Remarkable things come in small packages. Like an individual’s personality, shining bright so the whole world can see. Like a selfie with a smiling tennis ball!
This is what our first international campaign was all about – Buddy’s Tennis Ball World Tour 2019.
In today’s age in attempt for brands to make a connection, common approaches have been spam by email, or junk mail by snail mail. But we thought, how about something appreciated? How about something free? Or better yet, someone. Buddy is a symbol of the game that comes with a smile. We like to think of it as sending smiles. A reminder that tennis is first fun, and second a connection to literally one billion of us around the world.
These personal visits of smiling Buddy could potentially put a smile on the face of others. Maybe many others. Maybe we could do a campaign so extensively well that we reach all tennis players, connecting us all. As this was important to us, we started out on Instagram, direct messaging tennis players, asking if they’d like a photo with Buddy. We covered the cost and began getting Buddy’s passport stamped.
Right away many people seemed thrilled and gladly helped accelerate the campaign. Sometimes we’d get ignored when we sent the Instagram DM’s. Sometimes people said they would love to, but their sponsors wouldn’t allow it. Sometimes people said what is Buddy the Ball? To which we always said, he’s a tennis ball obviously. He loves tennis and we love tennis. He’s here to promote the game. Then they usually happily obliged. Sometimes not.
Sometimes Buddy got lost in the mail all together. Sometimes Buddy got to where he was going, but then held up in customs for 6 months. We hoped he had enough air in the packaging. Sometimes he’d go somewhere, and then got returned to sender. In that case Buddy came back with an expression like, “well that was all for nothing.” Haha. “But then always, let’s give it another go.”
Once the “ball” was “rolling” the requests went in the other direction. Players started to see posts with Buddy and they messaged us about how they could get a visit from Buddy, like it was a signified, verified trademark. A visit from Buddy validates a player as a real player. Every time we received a request, we happily obliged.
Pretty much all of 2019 Buddy was globetrotting, proving we certainly live in a tennis world. He visited more than 85 players (that’s one visit about every 4 days) in more than 20 different countries: Hong Kong, Spain, Colombia, Brazil, Italy, Denmark, England, Canada, Dubai, Australia, Norway, Germany, United States, France, Philippines, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, Ireland. In all this traveling Buddy was well on his way to becoming an iconic tennis ball. More importantly he was able to showcase many other rising stars in the game. Again spreading the smiles was the goal.
We believe the tennis player’s personality reflects the tennis industry. Maybe design by social media, maybe collaborating team work on social media, perhaps random chance, however it happens, watching someone catch flame amongst hundreds, thousands, and even millions is super fun to be in on. And it’s important to the community.
By no credit to us, but one story we came across on the Buddy Tour was @Makenzie_raine. She’s a tremendous young tennis player from Minnesota. She’s always had an amazing personality, and when she started to show and share her true self on Instagram fans gave her likes and shares ten times over. As she continued to share that personality the world welcomed her, and with momentum. A random friendly post of hers hit the “discover” page on Instagram, a page where Instagram suggests this person’s profile to those with similar interests. Suddenly snowballing hundreds of thousands of people started to interact with her on several social media platforms. It’s not to say that many likes are important. What’s important is that the world likes when someone shares. It’s a service to others. It’s a joy. It’s an opportunity to be one’s creative, unharnessed true self. Again adding to our community.
Along those lines, a Buddy group formulated as this campaign went on. It’s an Instagram group chat we still uphold. The key members are some of Instagram and Tennis’ key influencers from top coaches to up and coming players to top players: @matty_k, @blackburntennis,@canosellers, @christian_didierallehz, @clairecartertennis, @coachbusby, @droquiles, @himmelhebertennis, @kalliminor, @l_effrenchie, @makenzie_raine, @milantyson, @patrickdaciek, @peystearns, @suli.sangare, @tissetennis, @toddwidom_tennis, @vesagjinaj
The group regularly looks out for the others. Each person in the group regularly shows support to each other’s post just like real friends and family would do because it’s that real of a community. We respect it as such. It goes beyond general likes too. A perfect example came when Coach Busby brought to the attention of the group that a fellow coach in his area of the world had come down with serious medical issues that put him in the hospital, and in need of a serious operation. The twist was he didn’t necessarily have the finances to cover the costs. All for health and all to get back out on the court to work with his students of the game. When Busby brought it to the group, many members jumped on this coach’s Kickstarter fundraiser to help with donations for his bill. (A caring student of his created the Kickstarter) Long story short help came from many places. This coach was able to go through with the procedure and much of the cost was covered.
Making these connections are important. We’re not on this planet alone. And it’s very much a tennis planet. Of the countries Buddy visited, of the people, we discovered in depth perspectives of the game.
Next to soccer it’s the second most played sport in the world. That’s right it’s a tennis world, where people all around the world play all types of tennis and for many different reasons. There are players who are dedicated to daily training for fun because it’s exciting and the strategy is enjoyable. Some players play for fitness, taking advantage of the physical challenges and exercise. Others feel tennis running through their veins and have visions of a tennis career in the near future. There are a few who are currently living that vision as they play the sport for ranking, money, and notoriety as it is their career. Some play for a new skill. Some play for the interaction with friends. People play for all sorts of reasons, but it’s a fact that people all over the world are playing this great game. Another aspect that makes this place a tennis world is because the sport itself is nomadic in nature. Tour life.
Tennis players travel all over the world. Again for many different reasons. Some because it’s a vacation. Some are juniors headed to competitions. Some are pros headed to competitions. Some are traveling for business and tennis is still their exercise. There are camps to travel to for training and improvements. There are academies worthy of a trip for better tennis education. There are camps and academies for leisure because they are a fun experience or a beautiful destination. Tennis is available on rooftops, helipads, floating docks, ships, indoors, outdoors, in the cold, in the humidity, in the snow, on clay, on grass, synthetic grass, on rubber, on carpet, on sport-court, on concrete, on and on. You can get your tennis on pretty much anywhere anytime.
Buddy wants to be a part of all of it. So 2020 along with some other cool stuff, let’s keep bouncing. Or as the hand-written note that usually accompanies Buddy in the mail says, “Bounce Big. Live Bigger.” That’s our motto. And this campaign is what it stands for, bounces for.