From Serve To Social: IBM Data Enhances Wimbledon

For the last 25 years IBM has been a Wimbledon partner and each year its technology-led support for The Championships has enhanced the fan experience with fresh innovation. The 2014 tournament is no different and again sees the introduction of a raft of new features and services such as the ‘IBM Social Media Command Centre’ and its ‘Dispatches From Wimbledon’.


From its long standing service speed screens (one of the few parts off the tournament that carry brand logos), to SlamTracker and the rights owner’s website, its mobile and tablet apps, social channels and its cloud services, IBM is deeply embedded in The Championships.


This year’s new ‘IBM Social Media Command Centre’ is a behind-the-scenes tool based on IBM Softlayer technology for the rights owners, broadcasters (and the sponsor) to monitor Wimbledon social buzz – from key topics to major influencers – and react accordingly.


2014 also sees enhanced web and mobile platforms offering personalisable feeds so fans can focus on the player, country and match category of their choice, while a new ‘The Hill vs the World’ opinion poll activation strand sees the IBM content team pose questions via the big screen to on-site fans sitting on ‘Henman Hill’ (or should that be ‘Murray Mound’ – see Robinsons Wimbledon campaign case study) and then compare those responses with the answers given by those watching on TV and responding via social channels.


This campaign element was even promoted via a launch event hosted by Henman at the flagship London Apple Store.


The stated aim of IBM and its digital in-house agency IBM Interactive Experience’s Wimbledon alliance is to support the club’s mission to the world’s premier tennis tournament through continuous innovation that showcases how technology can add to the fan experience without detracting from it.


A core strand of the partner’s work is based on the idea that while only a lucky few can experience Centre Court drama live in-person, but IBM can help bring much of that experience to life through TV screens, mobile handsets and other digital devices across the globe with a rounded and immersive Wimbledon experience.


This aspect of their work has is encapsulated in a new online film showcasing IBM’s Wimbledon work



From the early added-value analytics like the Serve Speed Screens introduced in 1999 to the SlamTracker match stats platform launched in 2004. much of IBM’s Wimbledon work is based on its annual data collection programme which sees it collect, collate and analyse millions of data points in real time.


This involves a team of 48 analysts using high-tech on-court technology and old school observation to collect live statistical data on each player at every match through the tournament.



This is used as a base for other activation strands such as ‘Dispatches from Wimbledon’ – a service that sees IBM uncover insights from its vast, real time Wimbledon data set (and eight years of back data) to help understand how players can perform better and provide fans (and the media and coaches) with a detailed understanding of the games tactics and skills.



A key part of its partnership sees IBM provide Wimbledon ‘Cloud’ services – a backbone for The Championship which enables a 500-person private members club to host the world’s top tennis tournament.



Back in 1995 when this approach was first being developed, the official Wimbledon website, developed with IBM, has 227,000 users. By 1997 it had partnered on the official online shop and by last year the number of website visitors had grown to 20 million.


This year sees the company integrate its Wimbledon work into its umbrella, ongoing ‘Made With IBM’ marketing initiative.



This global campaign was first launched in April as part of IBM’s The Masters golf activation (See case study).




Maintaining a 25-year partnership is a sponsorship challenge in most arenas, but perhaps the key secret behind IBM and Wimbledon’s successful 25 year relationship is the constant commitment to innovation and experience enhancement.


IBM primarily uses its Wimbledon work as a global showcase to B2B clients and targets and this, rather than the more immediate, bottom-line driven or awareness-based strategies of so many other sponsors also holds the key to long terms success.


While many see Wimbledon as a stalwart of tradition and old school values (indeed, its ‘all white player kit only’ rule tightening generated plenty of pre-tournament press this year, IBM has been part of The Championships modernity drive and actually ensures it is one off the most forward-thinking and technically sophisticated properties in world sport.


Indeed, 2014 sees a slew of fresh, hi-tech partnerships and services added to the tournament.


One of the other new technology innovations at Wimbledon 2014 range from a partnership with real-time video sharing platform Grabyo.


There is also a fun Google+ campaign asking fans to upload their pictures of themselves, their friends and families watching Wimbledon right across the world.


Plus, 2014 sees the return of the on-site Twitter Mirror – this time installed in the queue and part of a daily ‘selfie’ competition.


An Instagram-driven ‘InstaBooth’ has been erected in the player’s lounge to provide a channel for players to offer up their own thoughts and perspectives on the day’s events.


While the ‘Live at Wimbledon’ YouTube daily shows are also back again this year.




IBM Wimbledon



IBM Wimbledon



IBM Wimbledon SlamTracker



Wimbledon Website



Featured Showcases