“We Use Our Technology To Provide Connectivity, Access And Engagement For Fan Experience”

November 23, 2020

IBM is constantly expanding its footprints in the sporting realm globally. iSPORTCONNECT spoke with IBM’s Noah Syken, Vice President, Sports and Entertainment Partnerships to find out about the brand’s recent initiatives, global strategy, AI among other things.

How is IBM innovating its services to tackle pandemic challenges?

The innovations that IBM integrates within our sports partnerships with ESPN Fantasy Football, the US Open (tennis), Wimbledon and The Masters Tournament are all intended to enhance fans’ overall experience. While fans have not been able to attend sporting events during the COVID-19 pandemic, the technology and innovations that we bring to our partnerships are intended to help keep them engaged with and connected to the sports that they love.

With Wimbledon cancelled this year we worked with the All England Lawn and Tennis Club to create Wimbledon’s first-ever digital tournament “The Greatest Championships 2020” – featuring remastered and enhanced footage along with data-rich experiences that use the power of Artificial Intelligence to bring to life past Wimbledon matches from over the years. This was a new way of recreating historic content and engaging with fans.  

This year’s US Open tennis tournament was played without fans for the first time ever, due to the pandemic, so IBM helped enhance the fan experience by introducing three unique and new tennis-based digital experiences including virtual sports debates, hyper-relevant match insights using IBM Watson and AI Sounds, underpinned by an open hybrid cloud architecture. These are just a few ways we’re using technology during the pandemic to keep fans connected. 

What is the solution that IBM brings to the sporting industry? How can sports organizations leverage IBM’s AI and Cloud computing technology?

The way that fans consume sports today is vastly different than the past. Connectivity, access and engagement are core elements of the fan experience, all which we look to provide through the technology that we integrate into our sports partnerships.

For example, the United States Tennis Association (SUTA) announced just 75 days before the start of match play, that the tournament would be held, but without fans on-site. As the technology partner of the USTA, IBM had less than twelve weeks to conceive, develop, test and deliver new digital experiences for fans. IBM’s hybrid cloud architecture with Red Hat OpenShift provided the operational agility and flexibility necessary to quickly develop new experiences powered by IBM Watson’s advanced natural language processing.

In the same way we work with clients in a variety of industries around the world to transform their businesses, our work with sports partners, like the USTA and ESPN Fantasy Football, help to transform the sports experience for fans, players, coaches and stakeholders. 

Tell us about your other recent partnerships and campaigns. 

IBM has been a long-time partner to a range of sports organizations, teams, and events, including tennis (US Open and Wimbledon), golf (The Masters Tournament), football (via ESPN Fantasy Football), and the GRAMMY Awards. Through these strategic partnerships, including IBM’s new engagement with the Overwatch League, IBM is a leader in reimagining the sports and entertainment experiences for fans, players and coaches alike – leveraging the flexibility of the hybrid cloud, and other AI-powered solutions.

IBM recently ventured into esports. Tell us about your partnership with the Overwatch League.

Through our new partnership, IBM and the Overwatch League will use IBM’s suite of advanced cloud and AI products to enhance experiences for fans, players and broadcasters. The deal is a new way of showcasing our technology in the sports and entertainment world, and we’re excited to share more specifics on our work with Overwatch in the future.

Why was esports an appealing prospect? Was this something that had been contemplated for some time? What activations are you planning and how will you engage with the esports audience?

Esports is one of the fastest growing and most popular sports in the world so it made sense to us to enter a partnership with one of the most elite and high-profile leagues in the sport, the Overwatch League. Specific technology and activations within the partnership are currently being planned and will be announced soon, hopefully prior to the start of the 2021 season.