The Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT) wanted to boost the global visibility of the Roland-Garros tournament and transform the fan experience, within a secure and cost-effective digital environment.
Throughout the tournament, the FFT dynamically captures, creates and shares compelling content with users via a secure, flexible IBM infrastructure that can support huge peaks in website traffic.
Increasedfan, media and player engagement
57 millionvisits to the website and apps, 56% more than the previous year
100xrise in website traffic supported seamlessly by cloud infrastructure
Business challenge story
A partnership born in 1985
Since 1985, the Fédération Française de Tennis (FTT) and IBM have worked hand-in-hand to make Roland-Garros one of the world’s most exciting sporting events.
As the Official Information Technology and Internet Partner for Roland-Garros and the other Grand Slam tennis championships, IBM helps the sport’s governing organizations to achieve efficient and innovative data collection, analysis and distribution, capturing match data and generating scores, match and tournament statistics, social trends and television infographics. But the partnership goes far beyond scores and statistics: in a broader sense, IBM and the FFT aim to leverage the latest technology and make each year’s tournament more compelling than the last.
One of the FFT’s prime objectives is to make the tournament accessible to the greatest number of fans possible, drawing them into the heart of the action. To deliver on this aim, the organization looks to IBM for new ways to capture, create, distribute and secure compelling content in a dynamic manner through the official tournament website (www.rolandgarros.com) and mobile application, which are available in many languages.
Jeremy Botton, General Manager of the Fédération Française de Tennis explains: “Every year, we aim to improve on the previous year’s tournament, applying the latest innovations in technology to make the fans’, players’ and coaches’ experience even better. Somehow, we need to make this happen without sending our costs rocketing or failing to secure data—we turned to IBM for guidance.”
The FFT found it could not support the growing digital transformation with its existing tools and small, dedicated IT team. The organization wanted to modernize the look and feel of the Roland-Garros website, to more fully integrate social media elements, and redesign the mobile application to handle the large increase in mobile users.
Bringing the tournament to life
For years, the FFT and IBM have led the way in delivering real-time insight into the action to fans, media and players, awakening an appetite for more high-quality content. The FFT relies on a range of IBM solutions to meet this demand.
The IBM Scoring System
Based on IBM Analytics solutions, the IBM Scoring System enables the FFT to collect real-time data on each point from all the tournament courts. It then secures, stores, analyzes and distributes the information to fans, media and players across a wide range of digital platforms, including internet, television, tablets and mobile.
For example, IBM produces infographics for 142 broadcasting partners in 224 territories worldwide. The Scoring System generates statistics in real time for each of the broadcast matches, and inserts the data into more than 50 overlays that broadcasters can display on-screen in a matter of seconds.
Speed serve system
The FFT utilizes the IBM courtside radar gun to measure the speed of each serve, immediately transmitting the data to the IBM scoring database and displaying it on the courtside scoreboard and on the official website. Jeremy Botton comments: “The courtside radar gun has become one of the most recognizable solutions used during the tournament, and often plays a vital role in match analysis.”
One of the new features at the 2015 Roland-Garros/French Open tournament, FFT worked with IBM and the racket producer Babolat to introduce Internet of Things-enabled rackets. Babolat provided these sensor-equipped, Internet-connected rackets to a dozen players, including Rafael Nadal, and automatically posted the performance data online, giving fans unprecedented insight into every shot.
Taking it beyond the arena: www.rolandgarros.com and mobile apps
The FFT engaged IBM to help design, develop and host the new state-of the-art official French Open website. Thanks to innovative IBM technology, the website allows users to be a part of the tournament, no matter where they are.
“With IBM’s help, we were able to introduce a responsive design that optimizes browsing according to device,” says Jeremy Botton. “This is just one of the ways that we are providing a more engaging, immersive and personalized experience to our fans online.”
On the website, tennis fans can react to the action by commenting on articles and photos or by posting comments on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+. They can also take advantage of the interactive online experience of www.rolandgarros.com to listen to the tournament’s live radio program, review highlights of the day’s play, read blogs and follow the scores from every court as the action happens in real time.
IBM SlamTracker and “Keys to the match”
Committed to continual innovation, the FFT also engaged IBM to design a new interface for its famous IBM SlamTracker tool.
The solution captures, analyzes and visually renders a range of important match data in real time, bringing scores, statistics and analysis to life, and giving viewers an immediate and accurate sense of a match in progress. Jeremy Botton adds: “For many fans, IBM® SlamTracker™ is now an essential, extremely powerful data analysis tool that they can use during and after a match to gain a deeper understanding of what lies behind the final outcome.”
