“The one thing that was instilled in me at Tesco was a relentless focus on what the consumer wanted,” says Paul Burditt, Head of Insight and Planning at the LTA. “Focusing on a key objective and asking, ‘why on earth are we doing this?’
“It’s about understanding what we are doing, who we are doing it for and how we can continually improve what we are doing for the end user and that transfers from retail into tennis. My role is essentially to underpin the LTA’s participation strategy and make sure it evolves and is aligned to consumer need.”
Burditt (inset), who has a PhD in 18th Century English Literature from Oxford University, specialises in market research most recently in a retail environment. He was appointed to the newly created insight role at the LTA in 2013, having held similar positions at Tesco.com and Debenhams.
Burditt’s early investigations helped to inform the LTA’s four-year participation strategy. Published in March 2015 and with reference to his findings, an additional £9 million was committed to the participation budget with an emphasis on tennis in parks.
Burditt and his team introduced a daily consumer tracking survey to monitor the behaviour of casual players not reached by traditional tennis research. The findings have enabled Burditt and his team to build up a greater understanding of casual tennis players.
“When I first came into the role I needed to chart the landscape of tennis,” explains Burditt. “Who is playing tennis in the parks? When are they playing? Why are they playing? Who are they playing with?
“Since then we have conducted a range of detailed work. One of the biggest projects was mapping the end-to-end consumer journey, from the moment of thinking about going to play in a park all the way through to actually playing.
“It’s amazing how many barriers there are; there are a whole range of fundamental practical and tangible barriers to participation in the parks such as finding a partner, a lack of floodlights and booking systems and of course the weather.
“But there is also a lack of salience: outside of Wimbledon a lot of people just don’t think about playing tennis. We’ve spoken to loads of park players and they admit tennis just goes off the radar. And yet in May and June the weather is generally quite good so we have been looking at what mechanisms there are to prompt people to come out a bit earlier.”
While parks tennis is a major target in the LTA’s drive to increase participation and get more people playing tennis more often, Burditt insists that tennis clubs remain a priority and an area for potential growth.
“Clubs are the fundamental heartland of tennis and that’s my background; I was a junior tennis player and used to play for my club as a junior back in Essex,” says Burditt, who still plays regularly. “We are passionate about the clubs, they are the DNA of tennis and we believe the LTA we can do better in terms of supporting their needs; clubs of all sizes – sharing best practice and learning from clubs in terms of what they need.”
Burditt, who has been confirmed as a guest speaker at the TIA UK Summit in 2016, says there is a common goal throughout the tennis industry and hopes to be able to share insight to help the industry grow. He believes the LTA’s Tennis Tuesdays initiative is an example of how the organisation is using the insight and putting it into practice.
“We fundamentally believe in sharing the insight once we have the output and when we are confident in the product,” he said. “Off the back of the end-to-end work in the parks we targeted the female audience in the parks and Tennis Tuesdays went through a number of tests before we piloted it.
“Now we are pushing it to scale and off the back of that we were able to present that as a case study to the Sport and Recreational Alliance and Sport England.
“It shouldn’t be a surprise I guess, but in the last two years one thing I’ve come to realise is how many people involved in the tennis world are so passionate about the sport and really want it to grow. I find that really positive in relation to the LTA’s participation strategy because it sounds like everyone in the tennis industry is on the same page and we’ve all got the same objective in mind.”