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Wimbledon: "Strawberry fields forever"

Anyone who is a tennis fan knows how important the Grand Slams are to this sport that is so loved around the world. And, if you follow sports headlines, you would know that the Wimbledon tournament just took place in London, this July. An incredibly elegant, recognized and competitive event. In addition to all the sponsors that decorate the stadiums and streets of the event, I'm going to talk here about a tradition that takes place every year during the tournament. I'm talking about the strawberry tradition, which is consumed by fans during the championship, and of course, other traditions that take place inside the courts. After all, the world does not live on innovation alone!

In addition to being a healthy and delicious snack, the tradition of eating strawberries in England was born with King Henry VIII's Chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, during the early 16th century. When the King visited Wolsey's home in Hampton Court, which was located near Wimbledon, the Chancellor's cook is said to have served strawberries and cream, another famous addition to the recipe that ended up becoming popular among different social classes, a fact that only occurred after this meeting. Since then, this combination has grown in popularity and continues to be the most popular food served at the prestigious All England Club.

Another interesting fact about strawberries is that there are references to the fruit in works of literature by great authors such as Sir Francis Bacon, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen. Who knew that the strawberry we eat today has so much history! And, fueled by all these inspirations, Hugh Lowe Farms, located in Mereworth, Kent, England, became the main supplier of strawberries that are sold during the Wimbledon Grand Slam. To play on the side of brands, this farm does an excellent job of caring for its product. The farm’s owner Marion Reagan, who inherited the business from her father, runs a careful operation during the months when the fruit is most productive–to ensure maximum freshness, strawberries are picked at 4 in the morning by farm workers, transferred to the packer at 9, and delivered to the clubhouse for inspection and shelling. And now for the final result: more than 28 tons of strawberries are harvested during the tournament, totaling 2 million units served! It is health and satisfaction for many people.

What I mean by all this recap is that, in addition to the high rigor in harvesting and distributing the strawberries, by cultivating this tradition year after year, the Wimbledon tournament does not just survive on innovation and high-performance athletes, but also on customs, cultures that are equally important and exciting.

By the way, in Branding, an area in which I have the pleasure of working, many companies and brands depend on innovation, and some only on innovation, to grow and reach a certain status in the market. It's almost like an urge that affects these organizations, where the only way to progress is to show something new. And, even more, this dependence shows that such organizations care more about novelty, often devoid of depth. Ignoring how much tradition can also be a great provider for these promising impacts. But don't get me wrong, I don't talk about innovation as an entirely negative thing. On the contrary, there is much to be learned and studied in this energizing process, which represents an important factor in the longevity and lucidity of companies and organizations. Having said that, I still believe that tradition, the rescue and continuation of the old, ends up being a very sober way of leveraging new opportunities and solutions. In our current world, where digital arrogance trumps the simple action of valuing pre existing customs, traditions, like that of the strawberries at Wimbledon, are the necessary adversative conjunctions that teaches us to stop and praise cultural conservatism as an antidote to increasingly unrestrained and myopic happenings. We have to have a clear vision, as professionals in Branding and other areas, of what we want to honor, always aiming at tradition as an essential construction for increasingly valuable and complete works.

Having said all that, it's not just strawberries (and cream) that Wimbledon is all about. The tournament has many other traditions! Starting with the clothes that the players wear, which must be entirely white. If you've ever seen a game on TV, you know what I'm talking about. Another great tradition is all the celebrities who are present on Center Court, the main court of the tournament where the biggest games are hosted. Names like Hugh Jackman, Jude Law and even the British royalty are part of the audience. This year's winner, young Carlos Alcaraz, even received an illustrious visit from the King of Spain! These customs, like the strawberry story, add value to the Wimbledon tournament, a globally recognized brand.

When thinking and writing this article, I remember the many traditions that I have already experienced inside and outside Brazil. The feast of São João, Christmas celebrations, even the coronation of King Charles III. These events marked and still mark my life, in different ways, like Wimbledon and its strawberries marked the lives of many fans. The importance of these traditions cannot be understated–they create cultural identifications, put us within a network of like-minded people, and nurture connections. Above all, in the universe of brands and Branding, these customs present an opportunity for companies to value the respect that exists between consumers, brands, and their products. There is no marketing link more powerful than this. Anyway, it's a lesson for all of us. The old becomes the new, and the new is endlessly renewed, from the Wimbledon courts to the strawberry-and-cream stands. Folks, innovation is important for growth. But tradition is respect, calm, the care that turns events like Wimbledon, and its strawberries, into much more than just a tennis tournament–it's the soul, the essence, the story behind it that counts.


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