Wimbledon 2018: 6 digital innovations to keep tennis fans engaged

Wimbledon 2018 - InsideSport

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has introduced six artificial intelligence digital innovations for Wimbledon 2018 to keep the tennis fans engaged.

AELTC and official technology partner IBM have unveiled new AI technologies for The Championships 2018, marking the next phase in the AELTC’s journey, cementing digital as the gateway to their brand with unique data insights and AI solutions to drive fan engagement and business efficiency.

In 2018, Wimbledon and IBM will put AI technology to work to change the way fans perceive and enjoy the game of tennis. By delivering unique and authentic content, in the moment that it happens, the AELTC and IBM will work together to reveal new insights into what it takes to succeed on Centre Court as the players aspire to reach the pinnacle of their sport: to be a Wimbledon Champion.

Having started to adopt AI technologies in 2015, Wimbledon is now leading the way in harnessing the exponential power of huge sets of data to provide an ever more immersive experience, and is pleased to launch the following new innovations for 2018:


The Wimbledon Messenger is a social assistant for those off-site, utilising the Watson Assistant chatbot capability and delivered within Facebook Messenger. This will put more content into social platforms where fans increasingly engage with their friends. The Bot will allow fans to access tailored information on scores, news and players while driving engagement back to the official platforms. The Wimbledon Messenger experience complements ‘Fred,’ Wimbledon’s in-app AI assistant, launched in 2017 to provide a personalised on-site visitor experience and further enhanced for 2018.


A new Wimbledon.com will provide content that refreshes dynamically, making the browsing experience more seamless, but also with greater ability to personalise for different audiences. The redesign also allows persistent video viewing to help maximise video use and hero The Wimbledon Channel, Wimbledon’s live video offering. This is not just an investment for 2018, but will allow Wimbledon to deliver ever more engaging experiences in future years. As Wimbledon becomes the host broadcaster of The Championships, with the launch of Wimbledon Broadcast Services, the AELTC wanted to ensure that digital platforms are equally able to make the most of the rich array of video content being captured and produced. Combined with ever increasing rates of publishing demand and digital trends moving towards “app like” web platforms, a new approach was needed to Wimbledon.com


There will also be enhanced AI-powered automated video highlights for Wimbledon fans. As a learning system, Watson has been taught to better recognise player emotion, increasing the quality of the output, while also increasing speed in turnaround time by 15 minutes. AI-powered automated video highlights are generated using IBM Watson and other video and audio technologies to bring to life the most exciting moments of The Championships from the six main Show Courts. With an average of three matches per court, per day, video from the matches can quickly add up to hundreds of hours of footage which could take hours to pull together into highlight packages. The AI system created by IBM Research scientists and IBM iX consultants auto-curates highlights based on analysis of crowd noise, players’ movements and match data to help simplify the highlight video production process and focus on key moments in the match. This allows the Wimbledon editorial team to scale and accelerate the video production process for highlight packages and expand the number of potential matches that are turned into timely highlight videos for fans to watch and share. In addition, being able to access the content at a clips level will allow the Wimbledon editorial team to maximise their output within their allowed rights footage.


An AI highlights dashboard will further assist the digital team. A new editorial dashboard has been created that will populate in near real-time every shot of a match and its excitement level. The AELTC digital team will be able to view and find the most exciting shot of the day or the match and leverage this content across all their digital channels, including social.


A redesigned IBM SlamTracker will provide alternative views to different types of fan. Whether it’s high-level overviews, point by point commentary or more detailed analysis, fans will be encouraged to engage in the in-match experience using different types of media from match highlights to real-time scores to social interactions. That means Wimbledon fans will have an unprecedented level of analysis, insight and engagement as the match unfolds, particularly with mobile devices in mind. Real-time data will be integrated from multiple sources including courtside statisticians, chair umpires, radar guns, ball position, player location and even Twitter for social sentiment. IBM’s SlamTracker works by analysing the players’ Cognitive “Keys” to the Match to understand which tactics to look for in a head to head match. The aim is to reveal the hidden patterns in player and match dynamics determining the pressure situations and allowing fans to follow their progress against their “keys” in real time—point by point. The Keys to the Match include insights such as pace-of-play, serve placement spread or baseline proximity. The solution also uses Watson APIs to refine and update the player style based on match data. We have also added a feature referred to as “momentum” which will be a visual depiction of a match with an indication of which player has the momentum and how that may have shifted over the course of the match.


The Official Wimbledon Poster to celebrate 150 years of the AELTC is created with IBM Watson. The official Wimbledon poster celebrating 150 years of The All England Lawn Tennis Club has been created using a unique mosaic approach, with IBM Watson analysing over 300,000 archive photographs.

Alexandra Willis, Head of Communications, Content and Digital, AELTC, talking about the AI innovations said that “We strive to ensure that our traditions remain relevant in the context of today, and are determined not to rest on our laurels. We want to engage with existing as well as new fans around the world, to help them be part of The Championships 2018, especially in what will be such a competitive sporting summer. We want to tell the stories of the phenomenal athleticism of our great players, the gladiatorial nature of the matches they play and explain the sporting narratives that will cut through to our audiences.

“These technology innovations are at the hearts of our efforts to continuing our journey towards a great digital experience that ensures we connect with our fans across the globe – wherever they may be watching and from whatever device that may be. For example, we are extending our content offering into Facebook Messenger, allowing fans to access tailored information on scores, news and players within a social platform. It’s also fitting that in this, our 150th anniversary year, we are using AI technology to design our unique celebratory poster, a genuine combination of design and data to provide fans with the unique Wimbledon experience they expect and more.”

Sam Seddon, Wimbledon Client & Programme Executive, IBM, commented added “People are judging Wimbledon on the experience they had last month, or even yesterday. Technology plays a really important role in making their digital channels the most engaging place to experience The Championships, Increasingly, the AELTC is embracing the role of AI as being a foundation of that digital experience and strategy. The solutions that IBM uses to improve the fan, player and media experience at Wimbledon are the same technologies and solutions that are used to transform industries and professions.

“Supporting Wimbledon in achieving their mission statement requires constant innovation and transformation to not only meet but exceed their expectations. This is why IBM has been Wimbledon’s technology and innovation partner since 1990”.

The Wimbledon Championship 2018, the 132nd edition of world’s oldest tennis tournament, will start at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in London from Monday, June 2.