The Wimbledon Virtual Hill: the fun cousin at a classy wedding
By Community | July 4, 2022
Anna Afolabi, a strategist at Wasserman EMEA, takes us behind the scenes for a look at their award-winning virtual hill.
It has begun.
Celebrity owned monkeys, companies purchasing virtual real estate and luxury virtual concerts are popping up across the brandosphere. Welcome to the marketing gold rush for the world of web3.
We made our first foray into this world in 2021 (by accident) with the Wimbledon Virtual Hill, a few months before the ‘metaverse’ became popular industry jargon. We don’t refer to the Virtual Hill as a metaverse. We’ve learned it is actually more akin to a “proto-metaverse” – which is a virtual, (and more fantastical), imaginary version of the real-life environment.
Last week saw the launch of the shiny new version of the Virtual Hill, and we have learned a few key lessons along the way.
LESSON ONE: KNOW THE VALUE YOU ARE ADDING
Wimbledon has a strong brand and fandom. From hardcore tennis fanatics to casual fans to those who simply use the competition as the “official” marker for summer. The Hill itself also has a special role for Wimbledon fans, where the poised and professional brands can let loose. It’s the fun cousin at a classy wedding.
Our brief was to give more people around the world a chance to experience the special qualities of a day on Henman Hill / Murray Mound / Radacanu Ridge – or simply, ‘The Hill’.
It was this challenge that led us down the path of a virtual experience.
LESSON TWO: MAKE CONNECTIONS WITH AN AUDIENCE, NOT THE UNKNOWN
When any brief knocks on the door of digital experiences, it’s tempting to start with the practicalities of what we want to make. A game? A competition? A UGC generator?
During COVID times in 2021, we knew we needed to start with what the audience was missing at a time when Wimbledon was without a full capacity Hill.
Our initial qual research told us what fans really connected with. The Hill experience is a collection of smaller moments and feelings; the hustle and bustle of the crowd, the rush to save a friend a seat, or sipping drinks in the sun. This was a clear focal point, rooted in our audience’s relationship with the Hill, to build our virtual world around.
Letting the build be led by the audience, not the tech, meant that when it came to evolving the Virtual Hill for this year, we could hone it further to suit a post-pandemic context. From a second screen, rewards-based page in 2021 – to this year’s fully-fledged interactive social experience, bringing even more of the Hill’s qualities to global fans.
LESSON THREE: BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME
Leaping into the proto-metaverse costs money. With an eye on client budgets throughout ideation and development, digital experiences are a much easier sell when you can give assurances of strong audience reach and uptake.
Fortunately, The All England Lawn Tennis Club has incredible owned reach to help direct eager fans to our virtual world. Tapping into eCRM, social followings, app users and more meant we avoided the need for an expensive ad campaign. We could focus our efforts on the bells and whistles of the Hill without worrying about reaching an entirely new audience to show them what we’ve been doing.
An eager fan base has also allowed us to integrate member-get-member and UGC mechanics into the experience to further increase organic reach and traffic.
Connecting brands and properties with audiences through digital experiences is a fun and evolving plane. But even with new mediums, it doesn’t hurt to sense check against tried and tested marketing principles; What value are you adding? What is the audience connection point? How will we drive people to discover and engage? We believe it starts with building experiences out of audience truths.
Anna Afolabi is an Integrated Strategist at Wasserman with cross industry background in branding, research and insights, social media analytics and sponsorship & partnership consulting across brands such as The All England Club, Amazon, Microsoft and UEFA.