Like so many beloved events, the Australian Open has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Operated by not-for-profit organization Tennis Australia (TA), this massive three-week cultural event on the Australian calendar attracts over 800,000 attendees, and is beamed into 900 million homes, employing thousands of people.
A staggering billion people watched the Australia Open globally this year. It was the most-watched sporting event of the year in many countries. It completely dominates in the Southern Hemisphere and it brings over $350 million of direct cash, economic impact to the Melbourne economy, to the Victorian economy.
The Future of Tennis
While having crowds together enjoying the matches in the near future isn’t an option, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley sees the crisis as an opportunity for innovation.
“The last three months have thrown us for a bit of a loop, but it makes everyone think differently, which I like,” Craig said.
They are already planning for their 2021 event.
“It’s a complex thing, but it’s fun. It’s a big puzzle, and you just try and find different ways to create a different picture.”
Craig said TA is focusing on three themes for the 2021 event; recovery, reopen, and reimagine.
“We’re going to reimagine the event. We’ve got such a creative team. They have a lot of fun because they come up with these magnificent ideas. One thing we can guarantee the public, the event will be big. I’m pretty confident that we’re going to provide our fans a great experience.”
What can be done in the Digital Realm?
Craig said TA’s use of technology has evolved tremendously. Keen players can now use the online Book a Court system anywhere, anytime, to book a court. You can even use the system to pay for the time and find someone to play against. This helps keep social distancing rules in place, as well as just being quick and easy for tennis fans.
“More and more clubs are signing up to Book a Court because you have to have technology at the club that allows you to get into the facility by using a barcode on your app,” Craig said.
And it’s not just handy online booking where tech is taking a centre role in tennis. TA is using the aggregation of data and the analysis of customer segments to refine their business.
“We wouldn’t know what ticket price to charge or how to do dynamic pricing in a stadium without those data insights.”
And Craig is already working on the next digital update.
“The next thing for us is completely ticketless entry and a completely paperless experience. That’s on our immediate priority list.”
This willingness to adapt has helped keep TA staff employed during the troubling times of COVID-19 when so many in Australia have lost their jobs.
“I think we may be the only sporting organization that hasn’t laid off staff. We’re trying to pivot the company now to some different directions that are going to be of great benefit long-term.”
Overcoming difficulties in Corona Times
Craig’s passion for the sport and his people is clear. Despite the difficulties presented by the coronavirus pandemic, the staff of TA are looking to the future.
“We’re pretty excited. A lot of young Australians and some very interesting dynamic talent, globally, is coming through that’s going to be fun to watch.
“Every single day I have a proud moment for the people that work for our organization; their effort, energy, and their love for the sport and for the organization,” he said.
“But I think if you asked me a question in a month’s time, how we came to through this crisis will be the proudest moment that I’d be able to talk about.”
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