As the world’s fourth most popular sport, tennis stands as a striking symbol of widespread appeal, beckoning millions of enthusiasts to courts and tournaments year-round. Major, or “Grand Slam,” tournaments, in particular, reel in millions of viewers and fans across various regions of the globe.

The four Grand Slam events - the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open, which take place in Australia, France, United Kingdom, and United States, respectively - trace their origins back to the late 19th and 20th centuries, with Wimbledon’s 1877 start marking it as the oldest. Over the years, Grand Slam tournaments evolved into a symbol of prestige and the highest tennis honor; if a player could win all four major tournaments, it would be regarded as a “grand slam.” In 1983, men’s singles player Don Budge became the first tennis athlete to win the four major championships in one year, and, thus, capture the elusive Grand Slam. 

With these large-scale tennis tournaments, come significant opportunities for businesses to gain global exposure and maximize profits. Major corporations such as Rolex and IBM, are just some examples of companies deeply invested in tennis sponsorships; their presences are felt through various channels, from signage at tournaments- sometimes even on physical elements of the courts, themselves-  to extensive digital marketing campaigns.

Middle Eastern airline Emirates is one example; as of Feb. 2024, the company signed a contract with Wimbledon and is now a partner of all four Grand Slam tournaments, having sponsored the U.S. Open, Roland-Garros (French) and Australian Opens since 2012, 2013, and 2015, respectively. This deal has made them Wimbledon’s official airline partner, as well as allowing them to have on-court branding on the venue’s Center and No. 1 courts. Emirates has also joined the game “Wimbleworld” on the digital game platform Roblox, increasing exposure to younger ages.

Similarly, Rolex is another company famous for their connection to the Grand Slams- particularly, the U.S. Open. 20-time Grand Slam winner and men’s singles player Roger Federer famously wore Rolex timepieces at four consecutive U.S. Open award ceremonies, just one part of his 10-year, $15 million dollar deal with the company; the partnership from just 2008-2012 attributed to the 11% boost in sales Rolex experienced in the same time frame.

The economic impact of Grand Slams extends beyond just corporate sponsorships, however, and on to host nations. Countries like the United States and Australia experience a significant boost in tourism during the months around these events. This year’s Australian Open, which was held Jan. 7-28, garnered record-breaking crowds pouring an unprecedented $482 million into the state economy. While the 2023 Open saw crowds of 839,000 people, this year’s Open recorded 1,020,763 visitors and 1,110,657 people in total. Tennis Australia Chief Craig Tiley cited the low Australian dollar for the influx of international visitors, particularly from the United States, whose visitors made up 27% of overall attendees. “The visitation that we’ve got internationally is more than we’ve ever had before, particularly from countries like the United States,” Craig said. “We’ve had an unusual amount of increase in visitation from them, as well as from interstate, particularly New South Wales. It’s been great for the economic benefit we provide to the state.”

Local economies significantly benefit from this increase. Mastercard’s Economics Institute’s analysis of the economic impact of the Australian Open found that Melbourne retailers in the fashion and experience sectors saw a 12.6% growth in retail spending solely during the tournament itself; they also predicted a 14% or greater increase to be felt by these businesses year-round. In France, the Roland-Garros tournament benefits local neighborhoods in addition to the city of Paris, with hotels, restaurants and shops earning skywards of 270 million Euros overall. 

The Grand Slams have a profound impact on businesses and nations worldwide. As tennis fans eagerly anticipate the next tournament, which will be Roland-Garros in late May to early June, followed by Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, the economic stakes remain high in the global game of sports.

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