Case Study – Wimbledon 2014
Using shot-by-shot analysis to uncover hidden narratives in each match, and creating an immersive, real-time digital and social experience to share these stories with fans.
As the sporting calendar grows ever more congested, even the most prestigious events and tournaments need to find new
ways to attract and engage with their audience. In 2014, The Championships, Wimbledon delivered a masterclass in
fan engagement – working with IBM to combine cloud, analytics, mobile and social technologies to ensure that its
digital platforms received more visits, achieved more page views, and kept fans online for longer than ever before.
Wimbledon 2014: keeping fans on the ball with new insight into every shot
Capturing viewers’ imagination by revealing untold stories at the world’s premier tennis tournament
The Championships, Wimbledon is the longest-established of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, and arguably the most prestigious. Its organisers, the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), recognise that the best way to celebrate and preserve the tournament’s rich heritage is to ensure that it continues to make history, each and every
In 2014, The Championships took place at the same time as another of the world’s largest sporting events, the FIFA World Cup. With much of the global sports media saturated with soccer coverage, the AELTC appreciated the challenge of winning and retaining fans’ attention.
Mick Desmond, Commercial Director at the AELTC, comments: “The key is to engage the fans by giving them unparalleled access to the tournament, wherever and whenever they want to experience it. We not only want to offer the best possible experience for those who are lucky enough to spend a day at Wimbledon – we want to replicate that
unforgettable atmosphere for the millions who are watching on TV orfollowing a match online.
“To increase our reach and exposure to new audiences it is essential to make the online experience match the excitement of being there in person, and in 2014, our ongoing partnership with IBM has helped us push the boundaries of what is possible. The key this year has been harnessing analytics in combination with cloud, mobile and social
technologies to reveal some of the untold stories behind each shot in every game, set and match.”
- Engaged fans by revealing the hidden story in each match with real-time analysis of each shot – a world first for a major tennis tournament.
- Delivered a first-class digital and physical experience for fans both on site and across the globe – maintaining The Championships’ popularity in a crowded sporting summer.
- Harnessed social media analytics to help Wimbledon’s digital team shape their coverage of the tournament – focusing on the hottest topics that are fuelling fans’ interest.
- Achieved a 17 percent increase in visits to web and mobile sites, and a 9 percent increase in total page views – with the average fan now spending more than ten minutes on the site.
Serving fans with new analytics
Over 25 years IBM has provided point-by-point analysis of every match. For 2014, the ambition was to go one step further, and analyse every single shot.
By combining data from multiple sources, including player- and ball-tracking data and the observations of a team of tennis-expert statisticians, the IBM solution was able to assess key factors such as how fast the ball was moving, where it bounced, how far the player had to move, and their position on the court when they hit it.
“For the first time in tennis, we were able to provide analysis at the level of individual shots,” says Sam Seddon, IBM’s client executive for the AELTC. “This enabled us to quantify how aggressively each player was playing, and assess how well their opponents were able to counter that aggression – helping the viewer gain a new appreciation of what was happening on the court and understand the game at a deeper level.”
IBM also enhanced its SlamTracker™ live scoring and statistics system, using eight years of historic match data and 41 million individual data-points to refine its predictions of the “keys to the match” (the three most important things each player needs to do to beat their opponent).
Figure 1: The enhanced IBM SlamTracker interface for 2014
Source: IBM Corporation
• IBM® DB2®
• IBM InfoSphere®
• IBM Integration Bus
• IBM SmartCloud® Orchestrator
• IBM SPSS® Modeler
• IBM Tivoli® Monitoring
• IBM WebSphere® Application Server
• IBM Power Systems™ servers
• IBM SoftLayer®
• IBM System Storage®
• IBM Global Business Services®
• IBM Global Technology Services®
• IBM Interactive Experience
This year, when a player hit more “keys” than their opponent, they went on to win the match 70 percent of the time. This equates to a six percentage point increase in predictive accuracy compared to the previous year.
To complement the “keys”, the redesign of SlamTracker created an even more intuitive visualisation platform, which viewers could use as a “second screen” to gain deeper insight while they watched a match on TV or online. By harnessing the wealth of match data more effectively, The Championships was able to boost fan engagement.
Match point for social media 2014 was also the year when social media became even more fundamental to the Wimbledon experience. Between 2012 and 2013, the tournament experienced a 100 percent growth in social media volumes. By 2014, it had more than 1 million likes or followers on Twitter and Google Plus, and more than 2 million on Facebook.
For the first time Wimbledon used social media to create a connection between fans off site and those on site via web, mobile and apps. An interactive exhibit called “Hill v World” probed opinions about tournament-related questions, highlighting differences in opinion between the fans at Wimbledon and those watching at home, and helping both physical and digital audiences feel equally included in the event.
Figure 2: The iPad interface for the Hill vs World exhibit
Source: IBM Corporation.
