Beyond the Stands: Wimbledon, DFS and the Experience Management Era

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Sports fans are demanding more immersive, engaging encounters. Does the world of tennis deliver?

After 15 days, 39,000 spectators, and tens of thousands of tweets, the 2015 Wimbledon tournament will come to a close this weekend. A global phenomenon, Wimbledon engages tennis fans around the world – but are these fans getting what they want?

Wanted: Tennis DFS

In the iGaming sector, major sporting events are really also industry events. Whether through fantasy sports or more traditional sports wagering, big tournaments are opportunities to engage sports fans in iGaming. However, one vertical that has been largely untouched by Wimbledon and the professional tennis sphere is daily fantasy sports (DFS). There are a number of possible reasons for this, such as the challenges of assigning DFS ranking within the limits of tennis game play, or the concentration of DFS players in the US (where tennis is less popular than, say, NASCAR). But as with any opportunity for innovation, just because something isn’t being done doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.

The possibility of a tennis addition to popular DFS platforms has received a fair amount of discussion amongst DFS players and tennis fans. In a recent post on the subreddit DFSports that asked, “Which sport would you like to see added on a DFS site?” one of the most popular answers was tennis. Niche tennis-specific DFS sites, like OffCourt Tennis, are also starting to gain buzz in online forums. Tennis fans want to be as intimately involved in their favourite sport as fans have been able to be in football or baseball.

In fact, tennis fans might be after an even more immersive sports experience than their more ‘mainstream’ NFL counterparts. In a blog post discussing highlights of the recent Fantasy Sports Trade Association Conference in New York, our very own Business Development Executive Sarah Robertson wrote, “Niche sport leagues are the ones with the greatest number of teams and the players most likely to purchase fantasy sports materials.” While you wouldn’t guess it from looking at the packed Wimbledon stands, tennis is something of a niche sport in DFS terms.

Managing the Wimbledon Experience

It seems clear that fans pushing for DFS tennis are not content to watch the broadcast of a match. They want to participate in an experience that extends beyond one-directional consumption. Are they asking too much? Not from the modern marketer. The marketing profession has long since entered the age of “customer experience management” (CEM). CEM, based on the idea that the marketer is responsible for the entire cross-channel customer journey, is often explained in terms of social media engagement. Consider the increasing prevalence of geo-targeted and device-targeted social media posts. This allows marketers to maximize customer engagement with posts that are tailored and most relevant to their audience. Automating these types of messages doesn’t have to be time-intensive: DFS brands are using tools to target messaging by language, time of day, and device type.

CEM is a holistic approach to tailoring the customer experience with the potential for very creative applications. One noteworthy example of CEM at Wimbledon was official car sponsor Jaguar’s use of wearables during the tournament. A select number of spectators were given biometric bracelets meant to measure heart rate, movement and location, and ground sensors were placed to measure crowd movement. Under the hashtag #FeelWimbledon, the results of these measurements as well as spectator social media engagement was displayed in a dynamic graph, capturing the intangible spectator experience for fans following along from home.

This is not to say that Wimbledon has fully embraced the immersive social potential of the tournament. Although Wimbledon will have its own official Periscope and Snapchat presence, spectators have been asked not to use Periscope or selfie sticks while in attendance. This has been framed as an etiquette issue meant to reduce distractions to players and other spectators, but tournament officials are becoming more and more aware that spectatorship extends beyond the stadium. DFS, social media and wearables are just a few potential pieces of the pro tennis CEM puzzle – the final picture remains to be seen.