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With the sporting focus of the summer firmly set on the football World Cup, some may have forgotten about the imminent sporting championships on our own doorstep.

In a few days’ time, Wimbledon will open its gates to the world’s best tennis stars, together with almost half a million tennis fans.

The number engaging with the two-week tournament digitally is set to be exponentially higher until the gates close on the 6th July. 

The Wimbledon Championships, along with technology partner IBM, will need to cater for around 20m unique users of the desktop website, live streaming to millions more and real-time content updates to the mobile and iPad apps, not to mention providing statistics and insights for television broadcast to millions.

Last year, a peak of 17.3m UK viewers tuned in to watch Murray triumph over Djokovic.

Catering for this huge peak in demand for such a short period of time requires massive technological and human resource. To meet the demands of this data-hungry beast, the digital team at Wimbledon use IBM’s Big Data and analytics platform.

This powerful computer, which has, among other things, devised a unique recipe for BBQ sauce, is used at Wimbledon to capture and analyse data from multiple sources, predicting web traffic and allowing them to dynamically adjust the website capacity in real-time, accommodating demand across multiple devices. 

This intelligent use of big data is reflected across the digital provisioning for The Championships. This year, a redesigned mobile app can be personalised to the user’s preferences, and gives access to real time scores, results, news, live video and a myriad of other content. 

Their most data-rich innovation comes in the form of the IBM SlamTracker, which uses historical and real-time data to provide insights to fans, encouraging engagement around the predicted winner of the game. 

Engagement through data is a key focus of the Wimbledon Championships and has been since the 2012 brand refresh.

This engagement is managed through the Social Command Centre, which coordinates listening to and engaging with their massive following.

Current social figures stand at 1.7m fans on Facebook, 102,000 on Instagram, 1.05m on Twitter, 1.04m on Google+, and 72,000 on YouTube. Its fans extend to Weibo in China, and they recently started posting in Japanese on Facebook. Not bad for a tournament that sees action on just two weeks of the year.  

The social aspect of The Championships will be ramped up further in 2014 with the introduction of ‘Hill vs. World’; a social gauge comparing the conversation occurring on Henman Hill compared to that in the rest of the world.

This will include heat maps showing the location of tweets and posts, and encourage engagement by asking questions of the social audience.  

The Wimbledon Championships are a great example of what can be done with data and social to engage a fleeting audience.  

Though there is a year to plan, the real-time data collection and analysis using a combination of heavy-duty computing and human subjectivity enables this engagement by providing really interesting information and statistics, telling a story over two summer weeks.

Amy Rodgers

Published 19 June, 2014 by Amy Rodgers @ Econsultancy

Amy Rodgers is a Research Analyst at Econsultancy. You can find Amy on Google+

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