IBM Watson Helps Wimbledon 2016 Win Social Battle With Euro 2016

IBM Watson will deliver insights to help Wimbledon 2016 attract more fans but there’s still no WiFi at SW19

The All England Club (AELTC) says its new digital programme for Wimbledon 2016 will ensure the tournament doesn’t lose fans to competing events like Euro 2016, but there is still no WiFi in place at SW19 despite the growing importance of wireless connectivity at other competitions.

Cognitive insights provided by IBM Watson are helping to power official social channels which are seen as essential to attract younger audiences with shorter attention spans.

Notifications from Watson can alert the social media team to events that might take place in the near future, helping them to prepare content for Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and other mediums.

Watson-powered social

IBM Wimbledon 1“We’re trying to work with each of the platforms to create tools to celebrate the fact they’re either at Wimbledon or watching mobile,” said Alexandra Willis, head of digital at the AELTC. “Social media might not be the main voice, but it’s the first voice.”

This year, Wimbledon will take place at the same time as Euro 2016. To counter this, the AELTC is working with that tournament’s organiser UEFA on a cross-promotion strategy.

“Rather than a problem, we’re embracing it as an opportunity,” she said. “There are various footballers who are interested in tennis and tennis players who are very interested in football.”

Watson will also be employed to help Wimbledon ensure it isn’t crowded out by all the football related social activity that will take place with a new command centre.

“We’re extending it beyond the remit from tennis to Euro 2016 and other major sporting events,” said Sam Seddon, who heads up IBM’s work with Wimbledon

“We’re trying to identify the topics around football and try and make links to draw people from the football to a tennis environment.”

App driven engagement

Video is a significant growth area for Wimbledon, particularly YouTube and Facebook, but Willis admitted the AELTC is a “hostage” to technology, subject to the decisions made by Apple, Google and other major players.

But interaction with fans extends beyond social to its own channels, with mobile apps and playing an important role. Given that only a certain number of fans can attend the Championships, the aim is to recreate the experience to those you can’t attend. This year, a brand new Apple TV application has been made available, featuring Wimbledon’s video content and radio – the latter of which has proved surprisingly vital.

Wimbledon 2“This seemingly ancient service has continued to boom,” explained Willis. “Radio has become an unexpectedly powerful tool for us to [engage].

“We can give you access to Wimbledon on the platform of your choice no matter where you are. This has been our focus for the past four years – the next best thing to being here.”

Attention has now turned to making the event-going experience better. Mobile apps are now cross platform and spectators can now receive personalised information based on the day they are attending and whether they’ve been to the grounds before.

Personalised information might include travel information, places to eat and other things to do around the grounds.

“People who come every year might know everything,” added Willis. “But why don’t we tailor the messaging we give people depending on how many times they’ve been here. This encourages visibility and for them to try new things. We encourage them to take a picture or video and this creates a Wimbledon story. It helps you plan your day and gives you a nice bit of content for afterwards.”

Why is there still no Wi-Fi

Last year, the AELTC trialled Beacons around the grounds to help give tailored information but it hopes that the manual entry of data will mean it isn’t “reliant” on them and ensures visitors don’t have to have location features enabled on their device.

IBM Wimbledon Bunker 2014 (3)However it also helps to disguise the fact there is no Wi-Fi at SW19, making it an oddity at major sporting venues which are increasingly looking to improve connectivity. The AELTC has previously said it didn’t want to introduce Wi-Fi unless it could offer a quality service befitting the prestige of the Championships. It says that while most sporting competitions take place in a single stadium, Wimbledon takes place across a campus and would be difficult to connect.

“This is a challenging site,” said Willis in response to a question from TechWeekEurope. “But I wouldn’t say that’s the primary deterrent. One of the things we’re debating is what Wi-Fi would do to improve experience on site. We don’t have in seat ordering or retail promotions because it’s not something we’re taking with the Wimbledon brand.

“The intention of the app is for it to not to just get around the connectivity hurdles. It hasn’t been a strategic decision to investigate Wi-Fi.”

Mick Desmond, commercial and media director, said the AELTC continued to work with mobile operators and that nothing would ever be ruled out.

“It’s part of our medium-term thinking,” he said. “Should we have WiFi? People are here to watch tennis.”

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