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Vodafone has struck a five-year deal to sponsor Wimbledon and has signed Tim Henman and Laura Robson as brand ambassadors, with the mobile firm also in discussions about a deal with the teen tennis star Emma Radacanu.
Vodafone has signed a multimillion pound deal to become the official connectivity partner of the grass court grand slam event, as well as a wide-ranging collaboration with the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to promote an increase in the numbers of people playing the game at all levels.
“There is a huge buzz around British tennis and Wimbledon is once again set to be a high point of the summer,” said Max Taylor, consumer director at Vodafone. “We want to build on this momentum long-term by supporting the grassroots to get players of all ages, abilities and backgrounds involved in sport.”
The mobile phone company, which successfully gambled on sponsoring last year’s British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa despite the threat posed by the pandemic, has also confirmed publicly for the first time that it is closing in on a deal with Radacanu.
The 19-year old announced herself on the world stage at Wimbledon last year, going on to win the US Open in September and become the first British female player to triumph at a grand slam in 44 years.
Radacanu is currently one of the hottest marketing properties in global sport with a string of deals, from Nike and Dior to Tiffany and Wilson, and in December announced new partnerships with Evian and British Airways.
“I can confirm we are in talks with Emma Radacanu,” Taylor said. “We think she would be a fantastic ambassador and would be great for our partnership and ambitions around grassroots tennis. There is nothing formal to announce, but we are in talks.”
Reports have suggested that a deal with Raducanu, who won BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2021, could be worth £3m, but it is understood this figure is wide of the mark.
Vodafone will use its first foray into tennis sponsorship to promote the benefits of next-generation 5G technology, showcasing augmented and virtual reality as well as “internet of things” technology during the tournament.
“I will say that the 5G connectivity at Wimbledon this year will be fantastic,” said Taylor, who added that the sponsorship would be backed by a major ad campaign this summer.
Taylor said a key element of the partnership was to support the LTA’s ambition to get 10% more children into tennis, and 1 million adults to play regularly, by 2025.
The Wimbledon deal marks the latest ramping-up of Vodafone’s sponsorship strategy, which includes deals with Wasps rugby club and Formula E, with a number of new sports and entertainment deals understood to be likely this year.
Sponsorship was once a major part of Vodafone’s marketing strategy, with deals spanning Formula One, the England cricket team and Manchester United.
“It is really about timing,” said Taylor. “Years ago we had challenges with network and customer service, and some of the attention on sponsorship and partnerships fell away. This is a resurgent Vodafone in the UK. With the momentum we have got in the business, sponsorship is [once again] an important part of our marketing mix.”