The folks at IBM, longtime partners of the USTA in staging the US Open – one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, sporting event in the world – this year took a decidedly active approach in its ad campaigns for the final major of the tennis season.
It’s an interesting way to relate the little details of a big city like New York to the little details of such a statistics-heavy sport. Apples to Big Apple, if you will. In one clip, a moving subway car is the vehicle (hyuk!) for delivering this piece of trivia: at one point during the tournament, South African Kevin Anderson served a 137-mph zinger, a speed that’s 17 times faster than the average speed of a NYC subway.
There are other cute comparisons, too, like Victoria Azarenka’s first-serve percentage (76%) was greater than the percentage of NYC tourists who end up seeing a Broadway show (70%).
Browse: Get lost in the Tennis IBM portal
Explaining the relationship between IBM, tennis and the USTA
In order to better explain IBM’s relationship with tennis at the USTA, the former invited us onto the hallowed USTABJKNTC for Tuesday’s day session, where my friend and I were treated to that grinder of a quarter-final between Kristina Mladenovic and Roberta Vinci, followed by a thrilling marathon bout between defending champion Marin Cilic and the flashy-and-powerful Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
In between matches, we headed down to the bowels of the newly roofed Arthur Ashe Stadium to learn more about how IBM supports the USTA’s mission to promote the sport– especially during the two weeks out of the year when all eyeballs are on New York City – and the USTA has to scale up operations to accommodate all the extra hubbub.
IBM gives you the Keys to the Match
IBM has their hands on everything from the “chump” – a device held by the Chair Umpires on which they enter all the details about a match (scorekeeping etc etc), to the data collected by paid statisticians about winners, errors, forehands, backhands, net approaches, etc., to the fan experience everywhere from usopen.org, to mobile phones, and tablets.
It’s all very black-box but also amazing to see how all the statistics get presented. For example, the experts take historical data about players’ performances and their head-to-heads to produce “Keys to the Match”, aka predictive analyses for an upcoming duel that can also be used give context to the scoreline post-match. (E.g., against Gasquet, in the QFs, Federer had to keep his first-serve percentage above X percent in order to have an edge over the Frenchman).
The Social Wall
Then there’s the social wall – one of my faves — that displays which countries are most actively talking about the US Open on social media. With so much noise floating around on social media when tennis is on, it’s cool to take step back and see that the sport’s reach is global, and there are many fans out there cheering on their favorite players.
Now back to that NYC-centric campaign: Alas, we weren’t privy to the minds behind the art for this year’s media, though we’re picking up hints of Charlie Harper and Olimpia Zagnoli (whose work currently adorns subway platforms all over town) as we scrolled through the bite-sized graphics and videos created for this year’s tournament. (For Harper, see: “Tennis + NYC: Survival of the fittest” clip, below:)
Flashback: Designer Karan Singh’s mesmerizing pattern illustrations, based on music created by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem from sounds recorded from the 2014 US Open. See the beautiful work here: https://www.behance.net/gallery/19655607/IBM-US-Open-Sessions
Credits for the IBM / US Open site:
Agency: Ogilvy New York
Design & animation: Buck / New York
Design & digital production: Pet Gorilla
Music: Starling Music