Creating new revenue streams, identifying untapped audiences and better engaging fans onsite and all year-round are just some of the wins iconic Australian sporting events are chalking up thanks to human-centric digital innovation.
If there’s any lesson brands should have taken from the last three years of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s that investing in digital can deliver even more engagement – online and in-person. And with increasingly immersive technologies such as virtual reality, data-driven insight using artificial intelligence and creative video delivery coming to the fore, opportunities to unite digital with human-centred design principles to win in both physical and digital realms are growing.
The power of human-centric digital experiences is particularly apparent in the work Infosys has been doing to ensure leading sporting brands create unparalleled customer experiences. Here, we explore two stellar examples in the Australian Grand Prix and Australian Open.
Serving up digital innovations for the Australian Open
Using digital, immersive technologies and data to ensure fan engagement is even more immersive is also a long-term imperative for Infosys and Tennis Australia around the Australian Open. And this year’s event proved an unparalleled showcase of how physical and digital are coming together in innovative ways.
Among the highlights of the 2023 Australian Open were a revamped Match Centre 2.0, available on the AO website as well as mobile app for all matches throughout the tournament and providing fans with immersive insights such as Matchbeats, Stroke Summary, Rally Analysis, Courtvision and AI Commentary. A ‘win predictor’ also gave fans real-time predictions as each match progressed. Accessibility was equally in the spotlight, while an enhanced Infosys MatchBeats presented simplified game data and visualisations thanks to contrasting colour combinations that met Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 AA.
A host of AI Video Insights further powered on-court strategy and media reporting while giving fans, players and coaches unprecedented insights into every game.
In addition, an enhanced Player’s Portal with AI-generated videos democratised the level of insight available to players and coaches around game and competitor insights for post-match reviews and pre-game analysis. For example, Get into the Zone served up video montages of a player’s former winning performances, while an opponent tendency feature allowed players to view and analyse the statistical playing tendencies of their opponents.
And AI Shot of the Day also boasted of enhancements, enabling Tennis Australia’s media team to quickly analyse and post social media ready clips from the best shots of each day.
“For us, this has been a monumental and strong partnership with the Australian Open since 2019. Post each edition, our team takes a step back through an empathy led approach and assess data from all stakeholders engaging with the AO. This follows design thinking workshops to reimagine how our digital innovations can further enhance the stakeholder experience with the Happy Slam, make it more accessible, immersive and engaging. Our strength is digital whether it is AI, digital learning platforms or mixed reality and we combine it with a passion for tennis.
We’ve seen over 50 million fans engage with the digital innovations built by Infosys over the years with MatchBeats alone seeing 7.2mn views this edition, witnessed over 100 million views of footage generated by our AI driven innovations, launched physical platforms such as the virtual hub to engage 10,000+ key consumers of AO during the pandemic and are now going beyond with Infosys Springboard to nurture future leaders and Engage to leverage digital for sustainable futures. Over 11,000 fans engaged with our VR experiences which has doubled from 2022, highlighting a strong appetite for digital experiences. And being conscious of the future, our entire footprint this year onwards at AO 2023 was and will continue to be carbon neutral”, says Navin Rammohan, Vice President, Segment Head Marketing, Sponsorships and Events at Infosys.
Onsite, Infosys itself harnessed virtual reality in its fan zone activation. This allowed attendees to experience tennis in several creatively themed metaverse worlds, from a ride into hyperspace with moon tennis and battling thousands of flying tennis balls in a spaceship, to sparring with AO superstars avatars on centre court.
“Working with Infosys over the past five years has enabled us to set new benchmarks in fan engagement using digital technologies,” says Tennis Australia CEO and Australian Open Tournament Director, Craig Tiley. “This partnership has enabled us to deliver new innovative digital experiences year after year for everyone associated with the tournament. We remain committed to making the Australian Open a global standard for a digitally-enabled sport that is inspiring, engaging, inclusive and sustainable.”
