Technology gurus driving innovation which presents fans with new levels of interaction
The explosion of social media in recent years has transformed human behaviour and interaction. Notably, it has changed the way we watch television, and live events. For many, it is no longer enough to be somewhere, watching something. It must be shared online. It must be analysed with your friends and colleagues. It must be debated.
So when a sporting contest is in full flow these days, a large percentage of viewers will be ‘multi-screening’. They will be interacting, tweeting, Facebook-ing and generally flitting between the live action and the digital ether. It is a space occupied by opinions and statistics, and when it comes to rugby, it is a space occupied by technology gurus and management consultants Accenture.
“Rugby has been very interested in what we have to say about how to engage with fans,” explains Arabel Bailey, Accenture’s digital MD. “We’re now in our fourth year of involvement with the RBS 6 Nations Championship, and we’ve concentrated on providing match data and analysis. As more technology comes online, we’ve been able to enhance our offering each year. And rugby as a whole has been very keen to embrace that.”
In their capacity as Official Technology Partners, Accenture designed the RBS 6 Nations app. It is intended for those who are unable to watch the games live in the stadium or on TV, and for those who simply want to augment their sporting experience. Straight to your screen comes news, views, video highlights and, crucially, in-play analytics and match data. It is these latter elements that has Bailey particularly excited.
“Fans love stats,” she enthuses, “but for us, it needed to be more than that. What do they actually mean? What can we interpret from the data? We've worked really hard to establish valuable insight from the facts and figures. We’ve used leading rugby personalities to help us do that. The detail allows us to identify momentum shifts in the game, for example. And fans can track all this information as they watch, responding and sharing on social media as they go.”
“Obviously there are some obstacles to the delivery. If 70 or 80,000 people are simultaneously trying to access one wifi network in a stadium for example, then that can be problematic. But the app can really add to your match day experience. If you’re up in the gods at Twickenham for example, you’ll sense a great atmosphere and see what’s happening. But you might not necessarily catch all the various nuances and patterns, which the app can help with. We have in-game player-by-player comparisons, team-by-team comparisons, and you can have some fun with the predictive stuff, working out who's likely to win, and how that fluctuates throughout the match.”
“This year we also introduced some wearable technology as a way to achieve that ‘immersive’ experience for the fans. We used the Google Glass headsets that enable you to watch the game, whilst a small screen in the corner of your eyeline updates you with key statistics, patterns and player-tracking.”
Stars of the world game like Brian O'Driscoll, Jeremy Guscott and Nick Mallett have all been enlisted to support and drive Accenture’s modern message across the rugby community and beyond. “Everyone loves a big name rugby player,” says Bailey with a smile. “They’ve all been extremely helpful, and they’re incredibly effective in drawing interest.”
Bailey’s enthusiasm for the sport stems from her fanatical father. A keen player in his earlier years, he has passed his passion onto his daughter, who becomes misty-eyed remembering her childhood home reverberating to the sounds of blood and thunder from rugby pitches far and wide. “Growing up, the rugby was always on in our house,” she recalls. “I have fond memories of my Dad transfixed in the living room watching Rugby Special on the BBC. He was not to be distracted! He’s a Bristol season-ticket holder now, which has provided a lot of fun, but a fair bit of heartache recently.”
With the World Cup juggernaut heading for England in September, Bailey will be indulging her own love of the game, whilst making sure Accenture ride the anticipated wave of rugby fever this autumn. She is in little doubt as to the merits of a commercial partnership with rugby: “It works for us on a number of levels: it’s perfect for building our brand awareness and client relationships, engaging with our employees, and providing a chance to showcase our capabilities. It’s a match made in heaven really.”