Wimbledon embraces digital innovation to enhance fan experience

The prestigious tennis tournament Wimbledon – one of the world’s biggest sports events – takes place from 27 June until 10 July. The tournament stays true to its history and differentiates itself from the other Grand Slams by the white dress code, the holy grass and the limited sponsorship exposure. Simultaneously it integrates innovative technologies and keeps developing digital channels and content to enhance the fan experience (worldwide).

A study by Repucom – the sports and entertainment intelligence experts – last year concluded that ‘Wimbledon is the biggest and best Grand Slam tennis tournament when it comes to engaging and maintaining its social media fan base around the world’.
Wimbledon’s digital fan base surpasses the other three Grand Slams on most social media channels.

Number of fans on social media (on 20 June 2016)

Wimbledon2.20 million3.34 million123.9K722.2K
US Open1.10 million1.42 million32.4K469.9K
Australian Open0.97 million1.73 million149.5K528.9K
Roland Garros1.44 million1.94 million83.8K437.0K

Wimbledon’s digital team anticipates the constantly changing digital landscape. The organisation does everything to not only give people onsite a great experience, but to also create an optimal experience for people following the tournament online and via television. And the tournament does a great job. At the 2016 BT Sport Industry Awards at the end of April Wimbledon won Best Digital Platform and Best Use of Social Media.

Social media channels

Last month it was revealed that Wimbledon has agreed a three-year deal with social media platform Snapchat. The platform will, among other things, share Live Stories (a compilation of users’ Snaps). Snapchat is mainly popular among younger generations. According to the Global Web Index, 83% of Snapchat users is younger than 35 and one in two teenagers (16-19 year) worldwide has an account.

So it is an ideal platform to reach younger people and that is exactly what Wimbledon’s digital team wants. Head of this team, Alexandra Willis, said last year that the tournament uses Snapchat to reach a ‘younger generation’. ‘We wouldn’t want to get to a point where our audience is getting older and we haven’t found an entry point to them.’

Last year Wimbledon started using live streaming application Periscope as another platform to share content. Roger Federer gave a walking tour of Wimbledon on the platform. Although everyone, including fans, can use the application, the organisation prefers to be the sole streamer of Wimbledon-content on the platform. The chance exists that when fans start streaming themselves, there will be a conflict with own content and that of (broadcasting) partners.

What Wimbledon does well digitally, is adding rich media content to their social media posts. This year once more, almost every post in the build-up to the tournament is accompanied by a picture, video or GIF. Adding such rich media content leads to more engagement. Twitter’s internal data for example shows that people are three times more likely to engage with Tweets that have a video or photo.

A new website

Wimbledon renewed their website last year. The focus on responsive design should result in an optimal digital experience for fans on all devices, including mobile and tablet.

The website looks slick, is easy to navigate and stays true to the brand Wimbledon. The change resulted in positive feedback from the sports industry and fans. According to Wimbledon, the website surpasses set goals. In 2015, 21.1 million people visited the digital channels, 6% more than was set as target. The new website also provides more commercial value to sponsorship partners than in the past or is contractually agreed.

Partnership with IBM

IBM has been the official supplier of information technology and consultancy to Wimbledon since 1990 and is essential in the tournament’s digital strategy. Together they aim to improve the fan experience wherever or whenever it takes place. IBM captures millions of Wimbledon-related data points yearly.

Fans are increasingly exposed to statistics during matches, courtesy of companies like IBM. Statistics like the average hitting point or the percentage first serve. This kind of information gives people at home something extra: a better experience and more insight into the game. Wimbledon presents IBM’s data on the website and official app. Through the SlamTracker fans can follow the scores live and get insight into live statistics and match expectations.

Besides the tennis specific data, IBM also collects data around the event. A Social Media Command Center has been established in 2014 to make it easier to analyse data and to provide fans with interesting content.

IBM gives the Wimbledon organisation, among others, insight in what kind of and when content is popular among fans. IBM technology is also able to compare new data points with historical data and indicate when something new or remarkable happens. Last year the digital team was warned that Leyton Hewitt was about to hit his 1500th winner at Wimbledon and that the second fastest service at the tournament ever was hit. As a result they could almost instantly share interesting and at the time relevant content on their digital channels.

This edition

This year IBM introduces a Cognitive Command Center. The technologies behind this are able to automatically analyse and compare multiple digital channels and sports events. Resulting in even more real-time insights about the (tennis) world for the digital team.

There will also be new iOS and Android apps. And the tournament will introduce an app for Apple TV to give people at home an optimal and engaging fan experience. Users can browse real-time scores, watch the Live @ Wimbledon studio show, listen to three live radio channels, and delve through all of Wimbledon’s video and photo content.

Wimbledon thus keeps developing and applies the latest digital innovations. Yet they are able to preserve the characteristic Wimbledon-feeling of tradition, even online.

Wimbledon embraces digital innovations
– In 2014 Wimbledon – with IBM’s assistance – started with Hill vs. World. This social poll compares the social sentiment at Wimbledon to that of the rest of the world. In 2016 it becomes Hill vs. World. Vs. Queue, adding the famous Wimbledon queue to the sentiment battle.
In 2013 IBM created, based on match data and social media data, a ranking. Every 20 minutes a 3D-trophy was printed based on the ranking.
– Wimbledon has experimented with the use of iBeacons to provide people with route description and queue information through the mobile app.
– Wimbledon and its partners use new technologies like drones and virtual reality to generate innovative content for fans.
– Wimbledon regularly applies the latest social media developments, like: Twitter hashflag, YouTube 360 degrees videos and Snapchat Geofilters.

This article first appeared in Dutch on www.sportknowhowxl.nl.

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