Andy Murray: Serving up branding lessons to corporates

Andy Murray has recently become the number 1 tennis player in the world which will further enhance his brand. What branding tips can companies follow from the Scottish tennis player?

By replacing Novak Djokovic as the world’s leading male tennis player, Murray’s brand value has been significantly increased. The 29 year old Scot has already built a strong brand; he is well known for his integrity, quality and sense of purpose. This has made him a very attractive option for sponsorship. Many of the characteristics of the Murray brand are what companies strive to be known for. So, what branding lessons can corporates learn from Murray?


Be selective who you partner with

Murray is renowned for how picky he is when it comes to endorsing products. According to Matt Gentry, the managing director of his company 77:“If it affects his training schedule, or he doesn’t believe in the product, he won’t do it, regardless of the money.” This approach has apparently cost him a millions, especially since winning Wimbledon in 2013, but it has been effective in ensuring he hasn’t diluted his brand.

Murray’s main endorsements are linked to sport or technology. For example, he has a sponsorship deal with Under Armour, a company that sees itself as a company ‘run by athletes for athletes’. The two core brand pillars of the company are athlete performance and product innovation, which complement Murray’s interests and personal brand.

The Scot’s approach to endorsements is in contrast to other sports stars such as David Beckham, who is happy to put his name and face to a wide range of products. Companies can learn from Murray’s position of being selective with who you collaborate with, ensuring that potential partners have similar values to you. This helps enhance both brands.

Speak up when it matters

Murray is well known for his directness and honesty and while his candour has made him unpopular at times, it has helped him build a brand based on integrity. For example, after winning Wimbledon for the first time in 2013, he told the media that tennis players get paid “probably too much”. He weighed in after his sponsor racket manufacturer Head publicly supported tennis player Maria Sharapova after she tested positive for banned substances, saying he thought it was a “strange stance”. He has also spoken out about how younger players can be exposed to match fixing and need to be educated on it to protect the sport’s integrity.

As companies are increasingly expected to provide thought leadership, they can take a cue from Murray who offers frank opinions on topics that affect his industry. He doesn’t jump into any conversation but instead speaks up when he feels it’s right to do so and he is in a position to offer a valuable opinion. This considered and responsible approach is very applicable to companies.

Be aware of archetypes

Archetypes such as the ‘joker’ or ‘hero’ are often used when comparing brands. The newly crowned world number 1 has always been considered a ‘rebel’. He likes to do things his own way and his ferocious tenacity on the court has meant that he has often upset other players by fighting back and winning matches.

By contrast, Serena Williams is positioned more as the ‘hero’ as she has come from a tough background and has overcome challenges, while Roger Federer’s dominance and power has secured him as the ‘King’ archetype. Read more on archetypes in tennis.

Murray has built on this perception as a challenger with some of his recent investments in start-ups. For example, he has put money into the ‘Uber of beauty’, Blow.LTD, which is a start-up that sends hairdressers to users’ homes.

Interestingly, in becoming the world number 1, Murray can no longer be considered the ‘challenger’ or ‘outsider’. This should open up more sponsorship opportunities but he’ll need to be careful that he doesn’t weaken his brand. Businesses can learn from Murray by identifying what archetype their brand is closest to and playing up to that. In times of acquisitions, mergers or big company changes, companies will need to be flexible in adapting their brand, much like Murray will have to do in the coming months.

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