IBM Wimbledon SlamTracker Hopes Big Data Will Attract Fans

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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IBM hopes to bring together mobile, big data and social to improve fan interaction at Wimbledon

IBM hopes its big data analytics and enhanced mobile app will improve fan engagement at this year’s Wimbledon Championships, currently taking place at the All England Club (AELTC) in SW19.

The company has a long-standing partnership with Wimbledon, as it does with all three other tennis Grand Slam tournaments, with the chief aim of extending the reach and exposure of what is widely considered to be the most prestigious tennis tournament of them all.

Thanks to the data acquired by IBM at these tournaments, it is able to analyse eight years’ worth of Grand Slam data and use it in its real-time statistics and data visualisation platform SlamTracker, which is available to fans on the official website.

IBM Wimbledon 2013 (9)

IBM Wimbledon SlamTracker

It uses IBM’s predictive analytics technology to make sense of more than 41 million points played, and identify different patterns in play and styles. Before matches, IBM looks at previous matches between the two players, or between players with similar styles, if they haven’t met before.

Using this data, IBM releases three ‘keys to the game’ for each player that will give them the best chance of winning. Sam Seedon, Wimbledon client and programme executive at IBM, said that although players were keen to gain access to this data, the keys to the game were not released until the match has started.

There is some benefit for the competitors though. Some information is collected by former tennis players, “above county standard,” according to Seedon, and players are given a USB stick with video analysis categorised by elements such as backhand returns or second serves.

The data is also useful for broadcasters, especially the BBC. In addition to making all of its stats available to TV and radio, one member of the IBM team sits with the BBC to alert them to any interesting stats, further enhancing the AELTC’s ambition of improved fan engagement.

Mobile first

As part of this mission, IBM operates the official website of the Wimbledon Championships, which this year has been redesigned around mobile devices, following the trend of many sporting tournaments and organisations.

IBM claims that the official Wimbledon smartphone app was one of the first to include live sports data when it was released in 2009, and 40 percent of all visits to Wimbledon.com last year came from mobiles.

The new Wimbledon iPad app includes live video and audio content, commentary, live scores, statistics and even 360 degree panoramic views of Centre Court.

By creating a second screen experience, the AELTC hopes to engage viewers at home, but it might also help fans at the Championships waste some time if there’s a rain delay. However, the club will be keen to remind fans not to do it courtside as the use of mobiles and tablets is frowned upon during play, as Mo Farah recently found out by videoing play over his own device.

Wimbledon SlamTracker

Social play

Social media is also impacting how fans engage with Wimbledon and IBM has claimed there was a 205 percent rise in traffic from Twitter to Wimbledon.com last year.

The 2012 men’s singles final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray saw 100 Wimbledon related tweets sent per second, so this year IBM hopes to form a social conversation to evaluate what is being said where and who are the players with the greatest global reach.

This is visualised on a giant map, which Seedon, said could provide valuable information to both players and advertisers.

Social media is also being added to SlamTracker, allowing fans and players to see what the world is saying about them. Although, maybe not all players (looking at you Federer, Nadal…) want to see that.

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Wimbledon IBM 2013

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IBM Wimbledon 2013

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