A few weeks ago we caught up with Graeme Harrison, Head of Digital Marketing & Communications at the America's Cup, in advance of his speaker role at the 200 speaker Sports Performance Data & Fan Engagement Summit in San Francisco to talk a little more about how the competition is developing the digital fan experience.
How has embracing the digital landscape paid off for the America’s Cup?
At the 35th America’s Cup, digital platforms and content creation were at the heart of our online communications strategy, we worked closely with Facebook in San Francisco and the team provided support.
The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series held events hosted months apart so social media updates were vital to keep fans up to date on the racing, team news and design updates, not just during the racing but also between events. During The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series and the 35th America’s Cup Match, our channels were the ultimate resource of fan information.
From May 2016 to June 2017 we posted a combined 7,000 website articles and social media posts. The social media fan base grew by over 250k during this period.
How has an informative social presence allowed the America’s Cup to grow its fan base?
Yes, we produced a high volume of informative content that featured behind the scenes, athlete profiles, strategy and tactics - this of course is highly relevant content to existing and new fans. The relevancy of the content was key to achieving high engagement rates across social which subsequently further drove distribution & reach.
How is America’s Cup aligning it’s commercial strategy with creative digital content to develop brand value? Can you share with us any exciting, recent projects or partnerships?
From a commercial point of view, during the the 34th and 35th America’s Cup we worked closely with key broadcasters (NBC in the US) to drive fans to the live broadcast - both from social channels and our website. Social media was also a key driver to our database and helping us drive tickets sales to the 35th America’s Cup event in Bermuda and merchandise sales.
We had several analytics tools in place, but mostly we used the native tools in the Google suite of Analytics and Facebook Insights.
Virtual and Augmented Reality. How is this going to change fan interaction?
Augmented Reality has been introduced into the broadcast for both the 34th and 35th America’s Cup. The development of LiveLine™ technology has been at the heart of making the racing more understandable for TV viewers.
LiveLine™ system overlays geo-positioned lines and data streams at accuracy of within an inch on live race course video shots from rapidly moving helicopter and water-based platforms.
By using augmented reality in the race coverage we were able to make visible the boundaries and laylines on TV. Data such as average speed, distance sailed and the number of tacks and gibes were made visible on the screen, helping viewers understand who has sailed the fastest and smartest. At the 35th America’s Cup, real-time biometric data, like competitor heart rates, was also collected for the first time and added to the television broadcast.
During the 35th America’s Cup we placed 360 cameras on the yachts to create an Oculus Rift virtual reality experience for event hospitality and an online 360 race highlights experience during the America’s Cup match itself.
No matter how good a sailor you are, you probably won’t get to physically ride on a 50ft foiling catamaran. This 360 VR experience is probably as close to racing at 50 knots (90 kph) on water as you’re going to get.
Our San Francisco Sports PDFE summit will be inviting over 100 different sports to share their experiences and work in performance analysis. Has there been any approaches in the sporting world which have particularly impressed you over the last 12 months and why?
I relocated to Bermuda for the year prior to the 35th America’s Cup, and have been totally focussed on the task in hand. In many ways Bermuda is isolated from the sporting world and sports marketing industry. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with colleagues and hearing how other sports have solved their challenges with strategic innovation.
Finally, what other discussions are you hoping to be involved with and who do you hope to network with at our Sports Performance Data and Fan Engagement Summit in San Francisco next January?
I’m really looking forward to the San Francisco Sports PDFE summit, in particular connecting with sports leaders who have implemented strategies that have achieved high fan growth. Sailing is a minority sport, yet when people see these boats they are amazed by the racing and athleticism and can’t help but want to watch. So sports that have reached new audiences are always of interest.
For more information on the summit visit