When you think of the best watches in the
world, what company comes to mind?
Chances are high that you thought of Rolex
– one of the best known brands in the world.
Although their product can’t do much besides
answering one single question.
What time it is.
Nobody really needs a Rolex.
But many people want one.
A Rolex is the typical status symbol with
incredible appeal for millions of people looking
to spend their money.
And that’s largely thanks to sports.
Rolex built their brand strategy on sponsoring
athletes and events from the most elegant
and luxurious sports.
Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Annika S?renstam.
They all wear a Rolex while accepting their
countless trophies at the winner’s ceremonies.
Welcome to Athletic Interest – In this video,
we explain how Rolex used sports marketing
to become the most iconic watch brand in the
Rolex is the most recognized watch brand.
Established in London but moved to watch capital
Geneva after the first world war, it has been
the most sold luxury watch in recent years.
They are the market leader with almost a quarter
of the market share in 2020.
That’s almost 3x the share of their closest
It’s the only watchmaker to make it onto
the Forbes list of the most valuable brands.
Rolex have recorded revenues of more than
$8billion and their brand alone was valued
at $7,9 billions in 2020.
That’s impressive for one product that technically
no one even needs.
Rolex has managed to become an icon.
Such status, however, is not created overnight.
In the beginning, it was the functionality
that stood out – As we can learn on their
website: Rolex has built its brand on the
back of innovation and quality!
And this is obviously very important.
But it’s not enough anymore.
The younger generations, which have all grown
up with a smartphone, need to be convinced
of the values of a traditional timepiece from
a whole other angle.
The brand needed to move beyond sheer functionality
to impress the modern customer.
How did they do this?
In the beginning Rolex used slogans such as
“World’s first waterproof wrist-watch”
and “A Landmark in the history of time measurement”.
To underline the technical superiority of
their timepiece it was important to have the
When Hans Wilsdorf founded Rolex in the early
20s, his aim was to replace the traditional
pocket watches with one of the supreme innovations
of his time – a watch worn on the wrist,
resistant to dust and water.
He identified the sports world as the perfect
environment to push his newly formed brand.
He asked Mercedes Gleitze, an English swimmer,
to wear the Rolex as she attempted to swim
the English Channel.
The watch lasted through the 10+ hour attempt;
stayed in good shape, kept accurate time,
and didn’t allow a drop of water into the
With this historic achievement, Gleitze became
the first Rolex Testimonial.
That was 1927 – long before Red Bull took
over extreme sports.
That wasn’t the only stunt.
Rolex watches have accomplished some of the
most challenging adventures, from scaling
the Himalayan peaks, crossing the polar ice
caps, breaking the sound barrier, to exploring
the depths of the ocean.
Nowadays their slogan, “A crown for every
achievement”, has been perfectly chosen
to address their key audience.
Their biggest customer group are individuals
who have just got a new job, promotion or
pay raise and want to show off to everyone
Their second biggest markets are parents or
grandparents buying a timepiece for their
children who recently graduated or are having
an important birthday.
The slogan shows Rolex moving from selling
a product to selling a story.
And one of the best storytellers is sports.
That’s why the biggest watch companies fight
for the right to be the Official Timekeeper
of the major sporting events.
It is comparable to Nike or Adidas signing
If you like the Event, it is more likely that
you also like the official timekeeper.
Omega is currently established at the Olympic
Games – Tissot at the Tour de France and Hublot
in European football.
But no watch brand is as present as Rolex.
Rolex has picked out their events carefully.
So who do they sponsor and why?
Even though Red Bull and Rolex both have their
roots in extreme sports, they rarely get in
each other’s way nowadays.
Rolex is no longer looking to prove the quality
of their products by putting it on the wrist
of people swimming through channels and climbing
They would rather choose the sports that best
fit their brand image and that are played
and watched by their target group.
In other words, where there is an audience
that can afford a Rolex.
The result is a heavy rolex presence in(1.)
tennis, with its events rich in tradition
As well as (2.)
yachting, and (4.)
The only clear overlap between Red Bull and
Rolex can be seen in (5.)
But the two brands play different roles.
One wanted to create the youngest world champion
with its energy drink.
Rolex wants to show that they have such a
status that they can be seen almost all over
the track, and even name the tracks after
Football is not a focus sport for Rolex.
It’s a sport for the masses with a huge
audience and therefore the obvious choice
for many companies investing in sports marketing.
But Rolex is not a product for the masses,
so it makes sense that they stay out of it
most of the time.
It turns out that Rolex doesn’t even have
to sponsor some sports to get exposure.
World Boxing Champion Lawrence Okolie said
that a Rolex was his motivation to get the
His promoter had promised him: If Lawrence
were to win the title someday: He would buy
him a gold Rolex Sky-Dweller.
In an interview, he said: “Every single
moment in that ring, that’s all I was thinking.”
He spoke like the best testimonial Rolex could
ever wish for.
And they didn’t even pay for it.
Boxing is not the sport Rolex is eager to
be associated with anyway.
Better sponsor the Oscars.
There is at least one big advantage that Rolex
possesses when it comes to building their
Rolex is owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation
and has no shareholders.
So per definition Rolex is a non-profit organization
and is willing to say no to short-term profit
to ensure the longevity and strength of the
Non-Profit does not mean that they have no
interest in generating revenue and building
But: Each year after everyone gets paid and
all Marketing deals are made, they donate
the rest of their profit to charity – which
on closer inspection could be seen as Marketing
If there were no wristwatches today that do
nothing except showing the time, they would
probably never be invented in today’s world.
But because watch companies developed their
brands in the way they did, they’re still
big business today.
Rolex has perfected storytelling.
In the beginning with slogans that linked
the quality of Rolex watches to extraordinary
achievements and world records.
When it became difficult to stand out against
other watch brands with quality, Rolex changed
It was no longer about producing watches with
outstanding quality, but establishing Rolex
as a reward for outstanding achievements.
That’s why it will remain important for Rolex
to sign the best athletes and to be present
at the most prestigious sports events.
With Roger Federer, Rolex has one of the best
testimonials they could wish for.
No scandals, extraordinary performance and
for each of his Grand slam victories, he has
put on a new Rolex before receiving the trophy.
“Every time I put on my Rolex, it reminds
me of those great moments.
It also reminds me that if you do not work
hard, somebody else will, and they eventually
will pass you“.
In a world where everyone can read the time
on their phone, with Testimonials like Federer,
Rolex still manages to regularly swoon customers
to spend several thousand on a mass produced
watch and not having to deal with any buyers
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