As a part of an ongoing digital transformation designed to help grow Wimbledon’s viewership, the AELTC teamed with IBM to continue its evolution for The Championships in 2018. Powering its platforms with IBM Watson technology, the AELTC launched new AI capabilities and refined the official Wimbledon website to better connect with fans of all types worldwide.
To continue expanding Wimbledon viewership in a busy digital era, the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) is focused on delivering the best possible experience for fans across platforms.
For Wimbledon 2018, the AELTC collaborated with IBM in redesigning and rebuilding the official event website, increasing its use of AI and launching a Facebook Messenger chatbot.
- Cuts production time by 95% for video highlights packages
- Scales for 50 million online visits in two weeks with IBM infrastructure
- Connects with a broader audience by improving engagement on social media platforms
Business Challenge Story
Expanding viewership in a busy digital era
Each Wimbledon fan has a unique perception of the event and its world-famous brand. Some viewers remember Martina Navratilova’s reign in the 1980s; others began tuning in during the era of Serena Williams. Some have memories of gathering the family around to watch matches from the living room sofa; others have only viewed footage on mobile devices.
The AELTC recognizes that Wimbledon means many different things to many different people. As custodian of the world’s oldest and most prestigious tennis competition, the 150-year-old Club strives to maintain the classic elements of a cherished brand while drawing in viewers of all ages and all types around the world.
Die-hard fans will always tune in for Wimbledon, but expanding viewership for the event is a challenging proposition considering today’s time-poor audience. And with more and more content available through online streaming and social media platforms, capturing viewer attention is difficult.
To grow its audience, the AELTC increasingly needs to operate as a tech-savvy media business. Teaming with IBM in an ongoing digital transformation, the organization is using data-driven insight and the latest technology to deliver the best possible experience for fans across channels.
In recent years, AI has become a vital focus for the collaboration, with IBM and the AELTC using IBM Watson technology to power everything from interactive fan-facing apps to innovative security solutions. For Wimbledon 2018, the AELTC wanted to continue its digital evolution by refining key Watson platforms, enhancing the official event website and extending digital content more effectively to social media users.
Enhancing AI and digital capabilities
As the official destination for the event’s online content, Wimbledon.com presents a critical opportunity for the AELTC to engage with its digital audience. For 2018, they redesigned and rebuilt the website to support dynamically refreshing content and more seamless browsing. With interactive features, podcasts, video clips and live streaming through the Wimbledon Channel, the site encourages visitors to explore, engage and immerse themselves in the Wimbledon experience.
The project also included enhancements to the IBM SlamTracker tool, a cross-platform app powered by real-time data from Wimbledon matches in progress. The app analyzes “keys to the match”—including pace of play, server placement spread and baseline proximity—to reveal patterns in player performance. For greater accuracy and insight in 2018, IBM revamped SlamTracker with additional data points and refined its machine learning algorithms. Plus, a new “momentum” feature offered a visual representation of the match, indicating which player has the upper hand and how momentum has shifted throughout.
To follow up on a successful production pilot at Wimbledon in 2017, IBM teams enhanced AI Highlights, a solution designed to auto-curate video highlights packages for fans to view and share. Using IBM Watson Visual Recognition technology, the platform analyzes player movements and facial expressions to identify strong emotion. Combining this input with noise levels from the crowd and other key data points, the solution rapidly selects highlights from hundreds of hours of match footage. And with a new editorial dashboard for 2018, digital editors can easily create their own customized content packages with compelling moments from across the Wimbledon Fortnight.
Supporting the AELTC’s effort to bring more digital content to fans where they already are, the IBM iX team also launched a new cognitive chatbot on Facebook Messenger for the 2018 event. Powered by IBM Watson Assistant technology, Wimbledon Messenger serves as a virtual assistant for remote fans, fielding queries and chatting about players, scores and other news. In addition to directing Facebook users to Wimbledon’s official digital platform for more information, the chatbot enables fans to follow selected topics for automatic updates.
The AELTC runs its digital offerings on hybrid IBM Cloud infrastructure that spans three private cloud and four public cloud hosting locations, providing built-in disaster avoidance and helping to ensure continuous operations.
Reaching new and existing fans worldwide
Working together closely, IBM and the AELTC succeeded in creating a highly compelling digital experience for fans across channels. “From apps and social media to the event website, AI is critical in helping us engage with our audience,” says Alexandra Willis, Head of Communications, Content and Digital, at the AELTC. “As we continue to advance our capabilities as a media organization, IBM and Watson technology are at the heart of our journey.”
By putting digital content where Wimbledon fans increasingly connect with their friends, the launch of Wimbledon Messenger on Facebook extended the AELTC’s footprint with a younger demographic. And the enhanced SlamTracker platform empowers users to gain greater insight into matches in progress than ever before.
Plus, the AELTC can deliver video content to grab the attention of Wimbledon’s digital audience more quickly. With the AI Highlights platform trained to better recognize key moments—distinguishing a fist pump from a towel grab, for example—and a quicker feed from the event’s onsite Internet Protocol television (IPTV) system, the organization cut production time for its video highlights packages by 95 percent, from 40 to just 2 minutes. Saving hours of valuable time, this acceleration frees digital editors to focus on additional projects.
Delivering everything from fan-facing digital properties to back-end IT operations, IBM supports the AELTC in competing with larger global media outlets for digital airspace. With scalable IBM Cloud infrastructure, the organization can accommodate the massive spike in online traffic during Wimbledon—approximately 50 million visits in 2018—while blocking hundreds of millions of security threats. “Our partnership with IBM means we can keep our focus on what matters—the digital experience we’re delivering to Wimbledon fans around the world,” says Willis.