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The Greatest Sports Tech Partner of All Time?
how IBM's tech elevated the Masters golf tournament
Today we’re analyzing IBM’s involvement in sports — and the reason why more sports properties could benefit from partnering with tech providers.
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Is IBM the Greatest Sports Tech Partner of All Time?
IBM is the official technology partner of The Masters golf tournament, and it supports the event with diverse tech solutions.
This year, IBM knocked it out of the park — The Masters app surprised the public with the quality of its technology, creating shockwaves from people talking about it on social media:
The app featured automated highlights, insights, and projections, but the most enticing feature was Watson — an AI-trained language model that delivered insights in real time, like an announcer.
While IBM has a solid reputation — its tech success within sports has been a long time coming…
An Overnight Success, 27 Years In The Making
IBM has been the tech partner of the Masters since 1996, implementing different initiatives to enhance the experience for players, fans, and broadcasters.
One of IBM’s main areas of focus since the beginning has been the transition from the input from data and analytics to the outputs with insights and statistics to compelling storytelling.
In an interview with Local 5, the VP of Sports and Entertainment Partnerships at IBM, Noah Syken, said, “We focus on the data of these organizations, whether the scoring or video data, and we help these organizations use it to tell their stories.”
Whether from player statistics, weather conditions, or even course conditions — IBM can translate thousands of metadata points to provide real-time insights to broadcasters and fans — improving the overall digital experience.
But the potential of partnering with IBM lies beyond a simple feature (or event).
Leveraging An Ecosystem
An advantage of partnering with IBM is leveraging its tech ecosystem (AI, servers, platforms, equipment, etc.), experience with other top sports properties, and group of talented engineers.
IBM has been a tech partner of the US Open, Wimbledon, and ESPN for years.
The lessons from dozens of iterations in similar use cases have allowed IBM to create compelling solutions for these organizations.
For example, IBM’s Cognitive Highlights Solution — also used in Wimbledon — goes through thousands of highlights and decides which ones are worth sharing based on match data, crowd noise, player expressions, etc.
IBM’s cloud computing platform hosts the Masters website and app, allowing scalable, reliable, and seamless access to all tournament data.
The scale of using this technology rises above the capabilities of what any army of humans could ever do.
Due to its results and longevity, IBM could be in the conversation for the greatest sports tech partner of all time. Still, I couldn’t come up with reasons why a sports organization shouldn’t partner with similar top-notch tech providers.
Sports properties can derive long-term value from partnerships with companies like IBM to deliver high-quality products, services, and experiences.
The indirect effects of a superior product or experience are often intangible and hardly measurable — i.e., no marketing manager includes “millions of impressions and reactions from our great technology” in any marketing plan.
Still, even if it’s not always tangible, it feels evident — and hence, necessary.
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