Business challenge

With shifts in media consumption and viewership disrupting the sports industry, the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) wanted to continue teaming with IBM to keep pace and connect with Wimbledon fans through digital innovation.

Transformation

For Wimbledon 2019, IBM helped the AELTC deliver a more personalized user experience, enhance AI capabilities and scale for peak traffic without compromising performance or security.

Results

28% increase in traffic

to Wimbledon.com

60x faster response

to potential security threats

20% boost in views

of video footage

Business challenge story

Facing disruption as a global sports leader

As host organization of The Championships, Wimbledon, the AELTC manages one of the world’s most prestigious and best-known sporting events. But in an industry experiencing a virtually unprecedented level of disruption, even a leading sports brand needs to continue innovating to draw in and connect with its audience.

Sports organizations are now competing against new digital entertainment options for viewer time and attention. Each year, the global market for gaming expands by billions of dollars in revenue, drawing in younger audience segments in increasing numbers. Within that sector, eSports — competitive video gaming — is growing rapidly, with revenue soon projected to overtake USD 1 billion annually.

The way fans watch sports is also continuing to change. Attendance at games and viewership through traditional cable or pay-per-view television is declining, but over-the-top (OTT) viewing of media through the internet is on the rise. With every passing year, more fans subscribe to sports streaming services and spend more minutes streaming sports content.

To help meet the challenges of a new era in sports viewership, the AELTC relies on its long-term collaboration with IBM. For three decades, the companies have worked together to preserve the classic elements of the Wimbledon brand while keeping up with changing trends in how, when and where sports fans consume media.

In preparation for The Championships 2019, the AELTC wanted to continue teaming with IBM to:

  • Advance a digital convergence initiative focused on establishing one central entry point to Wimbledon.com and delivering a consistent online experience  
  • Improve access to digital content for Wimbledon fans in geographies with limited IT resources
  • Enhance its AI tool for compiling video highlights to capture and share even more compelling Wimbledon footage online
  • Support exceptional performance and security-rich delivery for all of its digital offerings with scalable and highly reliable underlying infrastructure

Our partnership with IBM allows us to be very forward-looking and innovative while preserving our traditions.

Alexandra Willis, Head of Communications, Content and Digital, All England Lawn Tennis Club

Transformation story

Serving up exceptional digital experiences

Different types of Wimbledon stakeholders — fans, members of the media, VIP ticketholders and tournament competitors — access Wimbledon.com from different landing pages. To deliver a more consistent, yet personalized, online experience for all guests, the AELTC has a long-term digital convergence strategy for establishing a single, centralized entry point.

In 2019, an IBM® iX® team launched this initiative by expanding the site’s myWimbledon portal and enabling registered users to select preferences for targeted features and content. Additionally, the iX group added new functionality that lets fans track favorite players across digital platforms and vote on content to appear on the large screen at Wimbledon’s famous Hill.

Building on market research that identified a vast population of Wimbledon followers in India, the iX team also created a new app offering a “lightweight” user experience for The Championships 2019. Featuring pared-down content and imagery, the app allows fans in the country’s regions with lower bandwidth and less advanced mobile hardware to keep up with the latest scores and results.

Additionally, IBM enhanced AI Highlights, its AI platform for identifying key match footage and auto-curating video highlights packages. With more finely tuned capabilities for “listening” to a match and interpreting acoustic data, the solution clips highlights content more closely, shaving valuable seconds off each selection. Operating within broadcasting rights limitations for the amount of match footage it can share each day, the AELTC can now fit more great moments in its highlights packages.

IBM also incorporated IBM Watson® OpenScale™ technology in the AI Highlights platform to help adjust for bias. Once designed to use crowd noise as the key indicator in selecting and ranking highlights clips, the solution now weighs an additional range of factors. Now, whether a tournament favorite is performing for a large audience or a new up-and-comer is scoring points in front of a smaller crowd, AI Highlights is better-trained to capture the most compelling moments from across all 18 Championships courts.

With the quality of its digital services critical to the Wimbledon brand, the AELTC continues to rely on IBM Cloud™ for high-performance delivery throughout the Fortnight. Employing an IBM Cloud hybrid infrastructure, the organization runs management activities on a private cloud platform, serves up digital content from public cloud resources and hosts publishing, scoring and video encoding workloads in an on-premises environment. Spanning seven data centers worldwide, the AELTC’s cloud model is designed for continuous availability.

The robust security infrastructure safeguarding the AETLC’s digital properties includes IBM QRadar® Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) technology to identify potential attacks and rank the incidents by level of urgency. IBM Watson for Cyber Security technology enriches data provided by the SIEM solution, offering a recommended set of actions based on its analysis of a given threat.

Results story

Hitting new milestones in digital engagement

The AELTC and IBM continued a rich collaboration in 2019, demonstrating that with the right innovation, a classic brand can compete and thrive in the digital era. Efforts paid off to further enrich the user experience online, enhance AI capabilities and connect with hard-to-reach demographics — The Championships achieved new milestones in digital engagement.

Usage of the AELTC’s digital platforms hit new levels, with 4.13 million unique devices and 29 million page views registered on the final day of The Championships. For the Wimbledon Fortnight overall, visits to Wimbledon.com increased 28 percent from the previous year, with a total of 59.8 million visits. And Wimbledon video footage received more exposure than ever before — 380 million views for a 20 percent boost from 2018.

With unprecedented levels of peak traffic across the AELTC’s digital properties, IBM Cloud proved up to the task. The organization’s infrastructure easily scaled to accommodate event-day traffic spikes without compromising performance and with robust security capabilities in place. In addition to blocking more than 320 million threats during the Fortnight, the IBM security team reacted to potential incidents 60 times more quickly with the Watson for Cyber Security solution.

For Alexandra Willis, Head of Communications, Content and Digital at the AELTC, the decades-long relationship with IBM continues to be critical in keeping the Wimbledon brand competitive while maintaining the classic elements that make it unlike any other.

“Our traditions are one of our greatest strengths — they give us our identity and our character,” she says. “But today, we’re not just a tennis event; we’re also a media business serving up digital content for our fans. Our partnership with IBM allows us to be very forward-looking and innovative while preserving our traditions. Together, we’re working to keep Wimbledon relevant and make sure audiences of the future can stay just engaged as fans are today.”

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About The All England Lawn Tennis Club

Known simply as “Wimbledon,” The Championships is the oldest of tennis’s four Grand Slams and one of the world’s highest-profile sporting events. Organized by the AELTC and based in London, Wimbledon has been a global sporting and cultural institution since 1877.

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