AELTC partner Vodafone's 5G headsets boost visually impaired fans live Wimbledon experience

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Vodafone, the official connectivity partner of Wimbledon, debuted 5G-powered headsets on Wimbledon’s Centre and No1 courts in what the brand claims is a world-first 5G tennis trial to enable visually impaired fans to watch live tennis like never before. The headsets, developed by GiveVision and powered by Vodafone 5G, stream live footage from local TV cameras over the telco’s 5G network and then individually enhance the footage to suit each person’s own specific sight profile – through features such as zoom, brightness and contrast and bringing the footage closer to their eye and stimulating the photoreceptor cells in the retina (cells which respond to light) which means a degree of sight can be regained.

Users are able to access the multiple match live feeds and switch between modes and use the camera phone in the headset to focus on whatever action they choose. Enabling the visually impaired headset wearers to enjoy the action from the 2023 Championships anywhere in the crowd: meaning they can sit next to their friends and family, rather than be restricted to the official, pre-determined ‘accessibility areas’ – thus make the Grand Slam more inclusive and accessible to more people.

The system uses Vodafone’s superfast 5G network to power the headsets which removed the lag between the broadcast feed and the headsets as well helping to increase the speed and reliability of the GiveVision headsets in a live sport environment.

Unlike previous visually impaired fan solutions at Wimbledon, the Vodafone 5G initiative covers an entire court for an unlimited number of headset users – bringing to life the AELTC and Vodafone objective of making the sporting experience more accessible to more people.

The initiative was amplified by a digital-first campaign spearheaded by a hero spot and supported by social content and a PR push in harness with sport and entertainment agency Fuse.

The anchor spot rolled out across brand, rights owner and tech partner properties from 6 July.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGNOcHl-j8w

A trio of visually impaired tennis fans – Rosie Pybus (31), Ivan Rodriguez Deb (17) and Sinead Grealy (51) – trialled the headsets for the first time during the first week of the 2023 tournament.

“These 5G headsets are amazing and will be life-changing for so many people,” commented tennis fan Sinead Grealy. “It’s incredible that I’ll be able to enjoy live sporting experiences like this in the future and I’m beyond overwhelmed at the moment.”

“Providing opportunities like this really helps to open tennis up and make the whole experience more inclusive,” added Rosie Pybus. “The technology is brilliant – the clarity, the option to change modes, the ability to see whatever I want – it gives me such a sense of freedom.”

“As a visually impaired tennis player and a huge tennis fan, I can’t put into words how I feel at the moment,” commented Ivan Rodriguez Deb. “Being able to track the ball, see the spin and focus on all the finer details is a real game-changer – it’s amazing.”

Vodafone Chief Commercial Officer Max Taylor explained: “At Vodafone we are committed to using our technology to bring fans closer to the action. Wimbledon is one of the most iconic moments in the British Summer calendar, and we are proud to be able to showcase how the power of our 5G network can help make the sport more accessible to people.”

GiveVision CEO Elodie Draperi added: “At GiveVision, our mission is to redefine accessibility standards for visually impaired spectators at all UK sports and entertainment venues. By working with Vodafone and using their 5G network, we’re improving stadium accessibility without any infrastructure changes, giving visually impaired tennis fans an immersive experience at the prestigious Wimbledon Championships.”

Wimbledon Marketing & Commercial Director Usama Al-Qassab stated: “We want Wimbledon to be enjoyed by as many people as possible, and we are delighted to support this fantastic initiative by our Official Partner Vodafone and GiveVision. These headsets have the ability to make a groundbreaking difference to the Wimbledon experience for guests with vision impairment. I am thrilled that they can watch all the match action in real time, sitting with their friends and family, and enjoying the tennis.”

Comment

After this Wimbledon trial initiative, Vodafone will explore making the 5G headsets more widely available at future Championships and bringing them to other live sport and entertainment events which Vodafone partners (such as The British & Irish Lions and the Wales Rugby Union).

Indeed, Vodafone’s proposed merger with Three UK also includes a pledge to invest £11bn and reach more than 99% of the UK population with 5G Standalone by 2034 which may further boost this ambition.

The activity is part of Vodafone’s broader commitment to improve accessibility across both sport and music, following their development of haptic suits for deaf music fans at last year’s Mighty Hoopla and the addition of all-new visually impaired and wheelchair categories to Play Your Way To Wimbledon, powered by Vodafone the UK’s largest mass participation tennis competition.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bd3ylIwwCUQ

It is also part of the sponsor’s ongoing #FeelTheConnection Wimbledon activation programme which also linked to its works with the AELTC’s other commercial partners (such as its co-sponsored outdoor Wimbledon experiences) and with the LTA’s ‘Play Your Way To Wimbledon’ initiative.

This case study originally appeared on Activative: which offers clients creative and strategic intelligence to fuel game-changing sports and sponsorship marketing. www.activative.co.uk

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