IBM Launches Sports, Entertainment Consortium

IBM announces a new Sports and Entertainment Global Consortium to design, build and deliver the ultimate fan experience.

IBM logo

With a storied history of supporting professional sports such as golf and tennis, IBM today announced the Sports and Entertainment Global Consortium, which was created to design, build and deliver the ultimate fan experience.

IBM also announced it 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 Miami's Sun Life Stadium.

"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," Rushton said in a statement. Rushton's consulting practice will deploy more than 100 global specialists with experience in 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."

The new consortium brings together IBM's IT experience 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 & 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 & Data Management Integration: IBM

"This is one of those situations where IBM gained a great deal of experience by engaging in major sports events like the US Open and Wimbledon," Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told eWEEK. "Sort of an industrial-sized learn while you earn situation. This latest announcement leverages the company's experiences into a new services organization designed to help professional sports teams, leagues and venues take advantage of innovative new technological solutions, including immersive audience experiences and advanced analytics. Overall, this should be valuable for IBM's target customers and their respective audiences, and should also provide the company significant revenue opportunities."

According to global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, sports annually generate nearly $700 billion around the world, and the market is growing faster than the 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, a director of sports, recreation and entertainment design at sports venue design firm HOK, in a statement. "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, IBM said. 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 converts fans into customers of new offerings and digital services, Big Blue officials said."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, CTO of the Arthur M. Blank Sports & Entertainment Group, which signed IBM as a founding partner for its 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," Miller said. "Making those experiences a reality requires more than dazzling displays and flashy apps, but an innovative mindset that puts the fan experience first."Members of the IBM Sports and Entertainment Consortium commit to develop solutions, exchange intellectual property, and collaborate to design and deliver global opportunities."We believe that broadband really does make the world go around. It has become an essential part of our lives and a part of enjoying exciting live experiences like sporting events," said Federico Guillen, president of Fixed Networks at Alcatel-Lucent, in a statement. "Alcatel-Lucent has unique abilities in bringing together and building superior fiber and wireless networks, and working with companies like IBM gives us a chance to showcase those capabilities in some of the biggest and best venues in the world."IBM's new Sports, Entertainment and Fan Experience consulting practice formalizes the experience design that IBM Interactive Experience has delivered for events such as The Masters in golf and the tennis Grand Slam events—Wimbledon, the US Open and the 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 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 Patterson, general manager of IBM's Global Technology Services, in a statement. "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."IBM has created the ultimate blueprint for perfecting the sports fan experience while delivering new growth opportunities for the sports entertainment industry," said Bart Giordano, vice president of worldwide strategic sales at Ruckus Wireless, in a statement. "By combining Ruckus' Simply Better Wireless technology with technology from our consortium partners, together we can deliver fans the best products and services to enhance their digital experience."