Home Case Studies Serving up tradition with an innovative spin IBM, Wimbledon and the power of watsonx
Generative AI further enhances a world-class digital experience
A young tennis player returns in slow motion

Since the first Championships in 1877, Wimbledon has brought together fans spanning all walks of life—from members of the British royal family to business owners to armchair sports fans—to enjoy fresh strawberries, cream and champagne while watching the best tennis the world has to offer.

But not everyone can make the journey to The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) in southwest London. That is why more than 19 million people around the world follow the drama, beauty and excitement of the event through the official Wimbledon app and website. These world-class digital experiences have been developed and delivered through a partnership between Wimbledon and IBM that spans more than three decades.

“As an organization with heritage at its core, the innovation partnership with IBM is vital to ensure we evolve as the world around us changes,” says Chris Clements, Digital Products Lead at the AELTC. “By utilizing the latest tools and world-leading expertise from IBM, we are able to innovate to ensure enduring relevance. There is a fantastic synergy between IBM and Wimbledon as organizations with a rich history that are constantly changing to ensure they are fit for the future.”

This year, Wimbledon tapped into the power of generative AI, producing new digital experiences on the Wimbledon app and website using IBM watsonx™, the company’s trusted AI and data platform. “We’re always looking to see how we can improve fan engagement through the use of AI and other IBM technologies,” says Bill Jinks, Technology Director at the AELTC. “How do we bring the next level of data to the fan? How do we get Wimbledon front and center and use machine learning processes to bring things to the fore that people might not see instantly? That’s exactly the sort of innovation that excites us.”

2.7 million data points


Every year, IBM captures over 2.7 million Wimbledon data points

19 million fans


During The Championships 2023, Wimbledon reached approximately 19 million fans through its digital platforms

Our relationship with IBM is extremely collaborative. Any digital project requires a technology team, a data team, a marketing team and a content team working closely together. IBM is the glue that makes that happen for us. Bill Jinks Technology Director All England Lawn Tennis Club
AI Commentary, built with IBM watsonx

Wimbledon features hundreds of matches played across 18 courts. Wimbledon and IBM have collaborated to add spoken commentary to the video highlight reels that are produced for each of the singles matches that take place throughout the event with the ambition of fostering greater engagement and understanding among fans.

To achieve this, the IBM Consulting® team built a generative AI solution based on a foundation model developed using watsonx. Watsonx is designed to manage the entire lifecycle of AI models, from curating trusted data sources to governing responsible, trusted AI. Work began with IBM® watsonx.data™, a data store that connects disparate sources and allows developers to filter the data for things like profanity, hate speech or personally identifiable information. For AI Commentary, the team drew source material from nearly 130 million documents.

This data was used to train a large language model within IBM watsonx.ai™, a next-generation studio for building and training generative AI models for business use cases. The IBM team then fine-tuned the model, adding the specific domain expertise of Wimbledon, including the use of unique Wimbledon nomenclature such as “gentlemen’s draw” rather than “men’s draw.” The final model boasted three billion parameters, and the team monitored its ongoing performance using governance tools from IBM watsonx.governance™, ensuring the model performed as expected.

As a result, fans were able to experience AI-generated spoken commentary on Wimbledon highlight reels via the Wimbledon app and website, hearing play-by-play narration for the start and end of each reel, along with the key points of a match. Fans could also turn on closed captions to further enhance accessibility, a key consideration for the AELTC.

Innovation in action

To develop new capabilities like AI Commentary every year, the AELTC needs to move with speed and purpose. That requires combining the right people, processes and technology to facilitate rapid innovation.

It starts with a long-standing collaboration between the Wimbledon team and the experts at IBM Consulting. “We work together to find alignment on areas of interest, generating a combined vision for how fans will interact with our products in the future,” says Clements. “The combined passion in delivering experiences of the highest quality supercharges our partnership and ensures we can make the most of the opportunities in front of us.”

The teams use the IBM Garage™ Methodology to foster creativity and gain a deep understanding of tennis fans. As part of their biannual innovation workshops, the Wimbledon and IBM teams continuously seek to address two key challenges: How to engage fans more deeply with Wimbledon and tennis on an ongoing basis—for many, The Championships is the only tennis event they watch all year—and how to encourage fans to follow up-and-coming players who aren’t famous yet.

Through these workshops, the team develops new concepts and features for the app and website. For example, Match Insights is an AI-generated analysis of all singles matches in the tournament, designed to get fans quickly up to speed.

It includes:

  • The IBM Power Index, which uses advanced data analytics and AI to analyze recent player performance metrics and millions of expert opinions, creating an index of player momentum that changes from match to match.
  • Likelihood to Win predictions, generated from a comprehensive, AI-powered analysis of player statistics, expert opinion and momentum.
  • The IBM AI Draw Analysis, which uses AI models to assess the relative difficulty of each player’s potential path to the final.

In order to transform these new ideas into digital reality, IBM Consulting built a platform of innovation for Wimbledon, capable of processing structured and unstructured data, and integrating technology from a variety of sources. Automated workflows integrate and orchestrate the flow of data through the various applications and AI models needed to produce the digital experience.

These workflows are made possible by a hybrid cloud architecture and containerized apps running on Red Hat® OpenShift® (link resides outside of ibm.com). To keep the entire operation running smoothly, the team uses IBM Instana® Observability technology, which constantly monitors application performance and surfaces issues in less than three seconds, so the team can take swift action and avoid any downtime.


Continuous innovation

The collaborative relationship between the AELTC and IBM continues to open the way to new areas of innovation. “We’ve just scratched the surface of digital transformation,” says Jinks. “IBM is taking a leading role in a very active workstream exploring the next set of data we could be capturing,” he continues. “Data is driving everything in sports today, so we need to take that to the next level. Those are the things we’re focusing on.”

The relationship between IBM and the AELTC is truly a win-win enterprise. “The trust built up over 30 years of partnership enables genuine innovation. To innovate you must be open to pushing boundaries, knowing that not everything will succeed.” he concludes. “This is the way two organisations with such a long-standing partnership can ensure we keep up with a world that is so rapidly evolving.”

All England Lawn Tennis Club logo
About The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC)

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 (link resides outside of ibm.com) and based in London, Wimbledon has been a global sporting and cultural institution since 1877.

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