January 30, 2012

Meet Tennis Australia’s CEO

Following another successful Australian Open, Tennis Australia CEO, Steve Wood shares his strategies on how to succeed during a tougher economic climate.

Following another successful Australian Open, Tennis Australia CEO, Steve Wood shares his strategies on how to succeed during a tougher economic climate. Tennis Australia CEO, Steve Wood – who heads up the Australian Open – knows a thing or two about strategy. Here, he talks global competition, digital marketing and explains why long-term partnerships are crucial to business growth.

Career background

A contemporary of Pat Cash and Wally Masur, Steve Wood, 49, played the professional ATP Tour from 1985 to 1987 and took up his current position as CEO of Tennis Australia in 2005 after working in senior management for global telecommunications companies. Wood is responsible for the Australian Open, which draws 650,000 spectators and players from 200 countries to compete for a total prize pool of $26 million. Broadcast to 170 countries, into 350 million homes, the event employs 230 staff – a figure that swells to over 6000 during the two-week tournament.

Managing the global downturn

“We’re not immune to global economic trends. We’ve increased our marketing activity outside of Australia and we’re seeing an increase in overseas visitors to the Australian Open through our tour operators. Particularly from China, where we did a week-long tour to Shanghai and Beijing with the Australian Open trophies – iconic items representing a lot of tradition. There was enormous interest to come to Australia for the ‘Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific’, which is our positioning for the event.”

Nurturing new international markets

“International pre-sale tickets were a bit down because of the high Australian dollar. Event management and tourism sectors need to think innovatively about how they market because it’s tough out there. In the current environment, we would’ve been impacted if we didn’t get on the front foot and start spreading our distribution network for ticketing and tour operators outside Australia much wider. That’s what we’ve been focusing on during this pretty difficult time.”

Embracing social media for promotional value

“The world’s more connected than ever before. We’ve got Australian Open TV, YouTube and a sophisticated new website (launched in late 2011), which has had more than 14.8 million hits. We’re investing reasonably heavily in those areas. When the other Grand Slams are played, we see a lot of social media activity at that time for us, as well.”

Sponsorship management

“It’s critical to have long-term, sustainable, mutually beneficial partnerships driven at the highest management levels. Many sponsors have been with us a long time. In order to be in 200 countries at once, from one office here in Melbourne, we have to be really good at partnering to connect with those 75 million tennis players around the world to make sure they experience the Australian Open. We work hard at making the partnerships work to help us grow. One major sponsor with us year-round is MLC, with the MLC Tennis Hot Shots Program aimed at children aged between five and twelve. That has been fantastic for us because it’s what Tennis Australia is all about – focusing on the grass roots of the sport.”

Remaining globally competitive

“We really need to keep an eye on what’s going on around the world with our Grand Slam partners in terms of their facilities. Our facilities are paramount to the overall experience – seating, amenities, corporate hospitality, food and beverage.”

Australian Open customer strategy

“We look at everything through the eyes of a customer. We need to be careful that we don’t overload our customers onsite with sponsor messaging, and make sure they find themselves in a relaxed yet secure environment so that we don’t get ourselves in a position where not enough people come to the tennis. We have commitments to the Victorian government off the back of their investment into the facilities, so it’s important to get the balance right in terms of ticket pricing and the experience.” Find out more about the MLC Hot Shots program