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CMO50 2020 #26-50: Josie Brown

  • Name Josie Brown
  • Title Chief marketing and insights officer
  • Company Tennis Australia
  • Commenced role September 2018
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 6 direct reports; 40 staff
  • Industry Sector Sports & Entertainment
  • 2019 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    “I painted a brand mark on centre court of a Grand Slam mid-way through the tournament,” said Josie Brown. It was a dramatic, and symbolic, mark. “I barely dared to ask if we could paint “Australia is Open” on Rod Laver Arena, but with enormous support from the chief operating officer and tournament director, Craig Tiley. The impact was game-changing, not only for the reach of the message to the world, but also the cultural impact of how our purpose and values shaped our actions,” Brown said.

    Marketing effectiveness

    The annual marketing campaign for the Australian Open (AO) is not only critical for long-term brand building effectiveness for the Grand Slam event, but it’s also a ticket sales driver. The 2019/20 campaign delivered record ticket sales – over 812,000 attendees in January.

    “A commercial triumph. And this was the first campaign developed under my tenure as CMO,” noted Brown. Joining Tennis after following seven years working at JWT in Australia and in Asia, Brown was ambitious to push for a creative idea that would elevate the iconic brand and translate overseas. “I also wanted to generate incremental ticket sales through a disciplined approach to targeting – in order to attract new audiences,” she said.

    ‘Be Open to Anything’ was the creative platform and call to action for AO2020. This was a year when anything could happen on the tennis circuit – Serena, Rafa and new champions like Ash Barty all with stories to take the trophy. But the campaign also went beyond the tennis and showcased the AO as the unique must-attend event of the summer, to a range of audience segments. “Sneak peaks of the campaign wowed AO sponsors and broadcast partners,” she said.

    “We adapted the campaign for China and partnered with Ctrip as our mass-reaching ticket sales hub in that market – the first time AO had advertised the event outside Australia. Domestically, I made changes to the previous approaches to add more complex targeting with tried and tested digital techniques, with over 20 creative executions dialling up segment-specific messaging – all with the AO signature playful tone of voice. “The flighting of the campaign kept us ahead of ticket sales targets from the moment we went on sale on 8th October.”

    Influencing change

    Brown joined TA with a passion to use the sports platform to lead the world in generating equal results for women as for men. “I sit on the Females in Tennis SteerCo within Tennis Australia and enjoy supporting women in our organisation to succeed in their careers. I often speak on this topic on panels and podcasts,” Brown noted.

    One of the strategic initiatives declared by the SteerCo is to close the participation gap and get more women and girls playing tennis. “Often, problems like this would be solved with a new on-court program. I proposed a marketing-led initiative to get girls to reconsider tennis as a sport for them,” she said. “I worked to enlist Ash Barty as a marketing ambassador in 2020, before she went on to win her first Grand Slam at Roland Garros and then consequently become World number one. The marketing campaign called ‘Play for You’ resonated with Ash personally and her story became the voiceover.”

    Brown’s presentation to SteerCo for a campaign created in-house with a national advertising spend generated unanimous supported for the campaign and champions for its ambition from the outset. “My goal was to make this campaign transformational for the sport – both internally and externally. First I shared with our board, to ensure they heard the context of the campaign and could spread the word,” she said.
    “I then enlisted all staff country-wide to cascade the message. Each staff member received a dedicated women’s edition of Australian Tennis magazine, posters on toilet doors and national team meetings. We profiled a range of Tennis Australia female staff on a LinkedIn series under the #playforyou banner.”

    “With over 6.6 million video impressions, positive engagement on social media and plans for a follow-up, this campaign is having impact throughout our organisation and across our target audience of girls and their parents.”

    Data-led marketing

    Data-aware decision making has been identified as a key success factor in driving digital culture at Tennis Australia, but there were no data/insights staff in the organisation. “Our partnership with Vic Uni helped embed the first team member, a PhD data scientist. His skill and patience enabled us to unlock facts through analysis – demonstrating the best locations to invest to facilitate online court booking systems or input to pricing strategy for AO to maximise yield. But I wanted our Insights team to have organisational impact, more than centralised reports,” Brown said.

    “The objective in the job description I wrote for the head of insights role was “Create an insight engine for Tennis Australia. Harness tools and define a process to mine for insight and present the information in a way that unlocks action”. Our initial focus was improving data quality and data practices within the organisation,” she explained.

    “Rather than jumping to invest with vendors or embark on technology driven solutions, we took time to discover more about the existing stores of data, how data was collected.” Early wins included setting up a new way to track tennis participants. Grassroots data is often collected by volunteers with inconsistent access to tools. “We set KPIs and enabled data to be collected digitally by participants, leading to more robust data quality and tracking. Measuring the national campaign, we could show that we attracted over 20,000 new players in six weeks.”

