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BRANDING NEWS: IBM serves up technology at Wimbledon

IBM's 18th consecutive sponsorship of the Wimbledon tennis tournament has kicked off with a raft of new technologies aimed at its audience of decision makers.

New to the sponsorship deal is the installation of giant video walls in UK airport business lounges at sites including Heathrow and Manchester.

The video walls, which the user can control at the point of a finger without touching the screen itself, is showcasing a range of 90-second video "vignettes" in which IBM staff and the club's senior personnel talk about how IBM products are an integrated part of the tennis tournament. IBM has also installed video screens in 1000 London taxis and reports that it has so far seen a 28 per cent viewing rate. The airport and taxi screens also beam live coverage from Centre Court.

Also new to this year's sponsorship deal is the inclusion of a DVD solution which enables player and coach to playback a match within minutes of finishing, complete with serve speed and other data.  IBM is also using its technology to monitor a security system which keeps track of the movements of the thousands of staff the event has hired.

Rather than using the event to promote any IBM specific products, the IT giant is using the tennis tournament to demonstrate how it can support organisations by showing off a range of technologies. On top of the new elements of the sponsorship campaign, IBM is responsible for gathering data on stroke numbers, speed of service and ball speed and disseminating this information to media organisations around the world.

Alan Flack, branding manager for IBM UK, says, "The message we are trying to put across is how IBM can help large organisations to innovate, when all around them is chaos.  Everybody talks about innovation, but when you're caught up in the day-to-day running of a business, it can be easy to lose sight of."

Wimbledon rules state that there can be virtually no advertising on the courts themselves, although the IBM logo features of the speed of serve display and there is minimal branding around the courts. On top of its marketing materials to the wider B2B audience, it is entertaining around 1200 key clients in two suites over the event's two week run. In total, around 500,000 people are expected to attend over the fortnight.

Creative work for the sponsorship campaign has been carried out by Ogilvy. IBM has signed a deal with Wimbledon to sponsor the event until 2009.


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