Sport is no longer just about the sport

I have grown up with sport on the TV – constantly. Golf, football, cricket, rugby, diving, F1, darts; anything that the broadcasters could throw at me. Late June is no exception to this when our lives are flooded with the green and purple of Wimbledon, the most famous grand slam.Michael P

You could say I’m a seasonal tennis fan. Like a lot of viewers, I am a fan of Wimbledon itself, not just tennis. There’s something about the British sporting event. Every year I download the app, tweet about the big moments and join the nation for two weeks as Andy Murray’s biggest fan. But it’s not just the live action that pulls me in; I am easily led by data and technology. Before joining IBM, I would be that annoying person at home who would ask how many sets Djokovic had won during The Championships or whether his five aces in the past 10 sets is better than usual. From my perspective, I want to know everything that is going on, beyond watching two players hitting the ball back and forth.

I want to know, the likelihood of Ferrer making his second serve during the break point; the probability of Tsonga returning it; the fastest serve; the most aces; the most unforced errors; the number of engagements per day, per player, per match, per set. IBM identifies these real-time insights around breaking match records, providing it faster than anyone else.

Tennis is no longer just about two players on court. It’s about data. Data, data and some more data. I find that the first benefit of data in sport that people immediately jump to is for the players and coaches. I know myself as a springboard diver and golfer, it would be incredibly useful to know exactly what causes me to drop my head on take-off, or why I keep pushing my drives out right and my wedges into the pond on the 6th (no seriously, any ideas then let me know!). Players can utilise every ounce of information recorded by IBM about their performance at Wimbledon; Take a look at what this means to a player and IBMer here

But for me, that’s not the most exciting part. It’s how IBM can pin-point the value in this vast volume of live data and drive down to the pivotal information that takes them from a private members tennis club to a world-class sporting event.

Since 1990, IBM has been Wimbledon’s technology and innovation partner. It was that year that IBM first started capturing match statistics at The Championships. In 2001 player movement was introduced, providing speed and movement data and additional insights for fans. These are just two of many innovations IBM has delivered to help Wimbledon bring its audience a wealth of tech to fulfil our desire for instant statistics. Ensuring being a tennis fan is more enjoyable, more accessible and more engaging than ever before.

Engaging, that’s the key word here. The fan expects more than just cut and dry tennis. IMobile don’t want to just see the serve, I want to experience it. I don’t just want to know how fast it was going, I want to know where it stacks up in the rankings. ‘Was that break of serve to be expected?’ or ‘is this a game changer from an underdog?’ I want to know that in this decisive final set, Andy Murray’s piling the pressure on with a first serve success rate of 75% and when he won in 2013 it was only 64%. Most importantly, I want to know it before they’ve played the next shot.

But where does all of this data come from? It’s from 48 high quality tennis players, recruited and trained by IBM, capturing match statistics at the side of the court; providing no less than 100% accuracy sub-second, which are then combined with both live and historical data.

The next question, though, is how can we create a unique and personalised experience for every attendee? And at the same time, develop the love of the great British event on a global scale? As per every year, I’ve downloaded the 2016 app – which has definitely has seen some great enhancements in the UX department. One of the first screens you’re greeted with asks you to ‘personalise your experience’. Wimbledon is making your attendance memorable; a truly fan-focused event – intended to feel as the next best thing to being at The Championships. The app creates an on-site experience for fans that aren’t at SW19, with user-generated content to build a community feel.

I am sure this reverberates with all readers; my social media feeds go wild during sporting events of this size and understandably with Wimbledon having 9.5m social followers! The millennial generation (myself included) cares more about the digital content than the physical. Having recently joined IBM, transitioning across the border to view The Championships from behind the scenes, it’s phenomenal to see how personalised the content is with posts customised to the public’s opinion at that time and truly delivering a fan focused experience.

If people are talking about Janković verging on beating Venus 2 sets to love, that’s where the content is going to be directed. Alternatively, what if Serena is verging on breaking a match record, Wimbledon will have the statistics out faster than any other broadcaster. They are able to provide live, data-driven content specifically for you, the fan. With you as their main focus, whether at SW19 or watching The Championships from the comfort of your own home, the immersive nature of Wimbledon is the ultimate fan experience.

Twitter: @michaellpalmer

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

IBM at Wimbledon 2016