How to integrate your Unique Selling Proposition into your digital channels?

An analysis of the BNP Paribas Open

USP 5 must-dos

Why should you choose us? Why are we better than all those other options you have? The answer to these questions gives us the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of an (sports) organisation. Organisations in all markets try to win over customers by telling them what differentiates their products from the rest.

They have to, given the fierce competition out there. Sports events not only compete with events in the same sport, but also with other live sports and entertainment events. And since we live in a digital age, sports events just as much compete with the TV and online coverage of these events. Fans are online. They communicate, interact, voice their opinion and buy online. It is therefore vital to broadcast and integrate the USP into all digital channels.

This article takes a look at several must-do’s for sports organisations to integrate their Unique Selling Proposition into their digital channels. An example is given by analysing the BNP Paribas Open, a tennis tournament held at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

The Unique Selling Proposition of the BNP Parisbas Open

The BNP Paribas Open is a two-week tennis tournament held in Indian Wells every March. A Masters 1000 tournament on the men’s tour and Premier event on the women’s tour, it showcases the elite of both tours. It has won the prize for best ATP and WTA tournament in 2014 and 2015, offers over $10 million in prize money and had over 438,000 spectators in 2016.

The tournament has no direct competition, being the only tournament at the top of professional tennis in this period. However, there is indirect competition from other sports and entertainment events during the same time. There is also competition from the Miami Open, a combined two-week event held in Miami, Florida, in the last two weeks of March.

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So what sets the BNP Paribas Open apart from their competition? What do they offer? What is their Unique Selling Proposition?

There are three elements to the USP of the BNP Parisbas Open:

  1. Largest non-Grand Slam tournament: It is the largest combined tournament outside of the four Grand Slams.
  2. Tennis paradise: It takes place at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, just outside of Palm Springs, in a stunning environment with beautiful weather.
  3. Hawkeye: It is the only tournament in the world providing Hawkeye – a line-challenge system – on all courts.

The Hawkeye element is mainly to the advantage of the players and the fairness of the game. That the tournament is the largest outside of the Grand Slams and takes place in what they call tennis paradise, are of course two great elements to use in selling the tournament to fans.

BNP Parisbas Open CEO and Tournament Director Raymond Moore stepped down at the end of the 2016 edition after making controversial comments about the women’s game. PR-wise probably a good move, as tennis fans were unhappy with his comments. Tournament owner Larry Ellison subsequently published a statement on the importance of gender equality in tennis and applauded the progress of the women’s game in the last decades.

1. Integrate the USP into digital profiles

A USP needs to be shared with fans and integrated into the culture and communication of a sports event or organisation. With digital channels being such an important aspect of communication with fans and potential customers, it is vital that the USP is clearly broadcasted on these platforms.

One of the most important steps to take, after having defined the USP, is to communicate this on a so-called ‘About Page’ on the website. In addition, social media channels have biographies and other profile-description opportunities. With a limited amount of words, a sports event or organisation can communicate what they are and what sets them apart from others, both as an event or organisation and as online communication platform.

The BNP Paribas Open does a good job of communicating their USP across their digital channels. The three points of difference, discussed above, all come forward in the introduction of the tournament on their website. Their social media channels communicate a similar story. Especially the USP of being the largest tournament outside of the four Grand Slams is communicated. Their Twitter biography might be the most complete of their social media channels:

2. Integrate USP elements into all communication

Apart from communicating the USP on the ‘About Page’ and in social media profiles, it should also be integrated in other communications. Think about press releases, news articles, previews, reviews, social media messages and more. Communicating clearly with customers what it is that sets the organisation apart will hopefully resonate with them. Especially when it is repeated in multiple communications.

The BNP Parisbas Open created a custom-hashtag #TennisParadise. Referring to one of the elements of their USP, they integrated this message in multiple digital communications. For example, fans would see the hashtag on the opening screen of the official 2016 tournament app.

BNPPO16 app #tennisparadise

The USP #TennisParadise integrated into the app

3. Showcase the brand identity with digital graphics

It is common knowledge on social media that it is important to add photos and videos to posts to increase engagement. Based on a large set of verified users, Twitter research saw a 35% boost in retweets by adding a picture to posts and 28% by adding a video.

Posts require graphics to get more engagement. Photos, GIFs, vines, videos can all contribute to communicating the Unique Selling Proposition. Yet, it is not always easy to do this. How do graphics show an event is the largest in the world? Brand identity is important here. Graphics make it easier to showcase the brand identity, whether it is a classic, happy, young or premium brand identity.

The BNP Paribas Open takes place at great facilities surrounded by mountains and palm trees. With perfect weather and the relaxed atmosphere it is rightly called tennis paradise. The beautiful surroundings make for great digital graphics. Photos of sunsets, mountains, palm trees and more can truly capture the feeling of the venue. Just take a look at the following video, a review of the 2016 edition:

The video does not only show tennis players and fans. Beautiful shots of the venue and from the surroundings are added. It gives indeed the feeling of a tennis paradise, a place you have to go to.

The video also showcases some of the main sponsors of the tournament. In that way sponsors are associated with the tournament and with a tennis paradise. Oftentimes the reason sponsors go into a partnership with events or organisations is because of similarities in ‘fan’ base or brand identity.

The BNP Parisbas Open did an excellent job posting graphics complementing the sponsors with the tournament’s USP, without feeling like sponsored posts.

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4. Highlight customer created content supporting the USP

Customers share stories, photos and other content they like. Big chance other fans will like it as well. In order to strengthen the broadcasting of the USP, organisations should use customer created content. Social media influencers in fan bases are far more likely to get the message across to potential new fans than the organisation itself.

Using players as ambassador for your event is another option to get the USP across. Fans idolise top athletes and are more willing to accept their messages.

The BNP Paribas Open shared a video of 2015 champions Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep. Djokovic’s comments perfectly complement the USP of the BNP Paribas Open:

“When I think of tennis paradise I think of scenery, mountains, sunsets, beautiful grounds, fantastic fans, relax atmosphere. The BNP Paribas Open and the Indian Wells Tennis Garden have all of those things.”

5. Create an online movement around the USP 

Creating an online movement around the USP is related to the previous point of sharing customer created content. An event or organisation wants buzz surrounding their product. It would be fantastic if fans interact with one another, share the organisation’s USP and get the brand’s message out there.

An essential step in creating online buzz around an event or organisation is to introduce a hashtag(s) fans can use and contests they can participate in that are tied to the USP.

The BNP Parisbas Open created a contest, the #TennisParadise sweepstakes. Fans could share a photo of what tennis paradise means to them and win a VIP trip to the 2016 edition. A fun way to not only create pre-tournament buzz around an important element of the USP, the BNP Parisbas Open being tennis paradise, but also to get people involved and creating content. On Instagram alone there were over 1000 posts with the hashtag #TennisParadise (includes non-contest posts as well).

#TennisParadise Sweepstakes

#TennisParadise Sweepstakes

Customers need to know exactly what they can expect from the event or organisation and what makes the product different from the competition. So when they hear tennis paradise they will think of the BNP Parisbas Open.

Digital channels are great tools to realise this by communicating the USP to (potential) customers. So, integrate the USP message into social media profiles and into all online communications. Use graphics, where possible, to enhance the message and get the brand identity across. Finally, create a following and share content created by ambassadors that highlight the brand and Unique Selling Proposition.

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