Despite its reputation as one of the world’s most traditional sports properties, Wimbledon has found success engaging consumers via social media while still maintaining its core values and traditions.

In her presentation “How to Ace the Opportunities Presented by Social Media” at IEG 2017, Alexandra Willis, head of communications, content and digital with The All England Lawn Tennis Club, shared 12 tips on how rightsholders can take full advantage of the power of social and digital media.

Below are edited excerpts from the presentation.

#1) Articulate your purpose
The most important role of social media is to articulate your purpose and what you stand for. We’re very lucky as a brand—we have very iconic attributes: grass, strawberries, whites, royalty and the hill.

We spent a lot of time thinking about what we want social media to do for us, and we settled on the idea that social media for Wimbledon should be the next best thing to being there. How can we use social media to articulate what it’s like to walk through the gates for the first time and be greeted by this amazing structure covered in ivory?

The second part of our purpose is a bit more tactical. We split it into two buckets. The first one is about acquiring new fans, and the second is about activating and retaining our existing audience. So how can we make the content that we are creating appropriate to wherever our audience is? That includes consumers on their way to work at the beginning of the day, at work, or at home in the evening.

#2) Develop your tone
The second thing we concentrated on is related to the first—the tone of voice and character in how you want people to interact with your content.

We settled on the idea that Wimbledon should be perceived as a slightly bumbling, eccentric, English gentleperson. Gentle is very much a part of our brand DNA. But it should be fun, not stuffy or uptight, hence the reference to bumbling and eccentric.

You don’t need to create a character like we have, but it helped to have a point of reference when thinking about the content that we want to create.

#3) Treat each channel with respect
Treat every social channel with respect, and try not to do the same thing across all of them.

We spend a lot of time and energy creating content. Am I just going to put it everywhere? If you haven’t thought about the channel, including what it is designed to do and how consumers interact with it, then that lovely piece of content won’t perform in the way that it should.

We developed content strategies for each channel, and we also resource our team so that we have dedicated people working across each. We’re lucky to have the resources to do that during the Championships—that can be hard to do when you have one or two people running all of your social media.

#4) People matter
People really, really matter. Having the right people on your team who will help you do social media well is absolutely crucial. If you’re going to invest your money anywhere, invest it in getting the right people to support you.

#5) Don’t be afraid to have fun
This was definitely a hurdle when we presented the strategy to our committee—that social media should be fun. An event like The Masters has always been very warry of any kind of humor or anything tongue-in-cheek.

You also will make mistakes. I once posted a picture from a Beyoncé concert on the Wimbledon account. You make mistakes, and you move on.

#6) Embrace multiple platforms
Embrace multiple platforms and the opportunities that social media presents. This is much easier to do nowadays than it used to be.

There is so much written about the power of video. Video is incredibly powerful, and there is no way of getting around that. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other techniques that you can employ which are a slightly different way of saying the same thing you can say with video.

We had an illustrator create a series of animated GIFs to relive historic Wimbledon moments. It was a slightly different twist on pumping out archived content. That’s something that we’ve really tried to think about.

Getting physical with social media also works well. We created a giant hedge with the @Wimbledon sign. It was intended to be a prompt for people to follow the official Wimbledon accounts, but it became a photo opportunity for people at Wimbledon.

#7) Pull from your audience…but also push to them
Targeting and tailoring content for your audience is hugely important. It’s important to know what they’re interested in, and it’s also important to be confident in your own content, your brand and your story to push content to them.

We have divided our content strategy into three buckets.

Planned. The first type of content is the kind that you can pre-plan. You’re going to push it out at 9:02 a.m. on the first day of the tournament, it’s going to go to these countries and these audiences in these markets.

That’s something we have begun to do more of. We did a little piece of content with Andy Murray with some puppies; they ran around on the hill and chewed his shoelaces.  Last year we did a lot of stuff around our new “In pursuit of greatness” brand position—the idea that Wimbledon is always trying to improve and do better. We did a bespoke piece of content with the Bryan bothers where we built a GoPro camera into the net. These are high-quality, high execution types of things.

But you can’t do all of your content in that way because it’s really expensive and you might lose some impact.

Preemptive. The other two types of content you can try to plan for.

We know that that every year the defending champions will open center court on the first day. Equally, we know that at the end of the week five people will be crowned Wimbledon champions. So how can we try to prepare for those moments and think about the ways we’re going to cover them?

