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Glen Thomas, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, IBM Australia and New Zealand

Glen Thomas, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, IBM Australia and New Zealand

By Glen Thomas

If you are lucky enough to attend the Australian Open in Melbourne – or simply are enjoying the tennis tournament from the comfort of your armchair – you can’t fail to be impressed by the rich, engaging experience the international Grand Slam provides for fans.

As marketers, we know that creating an engaging customer experience isn’t always easy. That’s why we’re embracing analytics, cloud computing and mobile technologies to help tap into Big Data and drive new experiences for customers. SP australian-open3However, more than 80 per cent[i] of CMOs feel underprepared for Big Data – a figure that has actually increased by 11 percent in two years.

With this in mind, imagine the challenges faced by Tennis Australia when hosting one of the world’s premier sporting events. A relatively small organisation for most of the year, it uses analytics, cloud, social and mobile technology, to extend its reach far beyond the 680,000-plus spectators who walk through the gates at Melbourne Park each year. In fact, the Australian Open website had some 15.5 million unique users last year, with almost half of those visitors accessing the site using mobile devices.

While this huge audience is Tennis Australia’s best opportunity to engage with fans, it is also vital in helping the organisation achieve its core mission – encouraging more people to play and become involved in the sport.

So how does Tennis Australia meet these expectations, manage a project of this scale and make the most of the Big Data opportunity to connect with fans?

As the technology partner of the Australian Open, IBM has worked with Tennis Australia for the past two decades to continually improve the experience for fans. Here are just some of the technologies powering and serving insights about this year’s tournament:

  • Always on. With live scores, radio broadcasts, video interviews and other real-time updates, ausopen.com is the ideal companion for fans. The site content is produced and managed by Tennis Australia.  It’s hosted on an IBM private cloud, and predictive analytics automatically allocates the computing power required to keep the site performing optimally, even at peak times.
  • Any screen. Fans expect an intuitive, customised experience whether they’re using their computer, tablet or smartphone. The tournament’s mobile apps provide real-time updates, and allow fans to follow or post about players and track players’ popularity on social media.
  • Deeper insights. Tennis fans want more than live scores and updates. IBM SlamTracker on ausopen.com analyses more than eight years of Grand Slam data to provide key statistics and live insights into what each player needs to do to win and each match’s key turning points.
  • Interactive experience.  ReturnServe is a virtual reality experience that allows fans to test their skills against serves from the world’s best players. The game captures and analyses data as it happens at Rod Laver Arena to provide a realistic experience for fans both online and at the tournament.
  • Social sentiment. The Australian Open Social Leaderboard tracks and analyzes comments on Twitter to determine the most popular players at the tournament by both the total number of tweets and how positive those tweets are, providing a “sentiment” ranking. Rafael Nadal, who beat Roger Federer to advance to the Australian Open final, is also leading in the Twitterverse. Nadal has been tweeted about more than 250,000 times, with a 84 percent approval rating. Federer comes in second with more than 160,000 tweets, of which 81 percent are positive. Nadal’s opponent in the final, Stanislas Wawrinka, is the third most popular player with more than 56,000 tweets, and only three percent of them were negative.

Building your own fan base

While implementing and getting the most out of analytics, cloud and mobile technologies can be challenging, the rewards make it well worthwhile. Whether you’re a Grand Slam tennis tournament, a bank or a utility provider, gaining insights from Big Data can enable us, as marketers, to make more informed decisions and build better relationships with our customers. In fact, businesses that don’t continue to innovate through technology to engage customers as individuals – with richer interaction across multiple channels – will find it progressively harder to compete in this era of “Smart”.


[i] IBM Global C-suite Study 2013

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