6 Things Tennis And Marketing Have In Common

Written by Phil Birss: Group CEO.
· 4 minute read

The Australian Open

The Australian open is always a great sporting spectacle and this year it has so far not disappointed. Novak Djokovic, currently ranked in second place in the 2014 Men’s tennis world rankings could not manage to cheat death as he has done so many times before as he was defeated in the quarter finals by eighth place Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland. Djokovic who has won this tournament for the past three years running appeared to simply run out of magic.

Whilst following the 2014 Australian Open it occurred to me that there are many aspects of the fast paced sport that are very similar to the ‘game’ of marketing.



In tennis rankings are everything and everyone wants to claim that first position. These rankings are based on a variety of factors including:

• The 4 big Grand Slam tournaments (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open)

• 9 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments

• The previous ATP World Tour Finals count until the Monday following the final regular-season ATP event of the following year

• The best 6 results from the ATP World Tour 500, ATP World Tour 250, ATP Challenger Tour, Futures Series, Olympics and the Davis Cup played in calendar year.


The same can be said for SEO. Google rankings are important because the higher a page ranks in the Google SERPS the more traffic it will acquire (as a general rule of thumb).

Google rankings like tennis rankings are based on numerous factors including:

Domain Factors (age, keywords in domain, domain history)

Page Level Factors (keywords in meta data, keyword in H1 tag, content, page loading speed)

Site Level Factors (domain trust, site architecture, site updates, no. pages, mobile optimised)

Backlink Factors (no. linking root domains, no. linking pages, linking domain age, links from .edu or .gov domains)

User Interaction (traffic, bounce rate, time on site, no. of comments)

Social Signals (no. tweets, no. Facebook likes, Pinterest pins, no. Google +1’s)

Brand Signals (brand name anchor text, branded searches, brand mentions in news, co-citations)

Onsite Spam Factors (Panda penalty, links to spammy websites, over-optimisation, auto generated content, ads above the fold)

Offsite Spam factors (Penguin penalty, unnatural links, Google dance)

Numbers Game


A tennis match can be broken up into an infinite amount of statistical figures ranging from the number of volleys attempted, amount of aces hit, % of unforced errors, % difference between first and second serves and the number of successful lob shots etc


Marketing is all about the numbers too! For example:

Email Marketing: The percentage of emails opened or un-opened, number of unsubscribers.

Social Marketing: Amount of Facebook shares, number of retweets.

Organic Search: Visits to site, conversions on site.

PPC: Number of impressions, quality score.

The trick is to use these numbers to your advantage. If you see that a lot of people are unsubscribing from your email newsletters think to yourself why this could be the case? Is this because you are sending out too many in a short period of time or is it simply because your email content is too spammy and highly sales pitched? On a similar note if your quality scores are low in your PPC campaign is this because you have a low CTR, your campaigns and ad groups lack relevancy and cohesion or is it because all your keywords are ‘short-tail’?

By analysing these numbers you can quickly see what parts of your marketing are working and what needs tinkering in order to achieve overall success.

All Round Game


Some tennis players are great at backhand shots, like Nalbandian, whilst others like John Isner achieve a high percentage of their points from the serve. However to be a true champion of the game like Federer it is vital to have an all round game. The players that rely on their one strong attribute will quickly get found by their opposition and will be made to punish for it.


This can be said true for marketers. Something that we are all guilty of is sometimes staying within our comfort zone but to be a truly great marketer you need to add other strings to your racket so to speak. The broader your knowledge, versatility and adaptability the better position you will be in to make a success of your marketing campaigns.

For example while some people love marketing on social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, they may neglect others such as using PPC due to a lack of understanding. Sometimes certain types of marketing are not required to achieve our goals however by disregarding certain types of marketing channels solely on the basis that they are not understood or are not ‘fun’ can be a fatal decision.



A tennis player would be nothing without his trusty tennis racket. These players will all have their own preference when it comes to the varying sizes, weight and brands. However it has not been unknown players to switch their rackets in an attempt to alter and improve upon their game play.


In marketing there is literally a limitless amount of tools available at a marketer’s disposal. These range from built in social media tools such as the Facebook Power Editor and Insights to design tools such as Adobe Photoshop.

Due to the marketing industry moving at such a fast pace, new tools get created and released all the time. Are you someone who is looking to find tools that are free or of low cost or do you want to try and invest in success by purchasing premium ones? Just like a tennis player don’t be afraid to drop one tool in favour of a new one due to familiarity in order to improve your ‘game’, as you sometimes are required to move with the times in order to succeed.



If a tennis player finds themselves in a losing battle, more then likely they will try to change their tactical play to counteract that of their opponents in an attempt to turn the game around in their favour and win the game.


If your tactics are spot on then great keep doing what you are doing, but if things are not working to plan and things such as conversions and traffic are falling then it’s time to head back to the drawing board. As mentioned above the industry that marketers are faced with is moving at a fast pace which from time to time requires them to adapt and alter their game-plan in order to stay ahead of the game.



The simple fact of the matter is if you want to be the best you have to put in the time and effort. Although some Tennis players may have been naturally gifted at the sport, the only reason they are where they are today is because of the hundreds of hours that they put in over and over again on the practice court.


Like tennis if you want to be an established marketer you have to put in the time. Do you read the latest industry blogs, participate in the forums and attend marketing events? You need to make sure you schedule time into your already busy calendar in order to keep yourself conversant with the marketing industry or risk falling behind.