One of the world’s largest manufacturers of tennis rackets, Wilson, has historically been an innovator. They introduced the first steel racket in 1967 when their competitors were still forming rackets from wood. Then, two decades later they changed the game again with their “widebody” frame. By the turn of the millennium, however, the brand had shifted focus toward the technical needs of high-performance players and lost sight of what the casual player (much of their customer base) truly needs in a racket. So, we asked ourselves, how do we look beyond the needs of elite athletes and help Wilson fill their innovation pipeline for their casual customer base? Read on to learn about the actionable insight through this case study.


We had a hunch that the average consumer’s purchase decision was motivated by more than just performance characteristics. Wilson needed to understand the relationship between a player and their racquet first, then layer on performance benefit perceptions to tap into what they really want.

Instead of jumping to asking what players wanted in a racquet, we sought to learn more about the players themselves first: Who are they? Why do they play? What influences their shopping experience? We connected with tennis enthusiasts of a variety of age ranges and different skill levels via in-depth interviews, mock shop-alongs, racquet tests, and qualitative benefit ranking activities.

“When we dug deep, what we really found was that players were looking for control and confidence. This idea that they could swing freely and still keep the ball in play.”

Michael Schaeffer - Global Product Line Manager, Wilson Sports Rackets


A key insight we discovered is a tennis player’s relationship with their racquet is personal, and choosing one isn’t all about sparkly new technologies. Most casual players didn’t even understand the rational appeal of technological advancements or how they tied to specific performance benefits. Instead, these casual players relied on emotional judgments based on “feel” and “familiarity.” At the time, Wilson was over-engineering, they needed to embody the right attributes that the casual player really wanted.


To bring the key insights to life and make them actionable, we developed a qualitative segmentation, consisting of detailed player profiles that illuminated the distinct motivations, goals, experience levels, needs, and benefits desired for both racquets and playing experiences. These player profiles provided Wilson with inputs to tailor their innovation approach and recognize opportunities to guide players to the right racquet based on their level and style of play – rather than solely by technology or functional benefits.


It was important that we showed their consumers Wilson knows what they want and can embody those attributes into a piece of sporting equipment that has been around for decades. We found three elements through research. Players want power—they want to hit the ball and hit it hard. They want precision—they want to hit it in the lines. They want the right feel—they want to apply a certain skill set and feel it in their hands.


The insights and new consumer perspectives we developed changed the way Wilson thought about tennis players and their shopping experience. Combining that with racquet types and playing style, the company arrived at a new, more robust consumer model; one that fueled iterative rounds of ideation and ultimately yielded three new racquet prototypes aimed at the casual player. Now, the Wilson Clash tennis racquet is the #1 best-selling racquet in the world for the casual player.

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