Game, Set, Match to the Digital Fan Experience

Sara PerelmanI grew up playing tennis for more hours each week than I spent studying. Since I was 11 years old, I have traveled throughout the United States competing in national tennis tournaments. I then played varsity tennis at an Ivy League University Although my chapter as a player is now over, tennis is still in my blood. Four times a year, as each Grandslam comes round, I become a true tennis fanatic.

Over the past 10 years, I have attended the US Open in New York. Wimbledon is next on my bucket list. I am a well seasoned tennis spectator. My family’s tradition always starts watching the junior players, with whom I competed against in the United States Tennis Association (USTA) junior competition. Then we check out the practice courts to watch top players run through drills. We browse through the Nike and Polo Store, and visit the USTA Indoor Experience. In recent years, we’ve included a rest stop in the Veuve Clicquot bar for an afternoon drink. When the sun begins to set, we enter Arthur Ashe Stadium to watch some evening tennis. The night matches are magic: the bright lights, the celebrities, the people watching – and there’s always an intense battle on court. It is pure tennis magic! We are the fans who stay until midnight, and rally to do it all over again the next day.

Over the past decade, many things have changed in the world of tennis. Players are scientifically proven to be taller, the balls are now recorded to be hit with more revolutions per minute, the rackets are more aerodynamically crafted, and the women’s outfits are more fashion forward. Furthermore, technology has created a new era in tennis and provided more access than ever to tennis fans around the world. As a millennial, I am the first to take advantage of it.

Although I cannot be at the majority of matches, I now feel more engaged in the action thanks to technology. I can follow my favourite players by digging deep into their bios and experiencing the upsets in real-time with the rest of the crowd sitting in the stands. I can watch Hawk Eye confirm with 99% certainty if a ball was in or out. I can find which brands players are wearing within seconds. I can engage in the “chitter chatter” of the young player who just knocked out a top seed. And I can follow Serena exploring the cities through her Snapchat and Instagram.

Thanks to IBM, I can stream the Djokovic vs. Federer final from my computer – a feature that wasn’t possible just a few years back. Slamtracker goes beyond scores to analyse real time and historical player, match and tournament data.  IBM Keys to the Match can show what Federer needs to do to beat the world #1.

Considering my phone doesn’t leave my hand… ever, I know the Wimbledon mobile app will be enable me to stay on top of the action. I can follow my favorite players, build my own schedule, and get real-time updates and alerts as to when to live stream to catch a third set tiebreaker. Bring on the strawberries-and-cream on Instagram – yum, and the trendy but classy white attire by Ralph Lauren.

As a millennial, I am always thinking about what’s next for IBM and the world of tennis. How will IBM up their technology game at these Grand Slams? What will the partnership with the Weather Company bring to the court? How will IBM’s cognitive capabilities impact equipment and the fan experiences? Who is to say next year we won’t see a cognitive racket or cognitive shoe make its mark on the court – I wonder if IBM + Watson could help me analyse my game so I could get back on court? Who wouldn’t want data collected from their game to help improve their forehand or footwork? The possibilities are truly endless.

These technologies are at the forefront of tennis and sports across the world, enabling an audience to experience what it’s like to head to New York for the US Open and, equally I can see the traditions of Wimbledon truly represented through all of their digital platforms. Even though I have never been to Wimbledon, I feel as though I am there –  engaging in my own forms of posts and interactions. I can still have that unique fan experience no matter where I am in the world – in simple terms, that’s the power of digital.

Learn more about how IBM will be helping Wimbledon deliver The Championships 2016.

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