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The Novak Djokovic Situation Won’t Hurt The Australian Open’s Brand One Bit

Big Ideas:

  • The argument that this story with Djokovic will destroy the Australian Open’s place as a Grand Slam event shows a lack of understanding of brand building. 
  • From a brand-building aspect, this whole thing achieves quite a bit of salience for the Australian Open, Australia, Melbourne, and Victoria.
  • Picking an enemy is also a really strong branding opportunity. 

From time to time, stories come along where everyone jumps on the bandwagon running the same direction and this one with the Australian Open and Novak Djokovic is a prime one for folks that know little or nothing about branding to jump in and say that this is going to “destroy” the brand of the Australian Open will all feel smug and justified in their analysis. 

They will all also be wrong. 

Why?

Because for the most part, the negative impact of this story is going to be felt by Novak Djokovic. The story is and continues to be about Djokovic and:

  • His anti-vaccine beliefs
  • His disregard for rules
  • His lying on forms and passing the blame onto other folks
  • On and on

The Australian Open is surfing the wave of Djokovic’s bad press to elevate their salience in the market, getting free media coverage that they would be unlikely to achieve in a “normal” year. 

That doesn’t mean that this won’t change, but the initial week of the story has largely been about how much of a rogue character Djokovic has been with the Australian Open being an innocent bystander for elevated brand awareness at a time that tennis might not be on many folks’ minds.

This all goes to say that it is unlikely that the Australian Open will see its place as a Grand Slam slip. 

Looking at the point of recovery and return to regular travel, this is also a situation where Tourism Australia and Tourism Victoria win by being seen to stand up to Djokovic, not just for public safety concerns, but because picking an enemy and fighting that enemy is a powerful brand-building activity. 

I’ve mentioned this concept in passing before, but over the years I’ve used this concept to attack ideas I know are bad like discounts, bad marketing, and poor strategy. 

And, I’ve used the same concept to position myself as someone that is strategic, focused on profitability, and innovative in my solutions by going after folks that use cookie-cutter ideas, only talk about revenue, or that just spew out tactics as if the only thing that matters is doing more of more. 

For me, it is never personal, but it is a powerful branding convention that allows me to position myself as the opposite. 

In this case, just by showing up and having evidence of ill-advised behaviors by Djokovic, it provides the folks at Tourism Australia and Tourism Victoria to be the good guys to Djokovic’s bad guy.

Examples:

These things all add up and the story they tell is that Djokovic is a bad actor and the Australian government is putting the health of the community first. 

It isn’t typically this easy to show examples, but in this instance, Djokovic comes off almost like a cartoon villain with numerous examples of bad behavior and disregard for people around him. 

The key ideas here are:

  • The Australian Open will only benefit from elevated awareness from the Djokovic controversy unless they are guilty of aiding Djokovic in circumventing the rules for immigration to Australia during the pandemic. 
  • Picking an enemy is a good branding move. 
  • In thinking through brand management, the first idea you need to consider is salience. 

Update: I wrote this on Saturday AM, about 11 AM Eastern time, and by the time I got up on Sunday around 8 AM, Djokovic had been deported. 

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