IBM’s New Sports and Entertainment Global Consortium Targets Venues, Fan Experience

IBM announced the Sports and Entertainment Global Consortium, which was created to design, build, and deliver the ultimate fan experience.  IBM also announced the new Sports, Entertainment, and Fan Experience consulting practice led by Jim Rushton, who joins IBM after serving as Chief Revenue Officer of the Miami Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium.  

The consortium brings together IBM’s world leading information technology and recognized leaders in such areas as construction and design, network infrastructure, wireless and telecommunications. Collectively, consortium members already are working with more than 250 of the world’s top venues. The sports consortium offers clients an integrated capability spanning design, strategy, technology, and data to drive growth and profit across all sports enterprise businesses.

Founding members of the consortium, include:

.    Architecture and Design: HOK

·    Construction and Design: AECOM, Whiting Turner

·    Infrastructure Technology, Software, and IPTV: Alcatel-Lucent, Anixter, CommScope, Corning, Juniper Networks, Ruckus Wireless, Schneider Electric, Smarter Risk, Tellabs, Ucopia, Zebra Technologies, YinzCam, Zhone

·    Communications Solutions Providers: AT&T, Verizon Enterprise Solutions, Level 3, Zayo

·    Fan Experience Consulting, Mobile Applications and Data Management Integration: IBM

According to A.T. Kearney, sports annually generate nearly $700 billion around the world and the market is growing faster than Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in nearly every country. The modern venue setting demands a sophisticated technology and wireless environment.

“We look forward to working with IBM and our clients to integrate new and emerging technologies into the design of stadiums, ballparks and arenas to create a more memorable experience for fans,” said Brad Schrock, AIA, a director of Sports + Recreation + Entertainment design at leading sports venue design firm HOK. “Fans will be able to use mobile devices to interact with the venue and the team, which will create extraordinary experiences.”

Yet less than half of U.S. sports venues provide even basic connectivity on game days. Fewer still are equipped to meet fan expectations for wireless services to mobile devices, e-commerce and entertainment options, and delivery of data and analysis of events and athletic performance.

As sports enterprises and venues look to digital capabilities to create deeper levels of engagement with fans and convert that engagement into new sources of revenue, they must be able to deliver high-bandwidth connectivity, with services and content increasingly customized to individual preferences.

This is especially true as the live in-venue experience competes with the quality and convenience of high-definition television, mobile and social channels surrounding live events. A fully designed and realized experience moves fans from passive spectators to active participants via multiple points of engagement, and ultimately convert fans into customers of new offerings and digital services.

“IBM’s approach from the outset has been to combine the tech savvy of its integrated systems expertise with the best practices of its heralded fan-friendly, immersive data engagements at major sporting events,” said Jared Miller, Chief Technology Officer, Arthur M. Blank Sports & Entertainment Group, which signed on IBM as a founding partner for its iconic downtown Atlanta Mercedes-Benz Stadium set to open in 2017 as the home of the NFL’s Falcons and Atlanta United FC of Major League Soccer.   “From supplying the robust infrastructure in its advanced fiber-based optical networks and distributed antenna system that ensures connectivity for fast, reliable WiFi to over 70,000 fans attending a game, to the video displays and digital signage, IBM is building the network backbone that will support the operational systems for the Stadium, such as physical security capabilities including cameras, managed doors and video intercom systems. Making those experiences a reality requires more than dazzling displays and flashy apps, but an innovative mindset that puts the fan experience first.”

In many cases, sports enterprises and venues have yet to incorporate digital elements that are essential in providing a seamless year-round experience that will delight their passive, active, or high-value fans. At present, these enterprises must act as their own general contractors to assemble an extensive list of capabilities and integrate a complex stack of technology and business components.

“Sports enterprises and venues need to look at ways to get to know their loyal fans as individuals, and convert that fan loyalty into new revenue streams – not just on game days but 365 days a year,” said Jim Rushton, who will lead the new IBM consulting practice, which will deploy more than 100 global specialists in experience design, mobility, marketing and data analytics supported by a global network of 20 digital design studios. “It’s an ongoing experience that starts when a fan purchases tickets, travels to the venue, attends an event; and it continues well after the event is over.”

Members of the IBM Sports and Entertainment Consortium commit to develop solutions, exchange intellectual property, and collaborate to design and deliver global opportunities.

The new Sports, Entertainment and Fan Experience consulting practice formalizes the experience design that IBM Interactive Experience, the industry’s largest hybrid digital agency and consultancy, has delivered for events such as The Masters and the tennis Grand Slam events — Wimbledon, US Open, and Australian Open. The practice also becomes the integrating front end of IBM’s proven sports capabilities — spanning personalized fan engagement (mobile and web), data management for team performance with the clients like the Ottawa Senators; and the optimization of stadium infrastructure for venues like Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Kyle Field at Texas A&M.

“Today’s sports and entertainment venue experience is no longer the singular idea of a fan watching a game, said Richard A. Patterson, General Manager, Global Technology Services. “In order to convert casual fans to loyal customers, connection is everything. IBM and our consortium partners are redefining the idea of the stadium with technology to benefit fans and teams alike.”

The full suite of solutions IBM brings to this market includes Fan Experience consulting, analytics for team performance, the cognitive capabilities of IBM Watson, fiber-based networking, flash storage, wireless networking and open-standard hybrid cloud delivery as the basis of emerging business solutions.

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