Focusing on the fans of the Australian Grand Prix
Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) General Manager of Marketing and Experience, Arthur Gillion, will never forget 13 March 2020. Just two days out from the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix sporting event in Victoria’s Albert Park Circuit, and hours before practice sessions were to begin, the event was cancelled due to Covid-19.
“The world was watching. It was a hard moment to go through,” Gillion recalled during the recent Infosys Confluence event. “From a strategic perspective, what we had planned for the following years had to change. The way we approached brand management, from diagnosis, to strategy to tactics all flipped on its head.”
Yet even as the pandemic negatively impacted the physical race, it presented an opportunity for the AGPC to overhaul digital experience to create a more fan-fuelled approach.
“We couldn’t stop communicating or trying to provide some joy to the fans,” Gillion said. “The emphasis had to be on the digital experience. We were very innovative in that space to stay connected.”
Helping AGPC was strategic technology partner, WONGDOODY, the global human experience company of Infosys. Together, the pair reassessed AGPC’s digital ecosystem as a first step. Diving into data the organisation held about its fans to build insights that could be realised in added value and simplified, improved touchpoints was the overarching driving force.
“While AGPC had a lot of data, the team didn’t necessarily know what it was telling them,” WONGDOODY’s chief experience and design officer APAC, James Noble, explains. “The key was to work out what information was relevant, versus irrelevant, then use that to understand the different audiences and what each of those fans wants.
“Being able to convert that into a digital experience would make it easier for audiences to understand the Australian Grand Prix, lead them towards stronger engagement and in time, to purchase things like tickets.”
Focus shifted to digital content as the dominant mechanism for keeping fans connected, and to an annual timeline of engagement, rather than burst of activity surrounding the events. Owned platform articles, blog posts and a podcast series developed by AGPC took centre stage, with built-in capabilities making it easy for audiences to engage with and share content.
With the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix website the first point of touch from a brand perspective, giving fans what they want online is critical to any human-centric approach, Noble says. WONGDOODY helped AGPC understand its digital touchpoints, understood which customer segments AGPC were trying to attract, inform, educate and engage, and transformed this into a solution. The Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix caters to diverse customer cohorts, from motor and F1 enthusiasts, to those who come for the spectacle, ‘culture vultures’ wanting to be seen; families on a day out; and corporate and sponsor delegates.
“It’s working out not only the user experience but the content strategy and experience and how that leads you through the funnel, as opposed to having people floating around with no direction,” Noble continues. “Do you want them to press that button? Or talk to that person? What is it you want to happen next?”
As AGPC began work to bring its physical event back, digital experience took on another vital role. A major achievement was improving the ticketing pathway online for the returning five-day event.
“There are lots of different permutations of tickets and it had been difficult for a consumer to understand what they’re buying,” Noble says. “We looked at the matrix of all the ticketing permutations and experiences you could have, put in a simpler interface and easier-to-use experience, and skipped all the doing it again to go straight to purchase. Just by that happening and knowing what ticket types were selling out, the AGPC team could make informed business decisions and understand where to adapt and create more of what’s popular.”
The work done as an organisation to lift digital innovation has without doubt delivered AGPC incredible growth. In 2022, almost 420,000 people came to the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, up from 324,100 in 2019, adding more than $170 million to the visitor economy. AGPC also saw a 154 per cent increase in digital traffic during event week and a 218 per cent increase in traffic in the months leading up to the event. It exceeded 2.6 million unique visitors to the site in 2022, a 200 per cent increase on 2019.
Importantly, the first release of Grandstand tickets for the 2023 event sold out in under 3.5 hours, testament to the seamless purchasing process. This ticketing architecture overhaul has since triggered changes to the physical environment and decision-making driving further revenue growth.
For example, pre-pandemic, the F1 event had four private lounges. In 2022, there were eight, and this year’s Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix has 14. Being in the fortunate position of having much demand and selling tickets faster enables AGPC to shift focus quickly, and use insights to innovate physical experiences.
“Because the team knows so far ahead about what kinds of tickets are being sold, there’s an opportunity to create another stand or another section. The forward planning is so much easier and it’s adding millions to sales generated,” Noble adds.