IBM launches sporting practice and joins consortium

10 December 2015 4 min. read
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Digitalisation has reached the sporting arena, with more and more stadiums seeking ways to reach fans through digital channel, while providing innovative new services. In a bid to stay ahead of play, IBM has launched its Sports, Entertainment and Fan Experience consulting practice. The new business unit aims to find ways of integrating the fan experience and connecting that experience with as many sale points as possible from participating vendors. The practice will immediately begin working with a consortium of industry players to deliver stadium upgrades.

The sports industry in the UK is worth £20.3 billion according to EY, while an analysis by A.T. Kearney places its global value at roughly $700 billion. Given the considerable worth, finding ways to improve customer engagement and deliver products to the billions of sports fans is on the minds of executives within the industry. Digitalisation also as a massive global footprint and it is now one of the fastest growing segments for the consulting industry.

Digitalisation is reaching the sporting arena

New practice
Bringing together digital and sport, particularly for modern venues, such as sport stadiums, demands a sophisticated technology and wireless environment. To create such environments, IBM launched a new service line called the Sports, Entertainment and Fan Experience consulting practice. The US-based practice will be situated at the IBM Interactive Experience Studio in Atlanta and staffed by 100 people, with additional expertise from 20 different studios IBM Interactive Experience has around the world. Jim Rushton, a veteran in the sports industry having headed up the financial side of the Miami Dolphins & Sun Life Stadium, will lead the new practice. His new role as Global Leader and Partner to the practice will see him responsible for helping sports enterprises take advantage of their many lines of business, as well as further expanding the business unit.

The new practice is in part inspired by the demand from a range of sporting industry players for the digital integration IBM is known for, making it the world’s largest hybrid agency and consultancy. It extends on the firm’s history of developing mobile and web experience for fans. Rushton remarks that “The sports industry tends to be a business of many businesses. There’s the venue, tickets, concessions, merchandise, sponsorship, integrated media, real estate complexes, and talent and athlete management.” The aim of the practice is to help companies gain a total view of the fan, rather than a siloed one, while creating an integrated proposition from potential business to customers.

Jim Rushton and Richard Patterson

Fan consortium
The business unit will immediately be busy in a newly announced ‘global consortium’ of organisations seeking to create an integrated sporting experience for fans. IBM’s new practice’s responsibility in the consortium will be to deliver fan experience consulting & data management integration. Other players in the consortium include HOK, responsible for architecture and design; AECOM, Whiting Turner Infrastructure Technology & Software: Alcatel-Lucent, Anixter, Commscope, Corning, Juniper Networks, Ruckus Wireless, Schneider Electric, Smarter Risk, Tellabs, Ucopia, Zebra Technologies, YinzCam (IPTV), and Zhone responsible for construction and design; and AT&T, Verizon Enterprise Solutions, Level 3, and Zayo responsible for fan experience.

The consortium will also jointly deliver services, work together on global deals, develop designs and exchange intellectual property where needed, and is reported to be working with 250 sports venues so far. “Today's sports and entertainment venue experience is no longer the singular idea of a fan watching a game,” says Richard Patterson, General Manager of Global Technology Services at IBM. “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.”

IBM Sports

Several consulting firms have been interested in tapping into the digitalisation of the sporting landscape. Accenture, for instance, has developed an in-stadium real-time wearable device that displays game specific information about the action on the field, while PwC did research that shows that football fans expect their football clubs to join the digitalisation in order to provide the full customer experience.