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Technology – a game, set and match made in heaven?

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In marked contrast to some of this year’s major sporting events in London, Wimbledon has consistently demonstrated a rather understated approach to sponsorship.

Aside from the famous Rolex clock and the branded Slazenger balls, the All England Club forbids corporate branding and hoardings within the grounds of Wimbledon itself. While this restriction has led to a lot of creative innovation from sponsors, it also offers some interesting challenges.

If one physical space is out of bounds, promotional activity spreads to other spaces – particularly virtual. The official online score website, provided by IBM, is now state of the art, allowing millions to experience the excitement of Wimbledon even if they are thousands of miles away from Centre Court.

The site’s live streaming, online shop, real-time results and mobile applications show just how important technology has become as a tool for sponsors in recent Wimbledon tournaments. In previous years, online providers of everything from credit cards to telephone services have taken advantage of the sponsorship opportunities the virtual world can offer. Yet as this kind of technology grows in sophistication, protecting its operational efficiency and security is becoming more vital than ever.

This year’s Wimbledon has already shown how technological failure can turn potentially good PR into something to be buried as quickly as possible. A few days after the systems failure which paralysed the online accounts of customers of some major UK banks, one of them announced it was cancelling its Wimbledon corporate hospitality packages to avoid sending out the wrong message – at an estimated cost of several hundred thousand pounds.

As Ben Wiggins, Contingency underwriter with Lloyd’s specialist sports and leisure syndicate, Sportscover, points out,

“While we can provide cover for a number of risks outside sponsors’ control, like the cancellation of the event or death or disgrace of a sponsored athlete, with others – including a sponsor changing their mind – it’s not something that’s possible to insure against.”

So, while many Wimbledon sponsors have found physical restrictions are no match for a creative marketing strategy, the importance of protecting the technology on which it relies has, this year, been put under the spotlight as never before.

(source: Lloyd’s of London 04072012)

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