How professional cycling is transforming itself through data storytelling

Source: 7 lessons the Tour de France can teach us about digital business

In all their many shapes and forms, sports entertain us, bring us joy, and showcase the pinnacle of our physical and mental abilities. We love following sports! But in all the excitement and exhilaration they offer us fans, it’s sometimes easy to forget that they’re also businesses. For event organisers, sponsors, the media, and professional athletes, sports must also be lucrative, profitable, and sustainable.

The Tour de France is organised each year by Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.). It’s a great example of how a professional sports business saw the massive potential that the digital era holds for all organisations … and how it’s now transforming itself in several ways to leverage that opportunity through technology. A.S.O. is revolutionising the viewing experience of pro cycling and is doing so through data storytelling. Here are seven important lessons we can learn about digital business from A.S.O.’s journey so far.

Lesson 1: Know what it is you’re really selling
As a sports media organisation, A.S.O.’s product is not necessarily the sport of cycling itself, but the stories it’s able to tell about it. The newspaper L’Auto created the Tour de France back in 1903 with the sole purpose of selling more copies. The newspaper featured fantastic stories of this exciting cycling event: the trials, tribulations, crashes, punishing climbs, daring descents, and dashing sprints to the finish line. That was the product they were selling … and it hasn’t changed much throughout the evolution of A.S.O. , nor in the more than a century of the Tour’s existence.
Cycling today is still a sport in which fitness, teamwork, strategy, mental endurance, and sheer skill all play a part in ensuring victory and glory. The more compelling, intriguing, and entertaining that story is, the more attractive the product that A.S.O. has to offer, and the greater the audience it will attract to consume that product.

Lesson 2: Change will always happen – recognise it when it does
What did change over the last century, however – and massively so – was the buyer of A.S.O.’s product, the consumers of sports stories around the world. And much of that had to do with technology. As technology evolved over the last 100 years, so did the ways in which sports audiences wanted to consume their stories. With the dawn of the digital era came an explosion of new devices, applications, and social and digital channels. Along came a new type of sports fan, too, for whom traditional TV, radio, and print simply weren’t good enough anymore. The new sports audiences wanted more ways of consuming sports stories, more information, more involvement, more interaction, and more conversation about the sport they were passionate about.
Read this blog or download this infographic for more about the close relationship between the evolution of technology and sport.

Lesson 3: Technology has the power to transform entire industries

A.S.O. therefore faced a challenge: they knew they needed to adapt, enrich, and enhance how they told the Tour de France story, in order to leverage the opportunity that technology and new audiences had to offer. And there was only one way of doing so: through the power of technology itself. As a result, A.S.O. dipped its toes into the world of live-tracking and data analytics for the first time during the 2015 race, with the help of Official Technology Partner, Dimension Data. By 2016, A.S.O. was ready to use data to tell truly exciting stories about pro cycling, and deliver this newly enriched product to fans, professionals, and the media around the world – not only via traditional channels, but also online and through social media.
But how exactly did they go about it and how was Dimension Data able to help?

Lesson 4: Digital business begins and ends with data
Data is the lifeblood of digital business. But making the most of your data means more than collecting, storing, and processing bits and bytes. A reliable flow of data across a secure, stable infrastructure also helps to turn data into useful information. At the 2016 Tour de France, it was all about data in motion. Our mobile data centre, called the big data truck, was literally on the road every day to follow wherever the greatest cycling race in the world went. Watch this video for more about how the big data truck formed the analytics hub of the data that flowed from each bike in the race, to eventually help A.S.O. tell great stories of pro cycling.

Lesson 5: People who work for digital businesses work in new and exciting ways
It takes a fantastic group of passionate, willing, and able people to pull off a massive technology project like the Tour de France. It also takes some great technology to bring them all together, in real-time, from around the world. Our Tour de France team worked every day of the event from inside the big data truck, their office on the road. Through a 24-hour technical development cycle, the team ensured the solution kept up with the dynamics of the race. The truck itself is a great example of a workspace for tomorrow. It’s completely mobile and incorporates an impressive range of communication and collaboration tools that bring people together from all over world, while they work. If you wonder what it takes to operate within a global team in an office that moves every day, watch this video.

Lesson 6: A cornerstone technology of digital business is cloud
Cloud gives you the ability to scale your digital business instantly in order to respond smarter and faster to massive data volumes and dynamic market conditions. This was also true for the Tour de France. This year, we delivered valuable race information to A.S.O. through a unified digital platform hosted in the cloud, in parallel with a big data truck disaster recovery solution. The quality of data and real-time availability of that data were critical components of the technology solution. Dimension Data’s cloud ensured we kept the data secure, and encrypted connectivity allowed the race information to be transmitted to broadcasters, the media, the teams, and viewers securely. Watch this video to learn more:

Lesson 7: It always takes a team
As much as technology stands central to digital business, business itself is always about people. The Tour de France technology solution was no exception. Behind all the buzz and excitement ofone of the greatest sporting events in the world, was a large, global team of dedicated, passionate people working together to deliver something great. They’re the ones who made it all happen. Watch this video to meet some of them, and find out what it was like to help A.S.O. tell great stories of pro cycling.

Lastly, if you’re wondering what stories we were able to help the A.S.O. tell at the greatest cycling race in the world this year, take a look at this infographic. It’s a great example of how data analytics can help revolutionise the viewing experience of professional sport through effective data storytelling.