I came across this article in this morning’s John Wall Street newsletter: Why Wimbledon Leaves $60M On Centre Court.
The premise being that Wimbledon leaves $60M a year on the table that could be added to its bottom line.
At the heart of this idea is the real difference between the philosophy of the finite game versus the infinite game.
If you aren’t familiar with these concepts, James Carse wrote a book back in the 70s called Finite and Infinite Games. Which talked about finite games being things we know have an end like Chess or Monopoly. Infinite games, on the other hand, have no end.
The best example of an infinite game being life.
In comparing the US Open’s business model with that of Wimbledon, you are comparing the finite to the infinite. The clean court philosophy that is at the center of Wimbledon’s brand signals to everyone involved that we don’t want you to just be here for one year. We want you to feel like you can be part of a tradition that stretches on and on.
On the other side, the US Open’s willingness to slap a logo on everything is an example of a finite game. While I doubt that they have thought of it this way, the desire and willingness to slap everything with branding and advertising is akin to someone with a scarcity mindset.
Meaning, they think that whatever they have is going to an end.
That’s what seems to be at play in a lot of the sports business in the United States these days. If you think you have a fan base that is going to stick with you, you don’t look to squeeze every penny out of them at every turn. Thus, you wouldn’t charge $16 for a beer; $40 for a hat, or $40 for a cheaply made t-shirt.
Don’t believe me?
Just look at the what happened when the Falcons lowered their prices on food and beverage last year.
In thinking about tennis and Wimbledon, it is good to be reminded that for many sports brands, have allowed themselves to lose their brand position because they have focused on the finite game of squeezing out every dollar today instead of focusing on the long-term value of having a fanbase that will stick with you up and down.
Whereas in the United Kingdom, you have a culture that encourages and relishes the ability for people to be able to experience these events and experience these traditions.
In the long run, you may have made more money in the short term by playing a finite game of squeezing every penny out today, but in the long-term have you potentially put your brand at risk when people stop caring?