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Wimbledon Championships and IBM push digital boundaries

IBM and the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) Wimbledon partnered to bring broadcast and social media to fans of the recent Wimbledon Championships.

IBM and the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) Wimbledon partnered to bring broadcast and social media to fans of the recent Wimbledon Championships. The pair worked on a combination of innovations for the great British tennis tournament to mark the next step in the AELTC’s award-winning digital strategy.

Making use of the latest technology advancements in cloud, analytics mobile, social media and security, IBM and Wimbledon bought tennis fans around the world closer to the prestigious Grand Slam event. This included access to real time live scoring, courtside action and insights via the redesigned website, and advancement of the mobile app experience.

Social media has been used to support the Championships in three main ways, commented Sam Seddon, Wimbledon client and programme executive, IBM, speaking to IBC Content Everywhere: “For fan engagement, accessing a younger demographic, using a lighter tone of voice and placing engaging content into social media to draw people back into Wimbledon’s owned digital channels.

“For determining digital content and informing editorial decisions; by monitoring in realtime what the nature of the global conversation is, Wimbledon has been able to respond with the content most in demand. And finally, by optimising hosting requirements; the IBM dynamic cloud infrastructure analyses social media traffic to identify in advance potential spikes in demand based on trending topics around players and matches.”

In social engagement, IBM’s social media analytics and research from IBM’s Customer Experience Labs enabled the Wimbledon Social Command Centre to identify the most influential voices around Wimbledon and tennis to highlight their social communications for maximum effect.

Said Seddon: “The Wimbledon Social Command Centre helps understand what fans want in realtime, engaging with fans in social channels that make a stronger connection with the Championships, thus drawing them into Wimbledon’s owned channels more. IBM can reveal in real time what fans are thinking so the Championships can connect and respond by delivering a differentiated, bespoke customer experience for each fan. This also helps in making proactive content decisions and rise above the noise of worldwide media.

“For example, a titanic match could be happening on Centre Court taking the focus of press and broadcasting attention. On Court 18, the fastest serve in Championship history could have been broken. Wimbledon are notified in seconds along with who, what the previous record was, and when. They can then break the news in social media in seconds,” Seddon noted.

Ken Blakeslee, industry analyst and chairman of WebMobility Ventures, commented on the work IBM and AELTC partnership for Wimbledon: “This turns broadcast into narrowcast or rather ‘me-cast’ and is another great example of how the interests of the fans and players can be served up in a customised and in-context way, whether actually at Wimbledon or viewing from afar.”

Blakeslee added: “AELTC has nicely leveraged IBM technology with social network information, mobile connectivity and standard mobile device platforms and applications, to greatly enhance the viewer experience. Using existing information, but providing it in a contextualised manner and then delivering it to the screen carried by each viewer makes this a model for the broadcast industry to take on board!” he concluded.

While Terry Marsh, independent media consultant and business communications specialist, added: “Broadcasters’ social media engagement has been around for decades; viewers would regularly write in to the BBC in the early 50’s. However, the fact that everyone now carries a powerful digital communicator means that entirely new models of interaction are springing up in an increasingly exciting way.

“AELTC and IBM are long term partners, but this year has seen a step change in their relationship, which now focuses on the experience of the fans alongside the business requirements of the Championship. The huge amounts of data involved were once impossible to crunch quickly but, with cloud technology, and a commitment to audience, far sighted organisations are breaking new ground,” stated Marsh. “Broadcasters are accepting this challenge with new models of engagement which add real value to their brand and are becoming a positive contribution to the audience experience, and the bottom line.”

Realtime sentiment and customer trending analytics

Advanced analytics via IBM InfoSphere Streams identified breaking match facts in near realtime, and Watson Engagement Advisor provided related insights and historical context. This meant that Wimbledon staff were able to pose questions in natural language as if they had the world’s best tennis expert on-hand, and share these insights with fans via social media and the Wimbledon digital platforms.

IBM also refined the Wimbledon website and mobile app to provide a fan experience that is the next best thing to being there. The new site provided content in context, which encouraged fans to dive deeper into the event. With real time live scores integrated alongside live and on-demand video, infographics and exclusive insights, the redesign by IBM Interactive Experience delivered a uniquely cohesive experience, whether on desktop, tablet or mobile.

Available for Apple iPhone, iPad and Android devices, the app provided instant access to scores, player information, match analysis and video, and also had the addition of an offline mode for fans to continue browsing when on the go.

Yet research firm Ovum sees this has not just as a merger of social media and broadcast, but the entire big data ecosystem, where broadcasters are leveraging structured and unstructured data to improve digital fan engagements on connected devices. On what this means for AELTC and events like Wimbledon, Kedar Mohite, senior analyst for media and broadcast at Ovum, said: “Consolidation of social media and TV feeds into a single repository with long to short form text and video analytics will yield greater benefits in the long run to launch a second wave of personalised monetisation services for content aggregators and sports franchises.”

For the broadcast industry generally, Mohite said Ovum sees this kind of partnership as a trend showcasing the emergence of fan and media engagement centres to monetise premium media assets in the sports entertainment market in the near future. He added: “These centres hosted by end to end IT majors like IBM will capture multiple content formats and devices-centric structured and unstructured metadata into single repository to provide an on-going realtime sentiment and customer trending analytics to improve multi-platform monetisation avenues.”

However, Mohite said there are going to be challenges for the broadcast industry, such as to improve single fan engagement on a life-time basis, plus the transition of the broadcasting value chain, which is built on non-agile multiple integrated platforms and solutions that need a rapid transformation towards agile, flexible and modular formats.

In 2011, Wimbledon had around 450,000 social followers. In early 2015 that figure was 6.5 million, and that figure continued to rise over the year, particularly in the run up to the 2015 Wimbledon Championships.

This story originally featured on IBC Content Everywhere.

Photo: Ladies finalist Garbine Muguruza from Spain