How IBM Leverages Sports Sponsorships

May 3, 2017

With the Celtics in the second round of the playoffs and the NFL Draft a welcome reminder of the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory, we’ve been thinking about how brands use our love of sports to their advantage.

Sports sponsorships are a great way to associate your brand with something that people are truly passionate about. Getting your brand all over a stadium or a live game broadcast can drive brand recognition and favorability, but sports sponsorships can work a lot harder.

One of the best brands at using sports sponsorships isn’t a shoe brand or even a beer brand – it’s a B2B technology brand.

Over the course of their long-standing relationships with the U.S. Open and the Masters, IBM has focused on delivering value to sports fans in a way that reinforces their technology, data analytics and cognitive computing differentiators.

IBM hosted the U.S. Open’s first website in 1995 and launched the mobile app in 2009. The SlamTracker digital experience takes sports stats to the next level with powerful real-time dashboards and unexpected keys to each match that showcase IBM’s predictive analytics capabilities.

At the Masters in April, IBM used AI technology to develop a first-of-its kind multimodal Cognitive Highlights Proof of Concept to auto-curate video. And there’s a LOT of video at the Masters – with 90 golfers playing several rounds over four days and multiple camera angles on every tee and every hole, delivering highlights to fans had been a labor-intensive process before Watson.

The system extracted “exciting moments” from live streams of video by using sophisticated computer vision algorithms to understand the content, such as the detection of a player celebrating or the start of a golf swing. It analyzed audio to detect crowd cheering and commentator excitement and converted speech to text to find words and expressions related to exciting moments.

But even beyond improving the experience for golf and tennis fans, IBM has turned these sports sponsorships into powerful case studies, spotlighting them on their website and through PR. In closing, a comment from IBM’s sports and entertainment program director, Elizabeth O’Brien… “The same technology we apply here is the same technology we apply to business. We don’t just make a fun tennis solution; we do it because we want to have a living case study of the technology that can be applied to solve the world’s problems.”