Our Blog

Data and emotion are unlikely doubles partners

There is nothing like Wimbledon to get brands excited about real time marketing. In a single tennis match the crowd often ride a rollercoaster of emotions, with momentum shifts mid-match and the tease of potential glory for the underdog. It’s likely your social media feed is full of #comeonandy and maybe the odd comedy #comeontim, as well as clips of seemingly impossible shots.

While many brands are still sticking to bad tennis puns for their social posts (mentioning no names @Tesco) to get into the conversation, this year has seen more brands looking to leverage real-time data generated from the tournament. This makes sense in a game of such fine margins, where matches are can be decided on by a simple difference of % of first serves in.

When it comes to brands using data to add value to a conversation in real-time, the use of that data must bring something new or interesting to the discussion… or at the very least be funny.

IBM’s involvement in Wimbledon has been built on understanding and interpreting data. Arguably, it understands real time tennis data like no other, especially in its position as the official technology partner of the championships for the last 25 years. This year has seen the company step up another gear, by bringing ‘Watson’ to Wimbledon.

While IBM’s Watson hasn’t got a great forehand slice drop shot like Heather, the cognitive computer has been busy training itself over the last few months to absorb every single data point in the last 138 years of Wimbledon archives.

The smart bit is that Watson is able cross reference real-time data with this historical data, meaning it knows the significance of Murray not hitting his average 1st serve % in and the likelihood it’ll affect his ability to win a match against a particular opponent. Wimbledon staff are able ask Watson any question, in natural language and within three seconds it gives the answer. The detail of this analysis can be accessed by the public using the ‘slamtracker’ tool, which uses statistics to identify the three key areas for victory of any match.

However impressive this system is, the real time data still needs the human touch to input it all. IBM’s Spotters, many of them tennis players, can be seen with touchscreens logging how every point of every match is won or lost across the 19 courts. This might sound like a great way to enjoy the championships for free, but the work is incredibly difficult – you can have a go yourself on IBM’s simulation http://www.maketheteam.co.uk.

While IBM has clearly defined what it brings to the tournament, 2015 represents the first time that Jaguar has assumed its role as official automotive partner of Wimbledon.

Trying to induce a range of emotions from data points is virtually an impossible task as your brain needs to work hard to process the meaning behind the complex infographics, while the brain generates emotions to react to the experience.

Beyond supplying 170 luxury vehicles to support tournament operations, they have also created a social media campaign that looks to use a variety of sensors to capture the emotion of the tournament for those who can’t be there. In their words, ‘We believe everyone should be able to feel Wimbledon’.

The ambition of the project is clear to see. From installing sensors in the ground to pick up crowd noise to measuring the heartbeats of a small number of spectators with biometric wristbands, they have sought to use the latest technology to capture data that can represent emotional highs and lows across the day. The social posts on Twitter, which have been heavily promoted, incorporate some crowd photos overlaid with data, but as they aren’t in real-time they have to take a reflective, informative tone rather than allowing people to feel the moment. The live feeling infographic on the website is near real-time but without the audio visual feels a long way from SW19.

Trying to induce a range of emotions from data points is virtually an impossible task as your brain needs to work hard to process the meaning behind the complex infographics, while the brain generates emotions to react to the experience.

The lesson from this is to always start with what you’re trying to achieve, rather than get lost in the technology that is available to achieve it. In a world of data points, remember what makes us human.

Chrissy Totty is Head of Innovation at Vizeum