IBM has also developed “Keys to the Match”, a feature within SlamTracker. Using IBM SPSS® Modeler, the tool mines more than 40 million data points from eight years’ worth of Grand Slam Tennis data, and identifies patterns in the way matches unfold on the court. By analyzing past matchups and playing styles, the FFT is able to determine the key factors that are likely to produce a win for each player and share this insight with fans.
For example, based on past performance in Grand Slam tournaments, a particular player may be most likely to win a given match if he can win more than 40 percent of his first-serve return points, more than 62 percent of three- to eight-shot rallies, and at least 55 percent of first-serve points.
The Keys to the Match feature calculates and displays these probabilities while tracking the player’s current performance as the match progresses.
“With ‘Keys to the Match’, we are taking IBM SlamTracker to the next level,” says Jeremy Botton. “By revealing the ‘Keys’ at the beginning of the match and providing real-time updates on players’ progress over the course of the day and tournament, we can transform the way that people watch and understand tennis so that it more accessible than ever before. Even casual spectators can gain an in-depth understanding of the action, which helps to broaden the audience and heighten interest in both Roland-Garros and tennis as a sport.”
The FFT ensures that fans stay up to date with Roland-Garros wherever they are, via their mobile phones, smartphones or digital tablets. Specifically, the organization offers access to dedicated iPad, iPhone and Android apps developed by IBM, making real-time scores, statistics, videos, photos, schedules, draws and player information widely available across multiple platforms.
IBM is helping the FFT to leverage IBM Streams for social media analysis, enabling a better understanding of fan sentiment. Specifically, IBM calculates the percentage of tweets about players that include positive versus negative sentiment, offering unprecedented insight into the attitudes of fans around the world.
Fans can now follow their favorite players live on the website, enabling matches to be played out beyond the court on social networks.
Leveraging a hybrid cloud
To support these innovations, the FFT needs a flexible, reliable and high-performance IT infrastructure.
Today, the organization relies on a hybrid cloud infrastructure (shared with the other three tennis Grand Slam governing organizations) hosted in IBM SoftLayer® data centers. The platform is spread across three geographically dispersed data centers, virtualized as a single environment.
Using IBM Cloud Orchestrator software, IBM automatically optimizes workloads, dynamically creates and allocates resources in real time, and delivers transparent and real-time access across resources.
“It is vital that we have a solid, easy-to-manage backbone supporting our services,” comments Jeremy Botton. “IBM solutions provide the flexibility we need to manage unpredictable spikes in demand, so that we never disappoint our users. Since website traffic can increase by a factor of 100 during the tournament, this capability is essential.”
Managing risk proactively
With data protection a key priority, the FFT deployed a family of IBM Security solutions to proactively and comprehensively secure the Roland Garros website and mobile applications. Together with a centralized survey of the entire infrastructure, these solutions offer the FFT cost optimization, compliance and performance boosts for both website and mobile apps.
The security solutions enable the FFT to analyze vulnerabilities in real time, so it can take effective action before its infrastructure is compromised by potential system attacks. Similarly, any threats, anomalies and infringements of security rules are automatically detected.
“With IBM security solutions, we can have complete confidence that our systems are well-secured against attack,” says Jeremy Botton. “We now have the tools to go beyond traditional security measures such as firewalls, and ensure that there are extra layers of protection in place.”
Taking action off the court
Working with IBM, the FFT has succeeded in creating a truly immersive Roland-Garros/French Open experience.
“The new www.rolandgarros.com site was a resounding success,” comments Jeremy Botton. “We received 57 million visits on all our platforms—a 56 percent improvement over 2014—and 14 million unique visitors, a 9 percent increase over the previous year.”
By offering fans, media, players and coaches a media-rich, interactive experience of the tournament, the FFT is enabling a deeper understanding of match dynamics than ever before. Jeremy Botton adds: “Partnering with IBM, we have demonstrated our ability to add to the excitement of tennis fans whether they are in the stands or at home.”
The benefits have not come at a cost to efficiency, as Jeremy Botton concludes: “Each year for the past 20 years, IBM has provided new services and managed growth in traffic to the Roland-Garros website, while reducing cost, space and energy consumption and maintaining 100 percent availability—a real triumph. Together, we are working with IBM to apply cutting-edge technology that retains the French Open’s reputation as one of the best sporting events in the world.”
About Fédération Française de Tennis
The Roland-Garros tournament, often referred to as the French Open, is a major tennis tournament held every spring at the Roland Garros Stadium in Paris. The tournament is coordinated, managed and promoted by the Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT).
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