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SMS completes 30th Wimbledon census

Wilson was the No.1 racket brand at Wimbledon for the 20th consecutive year, but HEAD had the most winners at the 2014 Championships, the 30th annual equipment census by SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC. (SMS INC.) has revealed.

SMS Inc, a sports research company based in Surrey, has recorded the equipment, clothing and footwear at The Championships for the past 30 years, not only in the men’s and women’s singles but across 12 categories including juniors, invitational and wheelchair competitions.

This summer, nine champions used a HEAD racket, but Wilson had the most rackets in use across all competitions this year. HEAD also made the biggest gain in 2014, increasing its racket count by 20 compared with 12 months previously.

“It’s a landmark year for our company and its association with the Wimbledon Championships,” said managing director John Bushell. “It is a real privilege working for the All England Lawn Tennis Club, and our team are proud to be building on this association each year.”

“We had a team of around 12 people at The Championships with an office based behind the media centre and media broadcast roof, next to the AA and the police,” explains Bushell.

“Our team undertook four projects during the fortnight. As well as conducting an equipment census we also carried out face-to-face interviews with spectators and with people in the queue, as well as interviewing players.

“We are also doing research amongst staff via a post-event online survey with those working at The Championships in catering, merchandise, security, court services and cleaning.”

At every match, from the first round of the men’s singles to the final of the mixed doubles, a SMS Inc. representative records details of rackets, strings, shoes, clothing and other equipment, as well as detailing the time spent by brand ambassadors on Wimbledon’s show courts.

Since the first survey in 1985, Wilson, Prince and HEAD remain three of the biggest racket brands, but Babolat, which made its first racket in 1994, has muscled in on the act. Thirty years ago, the top three brands of Wilson, Prince and HEAD represented 43% of the rackets in play at Wimbledon.

By 2004, Babolat had established itself as a major presence in the racket industry and last year the four biggest brands represented a substantial 82% of the playing market at the 2013 Championships.

In 2009 Wilson had a 35.5% share in the market, almost double that of Babolat (18.2%), but in the last five years the French brand has closed the gap to just 1.2% – or seven rackets.

In 2013, while Wilson was No.1 in terms of racket count, HEAD enjoyed more show-court exposure as the brand amassed an impressive 6,164 minutes, or close to four days’ worth of airtime.

Pacific, Mantis, Artengo and Tecnifibre had no presence in the market in 1985, while Le Coq Sportif, Spalding, Rossignol and Browning are racket brands that are no longer in use that were around in the past.

“Sports Marketing Surveys has helped The Championships and the manufacturers monitor the changing trends in equipment and brands over the past 29 years,” said Mick Desmond, commercial director at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. “Their professionalism, attention-to-detail and careful and unobtrusive presence continues to give us confidence in the supply of this valuable insight.”