Digital Technology is Driving Tennis Experience Beyond the ‘Golden Era’
The Next Big Era, a report by the Infosys Knowledge Institute (IKI), the research and thought leadership arm of Infosys (NYSE: INFY), the global leader in next-generation digital services and consulting found that tennis must embrace new inclusive experiences, powered by technology and analytics to engage the next generation of fans. The research surveyed 3,000 tennis fans globally and interviewed with prominent organisers, coaches, professional players, industry influencers and media. Infosys is the digital innovation partner of ATP Tour, Australian Open and Roland Garros.
The drive and need for access and inclusion
Tennis participation has grown 10 percent globally in the last 5 years. Tennis has successfully expanded to and has reached new players and audiences across the globe. However, despite this new found reach, experts of the game suggest that there’s a large untapped pool who may never watch or play tennis because they think it’s “exclusive” and “difficult to play”.
The report found that tennis is becoming more accessible through experimentation at all levels, from grassroots to grand slams and through fantasy leagues, Esports and technology like virtual reality that bring new fans to tennis. Nearly a quarter of the players globally come from China (23 percent), yet the country has only 10 percent of the world’s tennis courts and only a few clubs, stifling potential growth in a sports market tipped to reach $470 billion by 2025.
While China averages 393 players per court, at the other end of the scale France averages just 87, Australia 104 and Germany 122. The report also found tennis fans are aging, and the average age of tennis fans—in the West, at least—is higher than the average age of the population.
Data analytics and digital technology: creating a level playing field
At the elite level, the research found equal access to detailed player and match data analytics. The report references Infosys’ StatsLounge, democratising match data for all players and coaches to analyse their performance, examining crucial match stats using sophisticated filters to generate video clips from more than 1,000 data combinations. But it’s not just players and coaches who are hungry for data. The report found fans also seek more detailed match and player insights with the rise of second screen viewing.
The age of experiences
The report found that like all consumer products, tennis is no longer a discrete activity, it’s an experience — consisting of dispersed, shareable micro-moments both on and off the court.
Recent research by Tennis Australia found the ‘fun’ aspect of the Australian Open atmosphere as the second-most important factor for attendance for people under 50. “At the Australian Open we are crystal clear what has led to us trebling our business in 5 years. Taking a Grand Slam tennis tournament and adding to it has expanded our audience into new segments and geographies. But you have to commit. We take our ‘families’ business, our music festival and our food vertical as seriously as we do our tennis. If you don’t, it doesn’t succeed,” said Richard Heaselgrave, Chief Revenue and Experiential Officer.
Technology driving growth of Tennis
While tennis in recent years has seen multiple formats and innovations trialed at different levels of the sport, fans across all age groups, including GenZ (84 percent) and millennials (85 percent), said match length is not a primary barrier to engagement with the sport. The report identified opportunities to introduce new fans to the sport globally with analytics-based and virtual and augmented reality technologies.
Analytics-based experiences improve enjoyment for 83 percent of fans surveyed according to the Tennis Radar research. For example, fans at the Australian Open can play against the greatest tennis players in the world using VR and AR technology — in a simulated Rod Laver arena, the Australian Open’s centre court. More than 125,000 fans have engaged with Infosys VR at the Australian Open, Roland-Garros, and Nitto ATP Finals and other ATP events. Similarly, Roland-Garros plans to involve pros from the Esports area within the Roland-Garros eSeries, to tighten the link between real-world and virtual-world tennis fans.
To understand how data and analytics impact fan enjoyment of the game, the Infosys Knowledge Institute created the Analytics Experience Index, synthesizing fan response to multidimensional questions about match technologies, player statistics and game data.
The Index found that analytics improves fan enjoyment, particularly among younger and more tech savvy audiences. Over a third (38 percent) of 18-22 year olds were identified as the highest category of tennis technology and analytics ‘Enthusiasts’, compared to just 13 percent of those 55 and older.
“At Roland-Garros, we believe innovation, social technology and analytics-based experiences have a key role to play to make tennis more accessible and more engaging to the existing and new generations of tennis fans and our partnership with Infosys will ensure the Roland-Garros DNA remains true to our roots but can also evolve and be future ready,” said Michael Tonge, Director of Sponsorship, hospitality and ticketing, FFT.
Social technologies are also helping tennis grow, including at the club level, with apps like Tennis Connect, where users can schedule courts and invite others to play. Similarly, Tennis Australia’s Book a Court platform enables people to book a court anywhere, anytime, and pay via mobile phone. France’s FFT launched Ten’ Up in April 2019 and has over 200,000 downloads. U.B. Pravin Rao, Chief Operating Officer, Infosys, said “Tennis doesn’t resonate with people if access to playing and watching the game isn’t made easy. Infosys is proud to be a digital innovation partner of the ATP Tour, Australian Open and Roland-Garros. This research reinforces that tennis can become even more successful if it can increase access to playing, watching, and understanding the game, and to do that, technology —especially social technology and analytics-based experiences—will play a vital role.”