adds more to the Wimbledon brand, in terms of it being more stand-out than any amount of sponsors’ logos and colour could achieve.
So when Andy Murray is serving for the match a week on Sunday, dressed impeccably in white – try not to look too closely at the Cross of St George on the sole of his (adidas) tennis shoe…