Every summer, Wimbledon raises the bar (or should that be aces it?) with its digital and social offer, establishing itself as one of the industry leaders.
LiveWire Sport has worked with Wimbledon's in-house team since 2012, providing cutting-edge creative content and editorial expertise before, during and after the two weeks of the Championships.
So what's new for 2018? We spoke with Alexandra Willis, the AELTC’s Head of Digital and Content, about her plans for the two weeks that turns the nation into tennis fans.
PLATFORM ALTERATION - WHAT'S NEW FOR 2018?
We've completely rebuilt and redesigned Wimbledon.com, moving it to a framework called React. Without being too geeky, the reason that's important is because it gives fans much more control. Like on Facebook, you can have Messenger open and scroll news feed and watch videos, you can, for instance, watch a video while you consume live scores or read a player profile then navigate to check the draw and so on. We’re also reintroducing a personalised feed on the homepage, with the option to favourite players.
We've enhanced the visitor experience for people using the Wimbledon app on-site so you can now scan your ticket, receive information based on the court you're on, the day you're attending and so on.
The Fred chatbot visitor assistant has been expanded and enhanced and we’re also launching a Messenger bot to serve content to fans through Facebook based on the players they're most interested in. We trialled it under the radar last year for the men's final that was incredibly valuable because it really helped us understand what people are interested in.
Across our whole digital eco-system we’re trying to acknowledge there are different levels of tennis understanding. Something like SlamTracker, which has itself been rebuilt to give varying levels of detail, is a great experience if you know a lot about tennis but it's possibly alienating if you don't, so we’re thinking about how to use things like chatbots as an entry point.
AND THE REST IS HISTORY - CONTENT PLANS FOR 2018
We've talked a lot about the value of Wimbledon's traditions in informing what we do today and this year we've got some particularly momentous milestones: the 150th anniversary of the founding of the club, 50 years of Open tennis, 125 years of the Ladies' Singles Championship, 10 years since the Federer-Nadal final as well as 100 years of the RAF and 70 years of the NHS. We wanted to bring these together under an umbrella campaign – Take On History - which says the past is really important to us because it's the inspiration to do better.
Our marquee launch film is a continuous tennis rally through the ages, from Spencer Gore winning the first Championships in 1877, all the way through to Roger Federer, Serena Williams and the other champions of today.
During the Championships, it’s about maximising everything we have at our disposal in our coverage. There are some things we can pre-empt and plan, and lots of things we have to react to.
If you think about some of the big moments of recent Wimbledons, like David Beckham catching a stray ball, the man in a skirt or poncho v man, it's about putting ourselves in the best position to do that through leveraging new techniques and platforms.
A DIFFERENT BALL GAME - WORKING WITH THE WORLD CUP
We've worked directly with FIFA on finding moments to collaborate during the tournament, working towards a wonderful crescendo of the two finals taking place on the same day.
As well as a couple of set-pieces, we've talked about what we can do reactively if two players from certain countries are playing each other on the same day as their national teams are in action at the World Cup. We've also had some thoughts specifically around the final and how we make that day an amazing celebration of sport.
Wimbledon is so much more than a tennis event. We’re privileged to be in a position where people tune in because their interest goes beyond the sport and we recognise when other events sit in that category. To me it makes sense to team up rather than hide away and pretend they don't exist.
We had the NBA on site last year and hopefully the NFL this year. These sports have athletes who thrive on being the best at what they do and competing at the pinnacle of their sports. We want to show them another stage that we hope players grow up wanting to compete on and reinforce the message that Wimbledon is a sporting icon.
HOST WITH THE MOST – WIMBLEDON’S DEBUT AS HOST BROADCASTER
Fundamentally, I don't think viewers will notice any difference: the people they watch on TV will still be the same ones they know and love. What being host broadcaster allows us to do is be as progressive as we feel it's appropriate to be and take a global approach.
This year we'll have Ultra HD on Centre Court, which is something our broadcasters in Asia have been pushing for because the penetration of 4K TV sets is greater than in the US and Europe. That's the kind of investment we're prepared to make because we think it's the right thing to do.
The BBC will take that stream for iPlayer so the decisions we're able to make have real benefits for all the broadcasters and that extends to innovations like Net Cam, hopefully being able to do more with 360 but also to make the ancillary content that's on the fringes of linear TV to drive tune-in and reach different audiences.
It's the first year that every single court will be broadcast and that's phenomenal, both for fans around the world and for our media and commercial partners.