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The first tennis Grand Slam event of 2011 is going on in Australia right now. The terrible news is that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are out. Two champions who always deliver fantastic matches; it is a pity that we won’t get to see them fighting it out in the final. But there will be a different kind of drama if Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray duke it out at the Men’s final.

Image courtesy LA Times

What fascinates me about the Australian Open right now is the Li Na effect. Li Na has almost single-handedly got millions of new followers to tennis. The 28-year old is the first Chinese tennis player to make it to a Grand Slam final. The growing popularity of tennis in China is almost in direct co-relation to Li Na’s performance on the global stage. Her compatriot Zheng Jie has also captured the country’s attention but there is no diluting the fact that Li Na’s No. 7 ranking in the WTA, the first in the top 10 for a Chinese player, is a big part of why China cares about tennis today. A well-crafted marketing campaign is about finding the right hook to make a personal connection with your target audience. Tennis could not have scripted a better campaign to draw the world’s most populous country into the game. This is an incredible opportunity for the tennis world to explore the Chinese market.

Given my personal fascination with re-branding, as revealed in the Starbucks post, I also like the detail that Li Na started off as a badminton player and moved to tennis at the age of 9. Find your strengths and have the guts to switch your playing field!

Also, in an era when tennis stars seem to be allowed no life, when they have to devote their whole life to the tennis circuit , I find the two years that she took off to pursue a degree in media relations oddly reassuring. Given that in this blog I view the world through the social media frame, I see Li Na’s two years off as an argument for stepping away to revitalize a campaign. If you have jumped into a multi-pronged digital marketing campaign and feel overwhelmed, it may help to suspend your social media engagement for a bit. A blog a day, a tweet every few hours, a You Tube update every couple of days – this can get really difficult and can lead to muddled efforts. Give yourself a time out to sit back and think and to achieve perspective; and, then you can come back with determination and focus and go for the grand prize!