From Glastonbury to Wimbledon, the tens of thousands of attendees at events that can only be described as ‘British institutions’ have been sharing the action for all the world to see on social media for years now. This user-generated content is a more ‘raw’, ‘live’ version of the polished televised highlights and gives fans at home a real flavour of the atmosphere. As with most brands, the organisers are now having to catch up with their customers by making digital and social media an integrated part of the events themselves.

Alexandra Willis, content and communications manager at Wimbledon, told the Telegraph last week about the digital content powerhouse behind the sporting event, which has been developed in response to the fact that content shared by ticket holders reaches a digital audience of 20 million. That audience no doubt translates into currency for the organisers and sponsors which can’t just be left to engage organically with no coherent strategy.

Whilst recognising that most tennis fans are there to experience the Centre Court action first hand, the Wimbledon content team has stuck to the outskirts of proceedings with digital platforms like a ‘Twitter mirror’ in the queue and a big screen showcasing live user-generated content on Henman Hill. Campaigns such as #WelcomeBackAndy set the tone for ‘virtual ticket holders’ and makes them feel part of the live buzz.

Willis’ strategy “is about making our digital channels the next best thing to being here” – and it’s working with 61% of Twitter users following the action as a means of“feeling closer to the event”. The ‘Social Command Centre’ that’s been set up is providing the content team with huge amounts of audience insight which is allowing them to respond in ‘real time’ to what audiences around the world want.

Many brands and businesses are relying on their fans to maintain buzz about them online and allow them to reach a much wider audience via word of mouth endorsement from their biggest advocates – and so they should. But social media has evolved to a point where leaving your brand narrative in the hands of others is no longer sufficient. With the right strategy that encourages and ties together user-generated content, brands can set the tone of conversation and glean huge amounts of insight into their target audience which they can respond to in a way that will dramatically increase reach and engagement.

By putting creative content at ‘Centre Court’ of their strategy, the team behind Wimbledon are showing how to take control of the game with all the aim and poise of a tennis pro.