Wimbledon and IBM celebrate 25th anniversary with new innovations for this year’s Championships
IBM is marking the 25th anniversary of its partnership with Wimbledon by promising to bring fans closer to the tennis tournament than ever before through the use of SoftLayer cloud technology to monitor social media and cloud-based predictive analytics to help deliver more suitable content.
The company’s Wimbledon association dates back to 1990 and IBM, which provides technology services for all four Grand Slam tournaments, claims its consistent innovations for players, coaches and fans make it as much a part of the Wimbledon fortnight as Pimm’s and strawberries and cream.
Big Blue collects data on every single point at the tournament using a team of researchers located both at its bunker in the broadcast centre and on each court. TechWeekEurope was invited to take a look around IBM’s operations centre during the first week of the championships to see how its new innovations were aiding All England Club (AELTC) and broadcasters connect with fans and manage the tournament.
Social media monitoring
SoftLayer powers the new Wimbledon Social Command Centre which tracks conversations on social media. It can see what players and fans are talking about, detect conversations about a specific court and can even monitor the sentiments towards the Wimbledon brand – something which is crucial for the AELTC which wants to maintain the tournament as the most prestigious in the world.
The insights gained from this analysis influence Wimbledon’s digital strategy, which is increasingly focused on creating “the next best thing to being here”, allowing tennis fans at home to experience some of the atmosphere in SW19.
This has led IBM to completely redesign the iPhone and Android app for the championships, including a greater deal of personalisation options to users. They can specify which tournaments, countries and players they are following, with live text, stats, scores, video and audio presented based on these criteria.
“We continue to look for new ways to innovate and strengthen our leadership position in the sports industry, and one of the ways we will do this is by delivering content and information about the championships to fans in the way that they want to consume it, no matter where they are,” says Mick Desmond, Commercial Director at AELTC
Mobile is becoming increasingly important for Wimbledon, with half of its web hits coming from portable devices. However 80 percent of all users still view content at Wimbledon.com, something which Sam Seddon, Wimbledon client & program executive for IBM, tells TechWeekEurope “you can’t ignore.”
This application uses historical data to come up with three key performance indicators, individualised for the two players in a match. The one who performs best against his or her indicators is more likely to win.
Meanwhile, new Hill versus World feature presents the same question to fans at home and on Henman Hill to compare their answers.
Last year, Wimbledon’s digital content received 19 million unique users and 433 million page views. This was of course boosted by Andy Murray’s victory in the men’s final, the first by any British player in 77 years, but Seddon notes it was achieved despite popular players like Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova exiting the tournament in the first few rounds.
All three are still in the tournament at the time of writing, but this year, Wimbledon is competing with the World Cup for viewers’ attention. Despite this, Seddon says views haven’t suffered: “We’re seeing traffic hold up quite well, which is testament to the quality of the content.”
But of course, aside from the Wimbledon fortnight, the All England Club is a tennis club, meaning the vast amount of computing power and resources it requires for the tournament is simply unnecessary for the rest of the year.
IBM helps the AELTC expand its infrastructure to meet demand during Wimbledon and then scale it back once it is complete. This year, IBM is using Watson to look at huge amounts of unstructured data to predict web traffic and proactively adjust its cloud requirements while still ensuring users can enjoy Wimbledon’s digital content.
The same technology is used by retailers and travel companies that experience seasonal swings, and like many of the innovations used at Wimbledon, IBM says they can be used in other markets as well.
“The Championships allow us to demonstrate how these same cloud, analytics, mobile and social capabilities are being used by IBM clients, “explains Seddon. “By helping Wimbledon provide a better experience to fans we help them achieve their mission of being the best tennis tournament in the world.
“Our clients across other industries can do the same to improve customer experience and help develop market opportunities.”
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