How fashion brands win at sports marketing

We’re coming to the business end of Wimbledon now, and I can’t wait to watch the final two matches over the weekend. I began the tournament thinking about how Burberry, a British institution like Wimbledon, was using its heritage to grow abroad and at home. But what about foreign brands tapping into the history and glamour that Wimbledon has to offer?

The Championships’ visibility has never been higher, and it remains the richest tournament in tennis in terms of prize money. The tournament’s impressive profile makes it a dream for sponsors, with a huge variety of brands vying to be linked with the very British institution or the athletes that compete to win it. Regardless of the outcome of the matches this weekend, one brand that has had good reason to celebrate this year is Ralph Lauren, with 2015 marking the tenth year that the inimitable American fashion brand has dressed the tournament’s umpires and ball boys and girls. The brand’s uniform – which strikes the perfect balance between sporty and preppy – has become part of the furniture of Wimbledon. The rewards for becoming so strongly associated with the tournament are substantial, with the so-called Wimbledon effect driving up sales of strawberries and Pimm’s every summer.

Ralph Lauren has pulled off quite a coup in becoming so closely associated with the tournament itself for so long, compared to the sportswear brands that back players who must fade with time, no matter how successful they are. It helps that the fashion brand understands the tournament’s ethos, hence all the rules on how to wear the uniform properly. The All England Club has benefited, too, with Ralph Lauren operating some 95 Wimbledon concessions across the US. The reciprocal relationship has certainly grown the brand recognition of both tournament and sponsor.

Other brands that have realised the power of the tournament itself include champagne maker Lanson, which released a limited-edition Wimbledon-themed bottle last month. Ralph Lauren has certainly made the most of its ten-year anniversary, with an exclusive Wimbledon collection and a headline-grabbing party to celebrate. I’m sure that both the brand and the All England Club will be hoping for another ten years of the same.

Ralph Lauren isn’t the only brand playing on its sporting heritage, as fashion and sports have gone hand-in-hand for a while now. Last year Moncler celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the first successful ascent of K2 by Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni, both of whom wore the brand’s famous outerwear during their endeavour. The move, like sponsoring Wimbledon, is a surefire way to plant connotations of heritage and a strong reputation in the mind of the consumer.

One brand that has impressed me recently with its sports-related marketing is British tailor Hackett, which has teamed up this year with Formula 1 team Williams Martini Racing. A wide variety of brands have, over the years, attempted to attach themselves to the glamour and excitement of Formula 1, with Ferrari being the best known. Fashion brands also have an impressive precedent, though, after Benetton gained huge exposure from its multi-coloured cars in the mid-90s. Unlike the flamboyant Italians, Hackett’s sponsorship is more understated, with a simple decal on the front of the car. However, the brand has used Formula 1 and all of its connotations to create a truly brilliant advert. The advert in question features the Williams Martini team doing a routine pit stop, except that the team’s mechanics are all dressed in well-tailored Hackett suits, as well as their helmets and fire-proof shoes.

The image of a racing car stopping to change its tyres is fairly ubiquitous, but the surprise at seeing the mechanics wearing luxurious suits is visually arresting. As a result, Hackett manages to associate itself with Formula 1 in a total novel way, whilst also hinting that its suits are practical as well as glamorous.

What are your favourite sporting tie-ups? Let me know at, and have a brilliant weekend!