The marketing mix of the ATP World Tour Finals
The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals takes place from November 15th till 22nd. The year’s best eight, in both singles and doubles, compete in the year-ending championships. The tournament is one of the ATP’s (Association of Tennis Professionals) major events. It thus provides a good opportunity for the ATP to promote the sport of tennis and especially their section of the sport.
In this post we will look at the marketing mix and in specific the 4Ps of the marketing mix: Product, Place, Price and Promotion. Although changes to the concept have been proposed and made over the years, including adjustments for modern day, the 4Ps can still be used to assess products. We will apply the concept to the ATP World Tour Finals and see how this long-established business tool can be used for sports events.
Product: The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals
The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals is the year-ending championships where the best eight singles players and best eight double teams compete. The tournament has been held throughout the world in various forms since 1970. In contrast to other tournaments there is a round robin format, giving the organisers and fans certainty that they will see each player play a minimum of three matches. A total of 30 matches, 12 round robin matches, two semi-finals and one final in both singles and doubles, will be contested between the year’s best players.
Men’s tennis is having a golden period with the likes of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal. These three alone have at one time or another been part of the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) discussion. With these kind of players the organisers can offer a high quality product to the fans. By allowing only eight players (and teams) to participate, the tournament becomes exclusive and gets a certain kind of prestige. Of course it remains sports and no one can foresee any injuries (e.g. Roger Federer withdrew from the 2014 final) or players just having an off day, but the ingredients are there for a great show.
The tournament is sometimes seen as an unofficial World Championships or the fifth Grand Slam. The ATP should definitely use this perception to market the tournament. The four official Grand Slams are all ‘owned’ by the International Tennis Federation, and thus the ATP has no control or benefits from essentially the four pillars of men’s tennis. It would be beneficial if the World Tour Finals is seen as the fifth Grand Slam or it can be sold that way.
The product offered to the consumers goes beyond just tennis. An entertainment experience is being offered that surpasses just an ordinary tennis game. Lightshows and music surround the matches and a fan zone is in place. This is not new and not specific to the World Tour Finals. However, given the venue (O2 Arena) and accompanied space and technology, the organisers really have the opportunity to create a show beyond expectations. Sponsors and partners often offer several fun and engaging fan activities with prizes up for grabs in the fan zone. The World Tour Finals Fan Zone 2015 has a 3D-printed trophy, lets fans experience HawkEye technology, play on mini-courts and test their tennis knowledge.
World Tour Finals Fan Zone 2012
Place: Where to play the fifth Grand Slam?
The World Tour Finals has been held at 16 different venues since its commencement in 1970. Tokyo, Paris, Sydney, Shanghai, New York and London are just a few of the world cities that have been host.
The O2 Arena in London was awarded to host the event from 2009 onwards. Last week the ATP announced that London would continue as host city until at least 2018, its tenth year. A period of ten years is beneficial to organisers to build some continuity and to adjust over time when evaluations show mistakes and inefficiencies. Yet, it prevents other cities hosting and thus a majority of fans will not see this generation of players play live in the year-ending championships.
Remarkable, although explainable, is that all editions of the World Tour Finals have taken place in North America, Europe, Asia or Australia. The Middle East, Africa and South America have never organised this event and can surely be defined as an untapped marketplace for now and an opportunity for the future.
The O2 Arena in London is a multi-purpose arena where music and sports (e.g. Olympic Games) events are held. The stadium has a capacity of 17,800 during the Tour Finals and lies in one of the biggest cities in the world. The city and venue are easily accessible. Attendance figures have reached new heights in recent seasons. More than 1.5 million fans visited the O2 Arena during the past six editions. 2014 set a new attendance record of 263,560, with nine of the 15 sessions sold out.
London is one of the biggest cities in the world (population of 8.6 million) and relatively easily reachable for Britons and Europeans. Europe has a rich tradition in tennis and the sport is still popular, making the location ideal for such a tournament. According to Tennis Europe there are 26 million players of which 10 million are licensed. A similar popularity can be found in Great Britain, with 424,957 licensed players, 2,585,043 recreational players, 2,828 clubs and 23,175 courts.
These numbers confirm the relative popularity of tennis in Europe. Together with the record attendance figures of the World Tour Finals, it demonstrates that there is enough demand to hold the event in London. Unfortunately, it limits opportunities to grow men’s tennis in ‘newer’ regions (something the IPTL tries to do).
Price: The ticket marketplace
The organisers have divided the tournament into 15 sessions, each session containing a singles and doubles match. Eight days, of which seven have both an afternoon and evening session. Given the possibility of an injury, there is a player on stand-by (number nine in the ranking) to fill in when necessary. This is a smart back up plan of course. In 2014 Ferrer was on stand-by and had to play a match. The final saw Federer withdraw and the organisers gave the fans their money’s worth by having an exhibition set in both singles and doubles.
Fans can buy their tickets through AXS. If a session is sold out fans are redirected to Viagogo, an online ticket marketplace, and the tournament’s official ticket marketplace. Frequently partner of major sports and other events, Viagogo gives fans the option to not only buy tickets at a secure marketplace, but also sell when they cannot attend the event.
Ticket prices and Discounts
Tickets thus include one singles match and one doubles match. There are four different sections, a lower bowl section and three different upper bowl sections. For the group stage the ticket prices range from £22 to £66. Semi-final prices range from £58 to £106 and final prices from £68 to £116. On Viagogo prices will not be fixed, but rather fluctuate due to the marketplace.
Tickets for children, defined as aged 16 and under, are far cheaper. The tickets are at least half the price of similar adult tickets with the cheapest tickets £5 for the group stage and the most expensive £58 for the final. Children do need to be accompanied by someone over 18.
In addition, there is an opportunity to buy tickets for multiple sessions or a full day ticket (afternoon and evening session). The latter gives a 25% discount on the combined ticket price during the group stage.
There are also hospitality packages, including private suites (for 15 to 18 guests) and business suites (lower bowl seats and access to hospitality lounge). These luxury seats are generally a good revenue source for the organisers of sports events.
The prices are reasonable, not too high. The far cheaper ticket prices for children compared to the adult tickets is definitely a positive. The organisers also give fans a secure second marketplace with Viagogo, where they can sell their tickets if necessary.
Promotion: New avenues
The tournament lasts only a week, but the event is promoted throughout the year, as it is the climax of the ATP World Tour. This can be seen in the Emirates ATP Race to London. This ranking is updated throughout the year, but strategically promotes the year-ending championships.
Promotion videos are shown on the website and on the television channels broadcasting the tournament (see top of the page). The draw ceremony was streamed live free of charge. The World Tour Finals has its own website, separate from the ATP’s general website. In addition, the ATP has several apps. A new app MyATP was launched at the opening of the World Tour Finals. Although not just specific to the Tour Finals, it is an online social networking platform for tennis fans.
Promotion and fan engagement, through such apps and free of charge features, will make men’s tennis and this event a success. With nine out of 15 sessions sold out last year, it is difficult for the organisers to sell far more tickets. To increase the size of the event when there is a constraint on the stadium capacity, it either has to move to a higher capacity stadium or other avenues have to be explored. For example by promoting the fan zone to fans that have no stadium ticket and organising match showings.
This article assessed the 4Ps marketing mix of the ATP World Tour Finals. It was shown how the ATP offers a high quality product to fans for a reasonable price. Simultaneously, it was shown that although the 4Ps marketing mix is a simple and long-established business tool, it can still be a helpful framework to create and assess a new product or sports event.