Why the Aus Open is the new experiential frontier

Bastion EBA creative strategist Georgia Patch
By Bastion EBA creative strategist Georgia Patch | 30 January 2020

With total attendance approaching 800K over a 2-week period, the Australian Open (AO) is the biggest sporting event in the southern hemisphere.

With serious crowds, and even bigger broadcast numbers, it’s no shock that sponsors have upped the ante in recent years with zones that step away from preaching a commercial brand plea to immersive experiences that leave a long-lasting, emotional impression on attendees.

While ‘customer centered design’ and ‘consumer first’ experiences are vetted concepts when it comes to product design and the online customer journey, in sports sponsorship it’s only just getting started.

The AO is proof that it’s perhaps less about logo placement (judged by ROI) and increasingly about the consumer reward (judged by return on experience or ROX).

Tennis Australia’s desire has been to transform the Australian Open to more than just a sporting event, instead creating an entertainment destination in its own right.

With restaurants, live entertainment and anchoring themes for the GSO (this years themes: “Countryside”, “Eastside” and “Northside”), sponsors are taking heed of Tennis Australia’s visions with activations that focus on detail, frictionless customer experiences and above all, creating memories.

In this post-interruption era, (read: ad blockers and streaming services) brands have to work harder to win over the hearts and minds of their target audience.

A simple logo placement no longer constitutes success at the sponsor or consumer level.

For brands the AO has become a chance to build activations that elevate live sports experience and connect with people through tangible, real-world activities that communicate things TVC’s can’t.

According to the Freeman Global Brand Experience study, 93% of consumers claim that live events have a larger influence on them than TV ads.

The human touch and immersive nature of experiential goes a long way for brands and pays off in the long run; they engage customers directly by inviting them to participate in-person rather than putting them in the role of a passive spectator.

Experiences are an opportunity for brands to bring their ethos to life and turn imagination into reality, helping customers fall in love with their culture not just their products.

This thinking reflects the needs and wants of today’s consumers who prioritise creating memories thanks, in part to social media.

With today’s more discerning and powerful consumer, experiential is a huge opportunity for brands to spark positive word of mouth through tactile activations that humanise an otherwise inanimate entity.

Unlike the past where the internet was a way to escape our physical worlds, today, the real world has become a respite from the interminable pull of our digital lives.

A bad experience runs not the risk of being ignored, but of being called out and publicly shamed.

This is the year that Pat Cash’s words will ring truer than ever “It’s always felt like a festival that happens to have a tennis tournament going on at the same time” and we’re excited to watch it unfold as we enter week two of the event.

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