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Saturday 2 August 2014

Wimbledon goes digital with Twitter

Published 23/06/2014|11:30

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Andy Murray in action during a practice session during previews ahead of the Wimbledon Championships
Andy Murray in action during a practice session during previews ahead of the Wimbledon Championships

This year is set to be the most social Wimbledon ever, with organisers of the tennis tournament using Twitter to bring fans closer to the action.

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For the first time, user-generated content – including tweets, pictures and votes – will appear on the big screens on Henman Hill. The audience onsite will be encouraged to respond to match-based questions, and compare their responses with the audience watching at home.

Wimbledon is also working with video player Grabyo to provide live replays on Twitter, including highlights from Centre Court, players walking on to celebrations and crowd reactions.

Wimbledon fans will be able to share in Andy Murray’s return to Centre Court as defending Gentlemen’s Singles Champion with the launch of the social campaign, #WelcomeBackAndy.

From the moment that Murray walks onto Centre Court, any fan who tweets @Wimbledon with the hashtag #WelcomeBackAndy will receive one of five digital photos of Murray winning Wimbledon last year, autographed and inscribed with a message from him, and personalised with their Twitter handle.

Meanwhile, the ‘Twitter Mirror’, which takes selfies and posts them to Twitter, will be positioned in the famous Wimbledon queue, allowing attendees to pose for a photo and take part in a daily #selfie competition to win goodies from the official shop.

"Only half a million people get to come to Wimbledon, whereas we have a digital audience of over 20 million, so it’s about making our digital channels the next best thing to being here," said Alexandra Willis, content and communications manager at Wimbledon.

She added that, by setting set a theme for the conversation and encouraging people to engage with that theme, the Wimbledon organisers hope to create some interesting pieces of content.

"For example, you could ask a specific question like, 'Who has a better forehand, Andy Murray or Rafa Nadal?' and use the output you get from that to say 62 per cent of people on the Hill think Andy Murray’s forehand is better than Rafa’s, but actually 80 per cent of people elsewhere in the world think Rafa’s is better," said Willis.

"That’s what is going to be very interesting for us, and for our broadcast partners, and for people watching."

A Social Command Centre, powered by IBM SoftLayer, will crunch the data and deliver insights into current and evolving social media conversations taking place on and off the court.

As well as identifying trending topics, the Command Centre will help the Wimbledon content team aggregate key social statistics – such as which court is the most social and where the tweets are coming from around the world – in order to understand and respond to fans’ needs in real-time.

Willis acknowledged there is a risk that too much social media activity could become a distraction from the tennis. The efforts of the Wimbledon content team are therefore focused on the Hill and elsewhere in the grounds, rather than on the courts themselves.

"We at Wimbledon wouldn’t want to put screens around Centre Court, displaying tweets and doing that sort of thing, because when someone is on Centre Court it’s sacred ground and they are there to watch the tennis," she said.

"Ultimately people who are tweeting are going to tweet anyway, and we don’t want to discourage that. But if they’re going to do it, we’d like them to engage in it with us, which is the idea behind the #WelcomeBackAndy moment."

In 2013, there were 6.6 million Wimbledon-related tweets during the two weeks of the tournament, and Murray's Wimbledon victory was the UK's third most tweeted-about-moment of the year.

This year, 63 per cent of UK Twitter users are planning to watch or follow the Wimbledon Championship, and 71 per cent of those say it will help them feel closer to the event when they can’t be there, according to Twitter.

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