“And just like that, the curtain closes on another Australia Open” Antony Hampel begins. The auspicious trophies have been brandished proudly by the winners, in front of the thousands of awed fans and media people, keenly collecting their images and trading whispers of their expert opinions with their neighbor beside them. It’s now done, for another year.
Whilst it may have been a simple case of win or lose on the court, beyond the playing field it was a much more complex spectacle. The great race for brand love was on and it was strong. Who was winning and who was losing? Well, that was very much open to interpretation… Antony Hampel elaborates with his take on the most memorable activations at this year’s Open.
Ant Hampel took a wander through Melbourne Park this January. “Impressive, and really, incomparable to any other event in the world,” begins Hampel. “For starters, the precinct is massive, and in the brunt of the Australian summer, for the most part it is scorching hot.” Reaching from Federation Square in Melbourne’s CBD, all the way back to the rear courts that shelter in the shadows of the MCG, the Australian Open precinct is huge.
Ant describes the Australian Open as akin to a carnival: “it’s more than just a tennis tournament, it is an adventure!” The entire spectacular event is the product of careful curation, with numerous spaces coming together to form one diverse experience. According to Ant Hampel, there truly is something for everyone: from the kids, those hunting the celebs, chasing the freebies, or even those wanting to watch some tennis…
“With Melbourne at the helm, Australia is certainly leading the world with the biggest spectacle when it comes to a fusion of sport and entertainment,” says Hampel. The event has always drawn the crowds, with sports fans travelling from around the globe to be present for this one-of-a-kind event. In 2020, over 812,000 people attended the Australian Open, smashing records and reminding us once again of the enormity of its scale and unprecedented faultless fusion of sport and entertainment.
As the players battle it out on the court, sponsorship partners are vying for the attention of the visitors and spectators. “This is sports entertainment with very high engagement. There’s obvious appeal in that for brands.” In Antony Hampel’s opinion, being the only grand slam tournament in the southern hemisphere gives the Australian Open a unique appeal for companies wanting to create brand awareness and showcase their latest products. “The sponsors are strategically arranged amidst the vibrant grounds, allowing them to be seamlessly incorporated into the whole experience” reports Hampel. Furthermore, the clever ‘ground pass’ ticketing option gives fans plenty of time to meander, take it all in, and listen to what a brand has to say for themselves.
“Unarguably, theirs was the most memorable display this year” says Antony Hampel of KIA. The motoring mogul has been a major partner of the Australian Open since 2002. Ant continues, “they understand their audience. They understand that owning the grounds is about creating an experience to stimulate the senses and create memories. And this year, they did not disappoint.”
Using the Australian Open as the launching ground for their new Seltos model, KIA flaunted an immersive experience so grand, that it would draw crowds from across the precinct. Hampel had the opportunity to engage in KIA’s display. “From the dancing wall colours enchanting onlookers from the outside, to the BOSE speakers pumping Billie Eilish and an instructional video voiced over by the ever-popular Rafael Nadal on the inside, it was hard not to enjoy it”, Antony affirmed.
Garnier took the environmental angle this year with a campaign about recycling plastic waste from our oceans into competition tennis netting. A crafty way to advertise some new cosmetic products packaged in more sustainable plastic packaging. Antony Hampel described a giant ocean wave that was available for fans to take photos on, in exchange for a free hat or some product samples. In Hampel’s opinion, the distribution of thousands of small plastic containers was somewhat questionable in keeping with the theme of environmental sustainability…
The designated children’s area was buzzing with activity. Ant noted that Emirates had erected an exciting flying fox for the kids. The Natural Confectionary Company’s water pistol park offered some welcome relief from the blistering heat. Disney+ boasted some amazing franchised photo opportunities and QR code-led digital immersions.
“And since the inner-shopaholic in all of us can’t be muzzled for more than a few hours, the district offers brands the opportunity to flog their wares at numerous, impressive outlets” said Antony Hampel.
Hampel observed that while the pop-up Chemist Warehouse was busy hub for spectators rushing in for sunscreen and headache remedies, Adidas, 2XU and Country Road offered relaxed and tasteful retail therapy. Country Road went one better, offering customers free embroidery of their favourite player’s national flag or name on any Australian Open branded CR hoodies and tees.
Next to the gaudy colours of Chemist Warehouse, stood Mastercard’s striking minimalistic glass box. Antony Hampel witnessed fans queue outside for incredibly long wait times for a chance at the panic-room style immersive experience, educating visitors about Mastercard’s encryption technology.
“Expensive as expected, but truly curated with an abundance of choice” reveals Hampel about the food and beverage scene. Antony felt that the presence of numerous alcohol brands (including major partner, Aperol) flaunting highly decorated stands with umbrellas and ample seating, really created the atmosphere of a cultured summer festival. “This is sports and entertainment perfectly merged, in the global precedent that is the Australian Open,” describes Hampel.
“The Gallery Artois was a classy artistic touch.” Ant Hampel mentioned that each day, fresh, new artworks created by on-site international artists were unveiled and put on display for visitors to marvel at. Three hundred small, limited edition prints of each artwork were given away each day, and the originals were sold via online auction, with all proceeds to bushfire relief. The diversity and range of entertainment experiences on display confirming that the Australian Open is so much more than just a tennis tournament, but a real festival of entertainment.
As Antony Hampel made his way around the grounds, he noted a number of smaller activations scattered throughout the precinct. These included a VR tennis game, a myriad of photo and video booths, and some mini pop-up retailers. Around every corner, opportunities were provided for attendees to be entertained and to engage in and truly immerse themselves in the Australian Open culture.
“There’s no doubt, the Australian Open is the country’s biggest and most sophisticated sports/brand amalgamation” says Hampel. In Ant Hampel’s opinion, the fortnight duration of the event means that the significant investment in technology and infrastructure is justified for sponsors. The consistent venue locations means fans remember their experiences and are wanting to return the following year and become immersed again.
Unprecedented in its size, presentation and engagement, the Australian Open has become a global leader in terms of providing visitors the perfect combination of sport and entertainment. “It offers the thousands of attendees the option to embrace the full experience of the Australian Open spectacular; not just watch a match of tennis and go home,” Antony Hampel concludes.