Strawberries, cream and big data

By Bekki Bushnell, Head of Business Development

The use of big data and social media at sporting events often leads to a Whiteoaks PR blog – and this week is no different.

Forbes has given an interesting insight into big data, social media and Wimbledon, which has now entered its second week, with the draw suddenly looking extremely favourable for Britain’s Andy Murray after Novak Djokovic’s early exit at the hands of Sam Querrey on Sunday.

The magazine’s Bernard Marr spoke with Alexandra Willis, head of communications, content and digital at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club about changes that have occurred in the last year. The All England Club has this year tasked IBM’s Watson to do the number crunching for the huge volume of social media and online posts generated throughout Wimbledon fortnight.

What was interesting to note (and perhaps a generational thing?) is that the general TV audience still dominates the market. The TV audience, according to Marr, stands at 300million, while the audience across all digital platforms is around 30million. Although there is clearly an expectation that this gap will narrow in the future, it offers an interesting insight into Wimbledon’s audience compared to, say, the European football championships taking place across the Channel.

Willis said: “Our challenge is making sure that we are servicing each of those audiences on all of those platforms in the best way we can, while making sure that we are being true to Wimbledon’s tone of voice and what our purpose is.”

A major part of Watson’s role is to find stories that “most fans are engaged with”, which will drive contentcreation based on these desires. What is perhaps even more impressive, is that these trends will be predicted – through machine learning – rather than purely reacting to events as they happen. That being said, I wonder if Watson foresaw Djokovic actually losing at a Grand Slam tournament? In the aforementioned Forbes article, Willis did cite this as a possibility before they? start to trend on Twitter: “We will hopefully be able to monitor the particular interest on court, or if there is one player garnering particular interest we will be able to hop on and pre-empt that trend.”

Interestingly, the way the AI market is going has led to plenty of debate around content being created by machines. Wimbledon is not yet ready for this, with social media posts and reports still being crafted by writers. A win for our journalist friends on the other side of the fence!

Fortunately, Murray’s bid to win a second Wimbledon title has not been thwarted by Nick Kyrgios, a fiery character even Watson couldn’t predict.