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Creativity in B2B: AI at the US Open: A grand slam for IBM

That’s right folks, it’s time for another post in my new B2B Creativity series.

Every couple of weeks, I'll be exploring the best examples of creativity in B2B marketing, advertising, and PR. Why? Because PR doesn’t have to be boring!

This week I’m diving into IBM Consulting — and the US Open’s first ever AI commentator.

AI commentary and the US Open

Ok, I’m aware the US Open feels like ancient history, but this campaign just keeps on giving.

Back in August, IBM Consulting tapped into the power of generative AI, using its Watson platform to produce analysis and AI commentary during each game.

Using over 2.7 million data points taken before and during the tournament, IBM’s AI calculated win likelihood percentages for each match, even forecasting a player's shot at advancing to the next round.

All of this data was packaged up as a smart and user-friendly app by the United States Tennis Association (UTSA), co-developed with IBM Consulting.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is a sponsored tennis match, it’s hardly B2B.

But IBM wasn’t at the US Open to convince stands full of tennis lovers to go home and log into its AI platform. This campaign was about selling to businesses, showcasing partner content, and building a reputation as an AI innovator.

The full campaign (which is still evolving today) goes far beyond what happened at the Open. Since the tournament finished, IBM Consulting has used the stunt to create a host of partner content — from behind-the-scenes videos to a technical deep-dive in Forbes. Now it’s less a PR stunt and more a case study that got out of hand.

You don’t need to sponsor the US Open

IBM’s campaign is great — but let's face it, not everyone's got two million pounds lying around to sponsor the US Open. For me, though, the sponsorship gig isn't the star of the show — it's all about that creative use of insights.

I mean, come on, loads of B2B brands sit on gold mines of fascinating data and, most of the time, it just collects dust, untouched by marketing or PR. You don't need to develop a full-blown AI to tap into that treasure trove (although that is now possible).

Many of my favourite B2B campaigns involve brands digging into their own platform data, unearthing hidden trends and insights. Take Adobe with its pandemic shopping insights or Goodlord tracking property movements — those hits come from their own data gold mines.

If you can uncover insights that nobody else has — or can’t get from a simple paid survey — that’s when you strike B2B marketing gold.

Data alone might be interesting, but it’s using that data to solve problems or to tell interesting stories that transforms it into an engaging campaign.

That’s what IBM has done so well with its US Open commentary — creating an interactive commentator, predicting outcomes like a fortune teller. What could have been a boring match-tracking app was transformed into something that captured people’s imagination and got them talking.

Data plus creativity. Now there’s a Grand Slam-worthy combination for B2B.

B2B Creativity is a fortnightly column curated and written by Alex Warren, tech PR professional at Wildfire.

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