HSBC Replicates Wimbledon—Grass Court and All—Stateside for Tennis Promotion

As Wimbledon plays out across the pond, British bank HSBC offered New Yorkers live viewings in Rockefeller Center, complete with the city's only grass court.

By Michael O'Connell June 29, 2009, 5:35 PM EDT

HSBC's slightly narrow grass court

Photo: John Minchillo for BizBash

Wimbledon may be in London, but the tennis tournament's official sponsor, HSBC, wanted to include New York fans in the festivities—and its related marketing—so it played host to match simulcasts and free grass-court tennis last week at Rockefeller Center.

To pull off the five-day event, HSBC's internal events team turned to British sports and entertainment producers IMG UK and New York media agency Mindshare Performance. The partners wanted each aspect of the event to bring fans closer to the festivities across the Atlantic, but public attention seemed focused on its structural centerpiece, the city's only (albeit temporary) grass court.

Construction of the court was left to Connecticut-based athletic field professional Rock Capecelatro (who The New York Times profiled last week). Capecelatro spent several months testing the best grass for the lawn, first trying diamond zoysia from South Carolina, before deciding the sod didn't give balls the necessary bounce. Fortunately, plan B didn't need to travel as far: The grass used on the court came from southern New Jersey.

But the stunt boasted more than just the court—which worked to HSBC's advantage, considering last week's frequent rain delays and the competition for appointments on the courts. Walk-ins got to experience other Wimbledon fare, like green-screen photography with the trophy, traditional strawberries and cream, and live simulcasts of the matches on a large television, complete with elevated seating.

Wimbledon at Rockefeller Center wrapped its five-day run on Friday, but the tournament itself continues through Sunday, July 5.

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