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How OPPO Ushered in a New Era of Sponsorship at Wimbledon: case study

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By Thierno Cissé, Stanislas Gavoty, Antoine Magne, Charles Maillard

Wimbledon is one of the most famous events in the world—and not only for the displays of athleticism on the courts. The tennis tournament is also known for its chic style, respect for tradition and a conservative approach to politics that harken back to another era.

OPPO—a subsidiary of the Chinese group BKK Electronics, which also has telephone brands like Vivo and OnePlus—made heads turn in July 2019, when it marked its entry into the European market by unveiling a new and groundbreaking sponsorship with Wimbledon.

OPPO is already sponsoring FC Barcelona and the International Cricket Council but the renowned tennis tournament—known as an inaccessible sporting event that partners with very few sponsors—presented a different challenge for the brand. And, though such a sponsorship deal would be common with other properties, OPPO’s partnership with Wimbledon led to more than a few rules being broken.

OPPO: A Brief Overview of a Serious Up-and-Comer

When you add the shares of BBK Electronics brands (OPPO, Vivo, OnePlus and Realme), you get a total market share that could soon exceed that of Samsung. In 2019, OPPO sold more than 36 million phones worldwide, making them the third largest phone vendor in the world—ahead of the American giant, Apple. Samsung remains number one with 75 million phones sold. Huawei, in second place, sold 58 million mobile phones.

Step by step, OPPO is maturing as a brand and its parent company, BKK Electronics, is poised to own 20% of the global smartphone market in the near future. With their use of clear and relevant communication strategies—like the one they leveraged at Wimbedon—they are putting all of the chances on their side to one day become the number one phone company in the world.

What made OPPO’s  partnership with Wimbledon such an impressive coup?

  • OPPO is the first Asian sponsor at Wimbledon: Wimbledon is known as one of the most inaccessible sporting events in the world. With only 14 sponsors, Wimbledon has the fewest number of long-term sponsors compared to the other Grand Slam events. By being named the official smartphone partner for the next five years, OPPO made a huge entrance into the European market and increased Asian interest in Wimbledon
  • OPPO is the only sponsor to have visibility on Wimbledon’s Centre Court: Usually Wimbledon prefers to work with suppliers rather than sponsors (i.e., tennis ball brands, food and beverage companies, etc.). In fact, they still have a very traditional approach to sponsorship, which translates into no visibility for their sponsors and very few activations on site so as not to compete with interest in the Wimbledon brand itself. By signing with Wimbledon, OPPO has become the only brand with visibility on Centre Court—a huge first. It is unclear whether money was the driving force behind this unprecedented move or if it points to the tournament adopting a new approach with regards to its sponsorship politics. Either way, it represents an incredible opportunity for the Chinese brand.
  • OPPO is activating on site and putting their products front and centre: As we mentioned above, activation isn’t a key element for sponsors at Wimbledon but OPPO appears to be changing that. Wimbledon decided to give some OPPO phones to a few of their official photographers so they could take viewers inside some key places at Wimbledon. The result: the property’s social networks, website and media channels are filled with the brand’s pictures, which is a pretty persuasive way for OPPO—an unknown entity in Europe—to demonstrate the superiority of its image quality within the European market when compared to other brands.

This sponsorship seems to suggest that the conservative politics of the traditional British tournament—with regards to partnerships, at least—may be changing. OPPO has pulled off what other brands before it have failed to do at Wimbledon. And, chances are, they’re not going to stop there.

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