This Indian Premier League (IPL) season, Tech Mahindra
is helping Kings XI Punjab to engage fans better digitally, which is yet another partnership in the sports technology space for the IT company.
IPL 2020 started in the UAE on September 19 and will end on November 10.
While this is the first time Tech Mahindra is getting associated with IPL, the company has a long-standing association with football. For the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which was held in Brazil, hundreds of Tech Mahindra employees were working in Brazil and Hyderabad to make the game glitch-free.
The IT company's staff was helping in ticket sales in different languages like French, Portuguese, English and Spanish. Overall, the company provided services for event management systems, new media solutions, among others.
In 2010, the sports window launched by Mahindra Satyam, which was later absorbed by Tech Mahindra, had worked on FIFA World Cup, which was hosted by South Africa.
Experts point out that it was the sports arm that helped Tech Mahindra get an image makeover after the Satyam scam in 2009.
In 2018, the company had also signed a four-year deal with Jacksonville Jaguars, a US-based football team, to enhance fan engagement pre-match, during the match and even post the matches.
Now, along with cricket and football, Tech Mahindra has lined up tech sports partnerships at the global level, said Manish Upadhyay, Head – Global Business Development, Sports Vertical, Tech Mahindra. He did not reveal the names of the sports leagues they are working on.
Tech M’s moves this IPL
This IPL season, Tech Mahindra decided to partner with Kings XI Punjab as the team’s digital fan engagement partner.
“The reason to opt for Kings XI Punjab in IPL was because the team has a diversified fan base across many international markets," Jagdish Mitra, Chief Strategy Officer and Head of Growth, Tech Mahindra,
The IT company has come up with an official app for Kings XI Punjab, where one can watch videos under the tab like Rapid Fire with Ravi Bishnoi, Chris Gayle playing table tennis, post-match victory celebrations and many more.
Then there is the fan zone tab, where TechM uses gamification to keep the fans entertained. Under the tab, there are face filters and also quiz competition where fans can predict a game, and test their knowledge about the team.
Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. It can also be defined as a set of activities and processes to solve problems by using or applying the characteristics of game elements.
“Along with behind-the-scene videos like what the team is doing on the nets and birthday celebrations, there will also be app-exclusive videos,” Upadhyay said.
“We have also launched four Instagram filters, including The Boys are Back in Town, Cheer our Team, You Celebrate Our Team. For Boys are Back, within a week, we received 2,13,000 impressions. The maximum hits are from Europe, the UK, and the US for the app. Within a week of the app launch, we have recorded 1,000 downloads,” he said.
“We are also helping digital brand activation through the app. For example, if KL Rahul hits a six, there will be a rotating six logo with the brand that has sponsored it. That’s how we are activating brands. So far 2-3 brands have shown interest and discussions are on to bring more brands on board,” said Mitra.
In addition to developing an app for an IPL team, Tech Mahindra, along with Canadian sports startup, ChampTrax, is creating a stadium-like experience at home for sports enthusiasts.
One aspect the two companies are working on is the HearMeCheer solution, which will let users yell loudly during a match and aggregate the sounds, which will then be integrated into real-time broadcasts.
IT companies show interest in sports
When it comes to offering technological solutions in the sports arena, many IT companies, including Infosys
, among others, have come forward.
In 2018, HCL had revamped the website and mobile app of Manchester United. The company last year had become Cricket Australia’s official digital partner to enhance Cricket Australia’s digital presence, which has an online audience of over 20 million across the globe and also to enhance Cricket Australia’s digital products like Live App, cricket.com.au
, among others.
Infosys has a strong presence in tennis as the company had partnered with the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) in 2015, the Australian Open in 2018, and the French Open last year.
Keeping fans engaged
While the sports tech space in India is small, there have been big developments in the last 3-4 years, especially in the fan-engagement segment.
The sports tech space can be divided into three segments -- Athlete tracking and performance measurement, fan engagement and media, and sports management. In India, fan engagement and media has picked up pace.
According to Mitra, if fan experience is strong, one can drive monetisation of the fan experience. “In fan experience, the most important aspect is fan engagement. IPL has a wide fan base, and, especially, in the post-COVID world, we realised we have to revive our tech as everyone will be relying on the digital experience.”
He further said that artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to bring together concepts of virtual stadiums. He said that companies can do so by learning about the fans’ past preferences and give them experience of a stadium with the help of AI, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
In 2019, during French Open, Infosys had claimed that as many as 10 million fans had engaged with its four digital engagement platforms, including Infosys Match Centre, Stats+, Social Heatmap and Slam Leaderboards.
While fan engagement is an important segment, Mitra thinks that the biggest opportunity lies in using technology is to unearth talent in sports. “There is a need to leverage tech to collect information, analyse the kind of talent that is available and then choose talent.”
Cricket more tech-savvy
While technology in sports in India is at a nascent stage, cricket is ahead of other sports, especially due to IPL.
For example, Tata Communications
, in 2018, helped Star Sports centralise its operations. Tata Communications
helped Star India, the official broadcaster of IPL, to offer the league in many regional languages. Along with IPL, the IT company worked on as many as 750 sporting events in 2018.
This year, with IPL happening behind closed doors due to COVID-19, more technological innovations have come to the fore. For example, Tech Mahindra and Kings XI Punjab are working on 5G-related use cases for introducing holographic virtual fans to the stadium.
Size of sports tech industry
While there are no specific data regarding spends in sports technology in India, globally, it is expected to be a $10 billion industry by 2024. While international markets like North America are expected to grow at 5 percent, India is expected to grow at 15 percent, according to industry estimates.
What is more interesting is that, along with cricket, sports like Kabaddi and football are catching up in the sports tech space in India.