Business challenge story

Today’s sports fan suffers no lack of entertainment and excitement. There are often multiple sporting events happening at once - viewable through multiple media organizations and a growing variety of channels. Audiences naturally gravitate toward the channels with the most compelling, informative and timely content, looking for the latest scores and highlights. But with so many options, their attention spans are limited.

As the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, The Championships has a sizable audience every year. But there is looming potential for audience erosion as media organizations increase their coverage of the tournament and lure tennis fans away with more immersive experiences. And, to an increasing extent, Wimbledon even competes with concurrent sporting events such as the Tour de France and the British Grand Prix. On this crowded playing field, keeping fans engaged is a particular challenge.

To address the challenge, the organization is starting to think of itself as an innovative media organization in addition to a world-class sporting event. Over the past several years, the AELTC has assembled an award-winning array of digital and social platforms that expand the boundaries of tennis and change the definition of a spectator sport. As the 2017 tournament approached, the organization sought to continue the effort, looking for ways to:

  • Attract new audiences from around the world  
  • Solidify its digital presence as a gateway to the Wimbledon experience  
  • Create exclusive content that sets it apart and tells its story  
  • Deliver insights that generate not just context but connection turning fans into brand advocates

Transformation story

Building on a collaboration that began in 1990, the AELTC worked with IBM to continue its transformation into a media organization and change the perception of tennis by enhancing the fan experience, harnessing the exponential power of large data sets and putting technology in place to support a world-class event. The IBM Global Business Services® (IBM iX) team delivered end-to-end services from strategy to delivery, helping to create an elegantly designed digital experience for both the hardcore tennis fan and the casual observer, with rich content that tells a story and creates connection. In combination with real-time data and insights, the digital platform helps the tournament stand out from other media organizations and sporting events, with unique and varied insights into the sport.

The AELTC is changing fan perceptions of tennis by infusing personalization and user-centric design into the fan experience, extracting new insights from data and surfacing them when they matter, and adopting technology to support a world-class digital experience.

To create a unique, fan-centric experience that draws viewers to its digital properties, the IBM iX team helped develop and deploy new functionality for Wimbledon 2017. These enhancements include a 360-degree camera view from the practice courts - an exclusive behind-the-scenes view that was never before available to fans. The organization also added AI functionality to its Wimbledon app, using the IBM Watson Natural Language Classifier service to create a chatbot called Ask Fred. With the ability to understand the intent behind natural language queries, the app can answer various questions about the onsite experience, helping fans make the most of their visit to Wimbledon.

To keep fans informed and engaged throughout the event, the AELTC uses IBM Watson Campaign Automation software to push notifications to mobile devices and IBM IoT MessageSight software to provide hundreds of millions of real-time updates on scores around the world in seconds.

IBM also helped the AELTC extract more value from the 4.4 million data points it collects on court and delivers to 1.6 million mobile devices around the globe. At the center of this effort is the IBM SlamTracker® feature, which provides real-time scores, statistics and point-by-point analysis - and helps fans think like a tennis coach with its Keys to the Match feature. This year, the Keys to the Match feature has been updated with further analysis of “pressure situations” - for example, when a player is down two sets and down 0-40 in the current game. The analysis shows the player’s historical performance in similar situations and reveals subtle patterns in player and match dynamics.

Just as important as the data points is the video footage, which plays an increasingly central role in the AELTC’s storytelling efforts. With an average of 18 matches happening at any given time, video can quickly add up to hundreds of hours of footage. From within this massive amount of data, the editorial team must identify exciting moments and compile them into highlights packages.

Two enhancements are making it easier for editors to stay on top of the situation. One is a new alert system that notifies editors of competitive margin situations, when the ratio of winners to forced and unforced errors is close. Knowing which matches are competitive and tense gives the editorial team an edge in making decisions about which matches to follow and cover.