    "Through improved segmentation of customer data, we doubled AO sales conversion rates from 2018 to 2020 based on new data practices and upgraded creative. Now we’re investing in new technology. The business case secured executive support in large part due to the credentials of the team to deliver growth. We’re clear on the use-cases we’re pursuing and the ways to approach structuring our data.”

    CX capability

    “The biggest single impact I believe I have made during my tenure as CMO is the establishment of a customer experience team within Tennis Australia. The initial recruitment of a CX strategy lead on a temporary contract in October 2018 has now grown to a team of nine staff and a well-embedded practice of human centred design (HCD) that underpins the shape of the Australian Open as well as turning our tennis marketing programs outward to lead with customer needs,” Brown said.

    The first project was established with two goals: Address the challenge of increasing participation and digital engagement of social players; and turbo-charge its in-house HCD capabilities: learning-by-doing.
    “We enlisted Deloitte Digital and seconded a cross-functional Tennis Australia team to become HCD champions. We took over a dedicated space in our building, which was rapidly filled with Post-it notes, customer journeys and photo stories.”

    The head of customer experience engaged 200+ stakeholders from across all parts of the organisation to share the project, the ways of working and to explain what the team was doing. “Toolkits were developed with templates, ways of working and guidelines to support new projects – these are scaling capability across the organisation,” Brown explained.

    Aside from achieving the goal of accelerating its ability to be more customer-driven, the team identified three new products to get Australians back on a tennis court. This resulted in a significant investment in upgrading an online booking tool and national promotion of a new social way to play tennis – called Open Court sessions. "We measured the number of new participants who had signed up online to join a session or book a court and, by the time we had to pull the campaign due to COVID-19, we had met more than 20,000 new participants on courts across the country.”

    Commercial acumen

    The biggest benefit of the in-house creative is the speed and quality of the team. “Within hours of deciding we would raise money through an ‘Aces for Bushfire Relief’ program this summer, our team had designed a powerful lock-up, used to unify all our fundraising efforts and featured on-court,” Brown said.

    “At the end of January, following weeks of global news coverage about the bushfires, I worked with the creative services team to suggest we change our name to send a message to the world - that Australia is Open,” she noted. A new logo designed in-house was painted on Rod Laver Arena and across all tournament assets. “The commercial outcome was money can’t buy brand coverage through 20+ broadcasters on over 50 channels, with commentators in over 30 languages with over 100 million broadcast hours just for the two finals matches.”

    COVID-19 innovation

    Tennis was still in ‘peak season’ and running a successful national campaign to encourage Australians to ‘Get Your Racquet On’ when COVID-19 forced the lockdown in Victoria and impacted social contact across the country. “All elite tennis worldwide stopped and our content channels, normally full of colour with news of Ash Barty or Nick Kyrgios’ success on court, were quiet,” Brown explained.

    Government rules on playing tennis varied from state to state, but most clubs were closed, so the first pivot was to cease national advertising - communication switched to factual information through our owned channels. “At a time where many brands were defaulting to tell customers ‘we’re here for you’ we took a step back to think – focussing solely on sharing factual information such as ‘are you able to play?’ ‘How to play safely.’,” she said.
    Tennis was one of the first sports to be permitted back. “It’s safe to play with others because you are distant, but still able to play socially. What we learned, over a period of weeks, was about the real role that our sport plays in Australians’ lives. Tennis enables human connection,” Brown said.

    “We saw user generated content showing people playing tennis anywhere – on Italian roofs, on MCG walls, in lounge rooms and, of course, back on Australian tennis courts, where friends and families could connect. We celebrated that in our content channels. People who normally play other sports, picked up a racquet for the first time in years. By June, court bookings through our online tool were up 300 per cent vs previous year. People who normally played soccer were playing tennis,” she said. “What we’ve learned has taken us back to our core purpose – to create a playful world through tennis. That means focussing on the human connection sport gives us, how it brings communities together.”

    Working remotely has brought focus – getting really clear on the mission. Delivering on that mission in the COVID-19 environment has been underpinned by strong leadership, at all levels in the team, and commitment to collaboration. “When Microsoft Teams went down for a few hours, we realised how much new ways of working, sharing and connecting have become embedded,” Brown said.

    “From data-aware decision making, and the use of living segmentation profiles through to dynamic dashboards in the team, when we use data we remain accountable and focussed on action that links to strategic objectives."

    And with external partnerships, such as the Techstars Accelerator program that Tennis Australia supported this year, teams were able to work with sports start-ups, learn from the founders and also partner with them to find new ways to engage consumers. “It’s a fast track to bringing innovation to consumer marketing, whilst equally demonstrating the value of marketing to help companies grow.”

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