Babolat and Wimbledon have been working together since 2013. As two of the world’s oldest sporting brands, they first joined forces when Babolat became the official shoe supplier. Since 2014, Babolat has been the official licensee of tennis rackets, bags, and accessories at ‘The Championships’.
Finding the right partners when you are an iconic brand like Wimbledon is a tricky task, one that requires patience, trust, and a shared ethos.
But when it came to getting the right company to help expand their collection of racquets, bags, and accessories, the All England Lawn Tennis Club had only one brand in mind: Babolat.
Founded in 1875, Babolat pre-dates the Wimbledon Championships by two years, and it is the history, tradition, and shared values that make them such ideal partners. The French, family-run company and the world’s most famous tennis tournament finding each other after 136 years.
“We really wanted to work with Wimbledon because it is the temple of tennis,” Antoine Ballon, the Tennis Global Marketing Director at Babolat says. “In terms of history, there is a lot in common in trying to keep a certain tradition of things while wanting at the same time to show how we can promote the brand, how we can see into the future, how we can make things change and evolve.”
Wimbledon brings Babolat prestige, but Babolat also fits in nicely with the All England Club, which likes to partner with companies for a long period of time.
“We are unique in two ways,” Ballon says. “We are the only brand that solely focuses on racquet sports, and we are a family business. We are now owned by the fifth generation of the Babolat family, and we see the Babolat community as a family. Working with partners for a long time is very important to Babolat.”
A Tradition of Innovation
Babolat was intrigued by the possibility of working with Wimbledon, whose motto of “always changing, always stays the same” has seen it maintain the traditions and uniqueness of The Championships while also embracing innovation.
“It's an interesting combination,” says Ballon, “working together and trying to push each other to change for the better, while obviously keeping what has made tennis what it is today. We want to excel, we want to push, and it is great working with a prestigious partner whose ethos is similar to ours.”
David Hewitt, the head of retail, merchandise, and licensing at the All England Club said the two companies were almost the perfect fit. “They are a partner; it is a close relationship. There’s a lot of heritage involved here, and we feel that their history is similar in some ways to ours. While we consider product quality and commercial terms in a relationship, beyond that, the relationship must fit on a human and emotional level. Wimbledon is based on heritage, tradition, respect, integrity, and trying to do the very best we can for the tournament, for tennis, and the general good. We decided to work with Babolat because they believe in our vision and share similar values.”
Together, the two companies have co-created tennis products with the Wimbledon name and slyly allude to potential collaborations in the future.
Having many top tour players use their racquets was also something that helped convince Wimbledon that Babolat was an ideal partner, Ballon says. “What they really liked was seeing Babolat racquets, bags, shoes, strings, and accessories used on the tour, so by teaming up with us, it helps the Wimbledon brand throughout the year when people see professionals using Babolat equipment and even more so using Babolat Wimbledon specific products throughout The Championships.”
As part of the Babolat team, we can credit Nadal’s dashing, dynamic playing style as a major factor in Babolat’s popularity, especially with the young generation. Partnering with Wimbledon has helped change the perception of the company.
“It really helps because sometimes, especially in some countries like the US, we are only seen as a young and provocative brand,” Ballon says. “We need to say: guys, we are as old as Wimbledon, we are into tradition too – look at the story of our VS strings and how we have innovated over many years.”
Helping Each Other Grow
The working relationship between Babolat and Wimbledon is very open and honest. “Everything is put on the table,” says Antoine Ballon. “It's clear we know exactly where they want to go, why they want to do things – it's very well-explained. They really want to promote and preserve their brand. And we understand that, and the fact that they are trying to bring in partners that can help them to achieve this goal. It’s pushing us, it’s helping us to grow.”
Hewitt says what sets Babolat apart is that they are always willing to work in tandem with Wimbledon, rather than trying to push their own wishes. “They are a brand and a company that are inclusive in the sense that they listen to us and in turn we listen to them. They don't say ‘we have a product we'd like to trademark with your name and we’ll pay for that’.
It’s been astonishingly successful because you have two companies who are looking and listening and seeing what each other is doing. They are an incredibly good company with a tremendous heritage. They want to do everything right. When it comes to Wimbledon, they come onto our wavelength. Babolat couldn’t be more suitable as a partner that has the same kind of approach to things as we have.”