“The key this year has been harnessing analytics in combination with cloud, mobile and social technologies to reveal some of the untold stories behind each shot in every game, set and match.”
— Mick Desmond, Commercial Director, All England Lawn Tennis Club
“We have been building up our social platforms for several years,” says Alexandra Willis, Content and Communications Manager at the AELTC. “As a result, this year we were able to develop a completely integrated content strategy across social media and digital platforms.
“Our aim was to use social channels to provide fans with compelling content that would drive them to visit our own digital platforms. This year IBM provided us with access to a new Social Command Centre which was a key tool, not only for helping us understand what our fans wanted from The Championships in real time, but also for tailoring and providing content to help shape their experience.”
Using IBM Watson™ analytics technologies and powered by IBM® SoftLayer®, the Social Command Centre (SCC) was able to analyse trending topics from around the world – helping the tournament organisers to understand which players were being talked about most, and why.
The SCC also enabled the wimbledon.com editorial team to adapt the content of the web and mobile sites to focus on the hottest topics revealed by analysis of social media – making them more compelling for fans.
Most innovative of all, the SCC used algorithms from the IBM Customer Experience labs to analyse the social media influence of players, commentators and pundits, scoring them for engagement, authority, dependency, timeliness and followers. This helped the organisers use social media to communicate with fans more effectively.
Smarter Entertainment – Uncovering untold stories with analytics
The Championships gathers data in real time from on-court electronic sensors and scorers, off-court analysts and social media services used by fans around the world.
IBM solutions integrate and analyse structured and unstructured data in real time, and present the results to The Championships’ websites, mobile apps, broadcasting partners, and cloud management systems.
Real-time analysis of match data tells the hidden story behind each point. Social media analysis helps focus coverage on areas that interest fans the most. The combination of analytics and cloud technologies enables Wimbledon’s digital platform to predict demand and automatically adjust resources to match.
“The average fan is now spending more than ten minutes on the web or mobile site per visit… They are increasingly engaged by our digital platforms and with what the tournament has to offer.”
— Alexandra Willis, Content and Communications Manager, All England Lawn Tennis Club
Mobile keeps fans on the ball
Of course, engaging fans with smart uses of analytics and social media is only useful if you can then provide something for them to engage with.
The Championships’ award-winning wimbledon.com website is at the heart of its digital strategy, providing fans with “the next best thing to being here”. This year, the website was updated over 140,000 times per day with live scores and new content, serving 473 million page views to 17.1 million unique users during 63.7 million visits.
For many users, mobile and tablet access to Wimbledon coverage is now a must-have feature, so the mobile apps for Android and iOS have been redesigned to complement the desktop website with a consistent look and feel, while offering a new level of personalisation. Users can easily choose the players and matches they are most interested in, and gain instant visibility of all the latest news on those topics at a glance – making the content more “snackable” for fans who want a quick update while they are on the move.
The results have been impressive: despite competition from the FIFA World Cup and other sports, The Championships’ digital platforms saw a 17 percent increase in the total number of visits, a 9 percent increase in the number of page views, and a 6 percent boost in the average time each user spent per visit.
“The average fan is now spending more than ten minutes on the web or mobile site per visit,” says Alexandra Willis. “That suggests they’re doing much more than just checking the scores – they are consuming content and interacting with us on a much deeper level, because they are increasingly engaged by our digital platforms and with what the
tournament has to offer.”
Shining through the cloud
The Championships’ digital platforms and the SCC are powered by IBM cloud technologies, providing the flexibility to scale up to meet the needs of millions of users during the Wimbledon fortnight, and to scale down again until the resources are needed for the next year’s tournament.
With fans around the globe accessing the digital platforms, they must be capable of offering flawless performance to all users at any time of the day or night. To achieve this, IBM uses Watson® technologies to analyse data on current web traffic and combine it in real time with many other indicators – such as the number of tournament-related tweets, player popularity, and the schedule of play.
Using advanced modelling techniques, the solution is able to predict the likely demand for wimbledon.com services much more accurately than traditional demand forecasting methods – enabling the IBM private cloud infrastructure to provision just enough servers to provide a smooth user experience, without wasting resources unnecessarily.
Game, set and match
The combination of analytics, social and mobile technologies, supported by a seamless cloud infrastructure, helped to raise The Championships to new levels of engagement with its fans. Embedding social media data in the tournament’s DNA made it possible for organisers and media to respond to the needs and interests of fans on site and around the world. Meanwhile, shot-by-shot analytics revealed new stories within each match in a way that captured the imagination of casual viewers and experts alike.
“We have been working with IBM for 25 years, and every year they help us bring something special to the tournament,” concludes Mick Desmond. “The Championships aims to deliver the best possible blend of tradition and innovation, and with IBM as a partner, we will continue to make histo
© Copyright IBM Corporation 2014