Britehouse takes international sports event into the cloud
Live action, high volume, automatically responsive international sports website reduces resourcing needs for global leisure group
International sports events need to fit into the digital era by enabling television, radio, online, and mobile audiences to engage with website content about the event, live and in real time, through whatever medium and device of their choice.
Aside from the practical considerations of access, the appropriateness of the technologies chosen and the efficiency and foresight with which they are managed have a significant impact on the sponsoring organisation's public image.
Putting together all the necessary enabling technologies in such a way that they appear seamless to the public takes experience, insight, and skill. So does managing extreme and unpredictable variations in data volumes and traffic during an event. And, the website developer and operator must have the vision to see beyond the immediate demands of the event and, thereby, protect sponsors and organisers from technology shifts that would create significant obsolescence costs for future events.
For these reasons a major international leisure group with its headquarters in South Africa turned to 3fifteen (now Britehouse Digital), with whom the group had partnered on a number of projects, for a turnkey website solution for an international sports event held annually at one of its destinations.
The sporting event functions as an international televised showcase for the leisure group's trademark of being both world class and 'extraordinary'.
The website for the event must, therefore, be equally extraordinary, both in look and feel and in functionality. These attributes must also be extended to the field scoreboards, which are not only visible to the public attending the event but are referred to in the television broadcast. This calls for the website and the scoreboards to be tightly integrated and managed by the same technology team.
For all these reasons, the criteria set by the leisure group for the development and operation of the website and the scoreboards by Britehouse Digital, included:
- Guaranteed uptime
- Access from any device world wide
- Accurate updates of score information
- Sustainable performance regardless of load.
An additional significant consideration was the group's existing technology environment. Were the website to be run in-house, then additional servers would need to be bought to accommodate the hefty increase in traffic for the sporting event. The short duration of the event, however, made it impossible to justify such costs.
Also, the location of the existing servers in South Africa would inhibit the experience of the website and, therefore, the tournament for visitors in other parts of the world.
To address the performance and scalability issues, Britehouse Digital recommended a cloud option – using Microsfot Azure. This would enable the leisure group's environment to be scaled up and out in minutes to adapt to changing conditions during the event.
A premium cloud hosting platform, Microsoft Azure is located in northern Europe. This meant that global access would be extremely responsive.
With one project manager and four developers, Britehouse Digital redesigned the event's website using HTML 5 and CSS3 standards. This ensured that it would be fully responsive and, whether visitors were using PCs, laptops, tablets, or mobile phones, regardless of the age of their browsers, the system would automatically optimise content for their specific device types.
For the social channels, the Britehouse team used feeds from SuperSport, Twitter, YouTube, and an inhouse image gallery to keep the site updated with all supplementary information and news. A two-stage caching mechanism proactively ensured the performance of all the integration points.
All the feeds were then integrated with the event's field scoreboards, hosting all the integration points on Azure.
Because Britehouse designed the website to automatically facilitate mobile connectivity, there was no need to create a separate mobisite.
The project was completed in six weeks.
Britehouse Digital head of mobile and digital marketing, Tarkan Diraz, says that taking the event to the cloud was the most effective way to both meet the unpredictable demands of visitors to the site and of the event itself while reinforcing the leisure group's reputation for delivering the extraordinary.
"The names and details of the players are not finalised until a few days before the event. So, it is impossible to anticipate what content fans of particular players will consume. Also, global traffic volumes shift dramatically during the run of the competition, as fans from different countries search for data about or interviews with their favourite players. So, the capacity of the site needs to be able to expand in any content direction.
"A project like this is truly on demand, and you need the kind of agility that only the cloud can give you."
The leisure group's mandate for the website and field scoreboards was met.
When the new website went live for the first time, 100% uptime was achieved during the entire period of hosting the event with no performance impact even at the height of concurrent users.
Because of the responsive design of the new website, mobile traffic increased by more than 3,000% from the previous year.
Page views increased by 150% from those of the previous year.
In addition, while enabling the accommodation of a far larger international audience than had been possible with the old website, the cloud option saved the client the cost of acquiring additional servers. Automation of the majority of processes reduced resource costs all round.
The success of the project and the resultant increase in exposure of the client's brand to bigger audiences worldwide has made the Azure turnkey model introduced by Britehouse Digital a benchmark for other sports event promoters and managers to attain.