Revolutionizing the fan experience of the Tour de France
Business continuity planning for the greatest cycling race in the world.
Doubling down on digital to bring fans closer to the Tour de France
Fan engagement, data insights, and business transformation, from wherever we are to wherever you are
Connected race, connected stadium, connected world.
Respond. Recover. Thrive.
Jason Goodall | Global CEO, NTT Ltd.
Our organization was in a stronger position than many to manage the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on our operations. We heard about the pandemic relatively early, through our operations in Asia, so had a sense of what was coming.
With the safety of our people at the forefront of our planning, we adopted a decision-making framework with three key elements: respond, recover and thrive.
We made some decisive moves early on, effectively sending 50,000 employees and contractors home. We adjusted our processes and focused on how to deliver mission-critical services to the thousands of clients who rely on us to run their own businesses. And we looked at what we had to do to ensure the sustainability of our own.
Despite the many challenges these changing circumstances have presented, we’ve continued to deliver relevant services and meet our service level agreements across the world. That we’ve been able to achieve all this is a testament to the remarkable energy of our people and their extraordinary commitment to deliver. It’s these qualities that we’ll bring to the historic 2020 Tour de France.
Off the indoor trainer and onto the road
As an amateur cyclist, I always get excited about the Tour de France. It’s an event that divides the calendar every year – the scenery, the conditions, the drama, the people are just irreplaceable.
This year will be somewhat different, as the Tour takes on a new symbolic significance.
The Tour de France is the inspiring, feel-good event we’ve been waiting for. It’s outdoors, it’s physical, it’s liberating … it’s a reminder we’re still here and we can overcome.
Jason Goodall | CEO, NTT Ltd.
It’s the first major global sporting event to take place at a time when our experience of sport has changed dramatically, and the future of pro sports is still being defined.
Are big crowds a thing of the past? What will take their place? Will we see a different psychology behind ‘big match temperament’ ¬as athletes perform without an audience? Will star players be as good without the support of a roaring crowd?
Growing the audience, growing the game
It’s unlikely sport will go back to exactly the way it was, and that’s not entirely a bad thing.
For fans, technology will fast track digitization that allows a bigger audience to access and appreciate sport.
Jason Goodall | CEO, NTT Ltd.
Although the live experience is irreplaceable, and we hope it will be part of our lives again soon, technology will provide a richer experience for a broader audience. This is good news for people who don’t have the means to watch a sport live.
There’s also a bigger focus on grassroots support, the foundation of any sporting code. Smaller teams need a lot more to survive and we may see a narrowing of the gap between them and the big-league, big-money teams – an adjustment I think is needed, making the playing field more even.
Reimagining the way we connect with the future
Looking at where we are now, just about every sporting code is adjusting to managing a sporting event in a physical location while most of the fan experience takes place in a remote, virtual one. We’ve seen some incredible innovation in this area, from enabling virtual editions of events such as Le Mans and the Tour de France to having virtual crowds at football matches.
Technology has played a huge role in this and will continue to do so. Whether we choose to replicate the live-stadium vibe or create a different kind of atmosphere, it will take a rock-solid architecture and infrastructure to enable fast, seamless connectivity for the remote experience.
This really plays into our core strengths as an organization, and we’re excited about the possibilities this new viewing experience opens up.
Building partnerships that will take us there
They say it’s only in the hard times that you really get to test the mettle of a relationship and that’s very true of what we’re going through now. A big part of our DNA is an ecosystem of partnerships we’ve developed to create business value for our clients.
With the world changing the way it is, at the speed it is, these partnerships have never been more important.
Jason Goodall | CEO, NTT Ltd.
I clearly remember one of the first meetings we had with Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O), in December 2014. They were looking for a technology partner to help them change the fan experience. Six months later, live tracking data was used at the Tour de France for the first time.
Five years later, we have rider profiles, team analytics, stage-win predictions, incredible data visualizations – and a team delivering all of this from locations around the world.
Back then, we saw an opportunity to make a major impact.
We still do.
See you back on the road!
The future of fan engagement
from wherever you are in the world
Doubling down on digital to bring fans closer to the race
For many of us at NTT Ltd., the calendar year is divided neatly into ‘before Tour de France’ and ‘after’. July is the golden month, when the world’s best compete for the yellow jersey and millions of roadside spectators soak up the sun.
They’re joined by billions of fans who watch the broadcast from every corner of the world. Some may have little interest in cycling, but for three weeks in July (or September!), they’re just as engrossed in the action as any sports fan.
When the Tour de France rolls out of Nice this year, the whole world will be at the start line. This year’s event signifies something of a return to normal, giving us a chance to escape the worries of the last few months and just enjoy the race.
