IBM jumps into the second screen for US Open Tennis

By Natan Edelsburg Comment

In a first for the event, IBM and the US Tennis Association have debuted an iPad app for the US Open that enables fans — at home or at the stadium — to track real-time data that would dazzle even the most hard-core tennis fans. IBM has also partnered up with Shazam to enable US Open TV viewers to tag IBM ads to “learn more about how IBM can help them build a better brand” via tips and exclusive content. We spoke with Ann Rubin, IBM’s VP of Brand Expression and Advertising, about their high-tech approach to the US Open and partnership with Shazam.

As the summer comes to an end, it’s clear that the Olympics and other major sporting events are playing a big role in defining the future of social TV. A second screen experience is no longer a maybe, even for fans attending the event (for the US Open, fans have access to an official WiFi account from the stands.) Brands are now as equally invested in trying new things as the networks. With second screen competition heating up, it will be Shazam’s precedent of brand partnerships that others will need to top to thrive in the market.

Lost Remote: Why did IBM decide to partner with Shazam?

Ann Rubin: During the two-week US Open tournament, IBM is doing a lot of things to connect with fans at home and at courtside. We have a new iPad app that serves up a streams of real-time data about the games so fans can see who’s gaining the edge on the court and who’s most likely to win – well before the scores tell the final story. We’re also using our Social Sentiment index to analyze millions of public tweets to gauge which players are the social fan favorites – not just counting tweets, but analyzing the buzz around the players. Finally, we’re enhancing the TV experience for fans to take advantage of the huge interest in “second screen” viewing” by Shazam-enabling the live broadcast.

LR: Why is IBM involved with the US Open?

Rubin: This is IBM’s 22nd year of partnering with the U.S.T.A., including enhancing the digital capabilities of to give users front-row access to action on the court. The site includes IBM’s SlamTracker, which uses historical and real-time match data to help viewers understand what’s going on during the matches, now available for mobile phones and the new iPad app. It puts predictive analytics technology in the hands of tennis fans.

LR: How does IBM approach social TV? How have social platforms changed the way you think about investing in marketing via TV?

Rubin: We are very excited about social TV and the whole “second screen” phenomenon. IBM has been a pioneer in socializing our workforce, our business, and social TV is an extension of that.

LR: How much original content did you prepare for the Shazam activation? How long did it take to create?

Rubin: As I mentioned, we’re Shazam-enabling the entire live broadcast starting Saturday. Viewers can use the Shazam app on their smart phones or tablets to connect with IBM’s twitter feed for the event, and to learn more about marketing technology through videos, infographics, case studies and video interviews with experts. We’re doing something special with a new TV spot we that was shot in Prague — it’s a clever visual take on how people are individuals, not part of groups. Viewers can use the Shazam app to see a short “behind the scenes” video about see how the spot was produced.

LR: What results are you looking for?

Rubin: This is all about using Big Data to improve the fan experience, regardless of where the fans are. Sports events like the U.S. Open are no different from businesses and governments because they are all looking for new ways to uncover hidden insights from data to up their game and personalize the customer experience.

LR: Anything else?

Rubin: I hope you can come see the IBM Game Changer Interactive Wall, which presents many of the features on USOpen.Org and the mobile app. Fans can interact with the wall to access live scores, match analysis and data visualizations from IBM’s Social Sentiment Index, as well as local weather and its effect on things like how much players need to stay hydrated.