A Multi-Method Approach to Understanding Women’s Tennis Experiences



With a rainy spring here in Colorado our latest project mocked David and me. We are both longtime tennis players, though we have both strayed a little from the sport. Okay, maybe more than a little. Over the last few months, we both found ourselves thinking about grabbing our tennis bags and a new can of balls – then looking outside at the seemingly season-long rainstorms. With summer now here, and the dryer weather taking over Denver, we can finally get back out there to practice our forehands – weaker shots for both of us.

What rekindled this desire to play tennis? Our recent project that will help a client in the tennis industry develop new messaging – and potentially products – to engage female tennis players.

This project was perfectly in keeping with our recent recalibration in approach – to focus on the ways our experience can help clients answer important questions and let the learning goals drive the research methods. We needed to understand what kept our clients up at night – and work to answer those questions. After some discussion around what the client wanted to understand most, we shifted the project focus from player engagement with a range of different paddle sports (pickleball, Padel and tennis) to a deep dive into the motivations for playing tennis and on the shopping journey around tennis equipment.

Through these discussions we arrived at our defining research questions that may sound simple, but led us to a research plan built around gaining a base-level understanding of the connection between player and sport: Why do women play tennis today, and how do they learn about and shop for gear?

These project goals drove us to recommend engaging a nationwide audience of female tennis players through a quantitative survey and qualitative online focus groups. With the survey focusing on equipment attributes and recommendation resources, our online focus groups dug deep into the drivers and benefits of tennis and tennis-related activities. Our series of online focus groups engaged women from California to Connecticut and identified opportunities to engage this audience and present our client’s products by uncovering the ways that tennis plays meaningful roles in women’s lives beyond the time they spend on the court. We developed a series of messaging strategies for the unique audience segments we identified through our open-ended conversations with research participants. We uncovered these opportunities and were able to develop these segments and messaging strategies precisely because we spent time helping our client refine their learning goals and understood that we needed to better understand the experience of female tennis players before our client could effectively communicate with them. Now to that forehand…