The other enhancement uses an AI-powered system to auto-curate video highlights. The system extracts exciting moments from Wimbledon match footage based on multimodal (video, audio, and data) cognitive computing techniques. Sophisticated algorithms watch for telltale changes in player gestures, crowd noise and excitement levels, combining them with match statistics to identify key moments. Once identified, the system uses match metadata to generate graphics for the Wimbledon editorial team to review and distribute. These improvements allow the Wimbledon digital team to scale and accelerate the video production process for highlight packages from the six main show courts, focusing more on content creation and less on scanning video footage. This resulted in 14.4 million views of video content with no human intervention needed, freeing up editorial time to focus on other stories and content.

Underneath it all, IBM Services - Global Technology Services® provides a hybrid cloud infrastructure through the IBM Cloud platform to streamline deployment of new services while maintaining the proper security, flexibility and resiliency. The hybrid cloud environment allows for stringent cybersecurity measures. In July 2016, the organization saw cyber attacks increase by 302 percent compared with the previous year. The upward trend in threats continues; during The Championships 2017, there were almost 200 million cybersecurity events.

The AELTC is managing the growing risk to Wimbledon digital properties with IBM Managed Security Services, including:

  • IBM Watson for Cyber Security technology, which helps the IBM security team handle incidents up to 60 times faster than manual investigations  
  • IBM QRadar® SIEM software, which consolidates log source event data from thousands of devices, endpoints and applications, correlating the raw data to distinguish real threats from false positives  
  • IBM X-Force® Exchange threat intelligence software, which identifies potentially malicious IP addresses such as malware hosts, spam sources and other threats

IBM Security solutions were particularly essential in battling a coordinated distributed denial-of-service attack that quietly built up a massive stream of log entries to give cover to more targeted intrusions, such as a malware injection. Without the tools, security analysts would have to sift through thousands of entries manually, which is extremely time-consuming. Instead, the security system can identify the relationships between threat vectors and attack type, showing a cause-and-effect correlation between two ostensibly separate attacks.

Results story

Game-changing outcome - In addition to being a world-class sporting event, Wimbledon is transforming itself into an innovative media organization, creating compelling, fan-centric experiences that improve its ability to compete for viewership and reach new audiences around the world. The organization delivers video highlights with unmatched speed using automated cognitive editing capabilities and offers an innovative visitor experience with a cognitive chatbot, giving tennis fans compelling new reasons to tune in during the tournament.

Before-after impact - Wimbledon is a premier sporting event attracting millions of viewers every summer, but it must fight for viewership with media organizations and other sporting events. Every year, other media outlets add new capabilities to deliver scores and highlights faster and in more compelling formats. The AELTC is staying one step ahead by making AI pervasive through its organization - delivering greater personalization to fans, helping digital editors push compelling content and supporting more dynamic security and IT operations. In combination, these factors are transforming Wimbledon into a media organization as well as a sporting event.

Data sources and characteristics - The AELTC deals with massive amounts of data from a variety of sources, both structured and unstructured. Through the mobile app, the organization is collecting natural language queries from fans, using AI to interpret the input and increase accuracy over time. In the video realm, AI-based systems are ingesting and analyzing visual data from event footage. On the security end, the infrastructure deals in vast quantities of security events, logs and threat analysis data.

Working with the IBM iX team on a wide-ranging transformation project for The Championships in 2017, Wimbledon made enormous strides in its ongoing effort to become not just a world-class sporting event but also a leading media organization. With its use of cognitive computing, advanced analytics and unmatched video footage, Wimbledon strengthened its digital presence for the span of the 2017 tournament. Its web properties attracted 69.9 million total visits and 436 million page views. The organization also continued to expand its mobile reach and adoption, generating 17.8 million mobile visits and 1.3 million app downloads.

Plus, by using the IBM Cloud as its platform for cognitive computing, analytics and security solutions, Wimbledon made it simple to scale up to accommodate the massive spikes in traffic during the tournament while maintaining resiliency and accelerating time to market for new features and applications. In addition, the IBM Watson for Cyber Security solution, used by the IBM Security team, automates security threat investigations and speeds the process by 98 percent, from one hour to one minute. Armed with this technology, the team can handle more incidents in less time, which is crucial for fending off the growing number of cyber attacks that occur during The Championships every year.

Solution Categories

  • Global Business Services
  • IBM Global Technology Services
  • Security Solutions
  • AI/Watson
  • IBM Cloud