There are also key things that are relevant to Wimbledon throughout the year—National Strawberry Day, Christmas and other holidays. How do you preplan and fit your message into those holidays?

Reactive. And then there is stuff that you can’t plan for. You have to be completely reactive. This is probably unique to live sports events.

David Beckham came to Wimbledon a couple of years ago and caught a rogue tennis ball. The piece of content was until recently one of the most watched videos across the BBC’s social channels. It’s one of those things that you don’t know is going to happen, but you can make sure you’re ready by having the right tools and the right people.

#8) Content first, partner second
One of the things that social media offers is the ability to create and monetize new revenue streams. But if you are going to succeed you have to put the content first and the partner second. That’s really difficult when someone is sitting there saying ‘hang on, I’m paying you lots of money, I want my brand in the copy, I want a pre-roll, I want a post-roll, and I want product placement.’

It’s about going back to them and saying ‘what are we trying to achieve?’ If you want someone to engage a piece of content, you can’t oversell it.  Authenticity is a word that is used a lot, but you see it automatically in the metrics. If you put out a piece of content that is too commercial and too heavily branded, nobody will watch it and no one will engage with it. And you might as well not have bothered.

We’re very lucky that some of our partners have embraced this. We worked with Evian to co-create a content series called Wimble Watch. The idea was to record film celebrities, influencers and other people watching and reacting to Wimbledon moments. That’s something Evian could really own—their whole brand proposition is around living young and having fun. It was something that we felt comfortable putting out across the Wimbledon channels, and it fit in with our overall channel mix.

We encouraged Evian to put spend behind the content on the Wimbledon page, which made it particularly successful. If they put spend behind the content on the Evian page they wouldn’t have benefited from the natural, organic reach from the Wimbledon page. You can add these different steps to create really compelling content.

#9) Invest (wisely) in collaborations
Collaborations are something that are talked about a lot. But the reality is they can be very expensive. If you haven’t figured out the right type of person and the right brand fit, you might feel, well, was that money well spent?

We did something with Food Tube, which is a channel in partnership with Jamie Oliver around strawberries and crème. Tom Daley (Olympic diver) came to Wimbledon and did one of his microblogs about his journey and how he enjoyed the experience.

Collaborations also can extend beyond influencers. It’s worth thinking about other organizations who work in your industry who you might want to partner with.

Last year Wimbledon collided with the UEFA European Championship. When that happens, everyone forgets that tennis exists and they all concentrate on football. So we went to UEFA and said ‘Is there some kind of content series we can create to cross-promote both of our events?’ It was particularly appropriate because the two finals were on the same day.

We came up with a content series called Wimbleskills that asked people to show their skills with a tennis ball. UEFA got some of their players do it, we got tennis players to do it, and we worked with the BBC to put it out to the masses.

You might have something in common with organizations that you compete with, and a relationship may be worth exploring.

#10) Test and track what you do
We’re a two-week event. We don’t have a warm-up or a practice event. It’s very difficult to test stuff. Football clubs have the luxury of opportunities once or twice a week. We find this particularly challenging.

One of the things that we’ve been thinking about is video formats. The tradition is to deliver content on a 16:9 display screen; now everyone is consuming content on a phone. Is that the right way to create video content, or should we create it square? We spoke with Facebook about this, and they said ‘well, have you tested it?’ We just ran some tests with the same piece of content on our web page and the square performed five times better than the non-square.

#11) Treat platforms as a collective
It’s important to think about social media as part of a collective. Social and digital go together, and when you think about your web site and other platforms you should think about social media as well.

There might be other people who are part of that collective. We have broadcast partners and official suppliers. If we’re creating content for our own channels, we should think, are there opportunities to leverage what they bring to the table?

And then there are paid media partners. This is an area where we’re very early on in exploring. Last year we gave content to Bleacher Report for their daily Snapchat Discover story. It helped us reach a completely different audience through a different kind of partnership.

#12) Don’t force it
Don’t force content. People will know—your audience will tell you.

We had an exhibition of the most famous posters in tennis a few years ago at the Wimbledon museum. The most famous poster in tennis is called tennis girl. It’s a picture of a lady hitching up her dress and holding a tennis ball. We used that as a piece of content to promote the exhibition. There was an uproar. ‘How can you use sex to sell an exhibition?’

We thought ‘Oh no, what are we going to do?’ So we crafted an apology and we got a barrage back the other way saying ‘What are you doing? Why are you reacting to these people who are overly sensitive?’

So stay true to who you are and don’t force it when you don’t have to.