Matthew Keenan | Tour de France Commentator
Working with Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O) over the years, our goal has always been to create a great experience for every type of fan. This year, the challenge to bring people closer to the race has a new dimension.
Recognizing that many would not be able to travel to experience the action close-up, we doubled down on our efforts to bring the race to life in new ways. We accelerated work that was already in so we could connect people to great content and create conversations at the ‘digital roadside’.
The power of an event like the Tour de France is all about bringing people together to enjoy a moment. Each year, we step up the fan experience so people can engage with the race in a way that’s most relevant for them.
Peter Gray | Senior Vice President for Advanced Technology, NTT Ltd.
We also ran another Tour de France Hackfest, inviting all NTT Ltd. employees from around the world to ‘Make the Tour de France the world’s greatest smart stadium’. The breadth and quality of ideas put forward were truly impressive – we have 12 concepts with the potential to be included in the rolling five-year innovation plan for the Tour. This year’s winning entry, Le Tour Cheque, is an app that creates a virtual stadium to connect fans with similar interests, whether they’re at the race, in a café or at home in a different country.
The outcome of all this activity is that fans can look forward to new data insights, new ways of visualizing the data and new predictions on all their favourite channels. They’ll also enjoy some fantastic new features on the Race Center app and website, including a more user-friendly interface.
Adding an additional element of excitement is that all this will be delivered by a team that’s not even at the race – instead, we’ll be operating from a 'Virtual Zone Technique'.
With all that’s happened in the last few months, we’re really excited that the Tour de France is going ahead this year and that, once again, we’re able to be a part of it.
That’s because we believe sport can do great things – and great things, change things.
My job is telling human stories about how a rider has overcome obstacles to get to the finish line. In sport – as in life – our differences are really small compared with what we have in common, and that’s what makes it such a great leveller.
Matthew Keenan, Tour de France Commentator
Creating amazing experiences for every fan, everywhere
Which fan are you?
Whether you’re here for the scenery, the stats or the sport, data can make the Tour de France an even more enjoyable viewing experience.
You may not know your grimpeurs from your baroudeurs*, but that doesn’t stop you from tuning in to three weeks of drama, set among spectacular scenery. You enjoy learning about châteaux and cuisine as much as you relish the excitement of the competition.
* In pro cycling terms, a grimpeur (‘climber’) is a climbing specialist and a barouder (‘‘adventurer’) is a breakaway specialist.
Recommended for you:
- Follow the race on Instagram – @letourdefrance delivers great visuals of every route and close-ups of the action.
- Visit the live tracking website, Race Center (or download the app), to see what those hills and valleys look like from a rider’s perspective. While you’re there, check out some of our data visualizations to see what’s going on behind the scenes.
Did you know?
- We enrich data on the speed and location of riders with information on local weather conditions and route data such as gradient. This allows us to provide greater context to the effort of each rider – as anyone whose ridden up a hill into the wind can tell you.
- We’ve enhanced our data visualizations and included short videos and animations on our Tour de France platforms to better explain the numbers.
The aspiring dedicated data scientist
Sport is great because it produces statistics. You appreciate the achievements of teams and individuals all the more when you get the numbers behind them.
Recommended for you:
- @letourdata – the story of the Tour de France in data. More than a Twitter handle, @letourdata is now the source of in-depth analysis and content – including race predictions – that’s shared across channels as part of the race timeline.
- The Race Center app and website allow you to customize your view of the data as the race progresses.
- The Tour de France Fantasy Game gives you the chance to put your own predictions to the test.
Did you know?
- The @letourdata team brings together journalism, data science and strong visuals to deliver data-driven storytelling in near real-time, providing greater insight and context to live tracking.
- From the two pieces of information (speed and location) obtained from the tracking device on a bike, we generate 60 data points per rider, per second . We then have just a few minutes to generate engaging data visualizations and animations for the live broadcast and other channels.
- We push 10 to 12 data-driven stories to the live broadcast at every stage, and over stories every day on social media.
Data certainly enriches our viewing experience, but it only goes so far. We can’t look at the data and determine if tactical race decisions are based on psychology rather than pure capability, for example – and this is what makes the sport so exciting. It’s the riders who create the magic of the Tour de France.
Rob Webster | Vice President – Advanced Technology Group for Sport, NTT Ltd.
You’ve got the flag, the merch, the loyalty and the passion. You’ll shout encouragement, weep in despair, dance with joy – whatever it takes to support your team. And what makes this all so awesome is you’re part of a global community doing exactly the same.
Recommended for you:
- Build your own view of the Tour de France. Select your favourite riders and teams on Race Center and enjoy real-time updates on their progress.
- Use the Tour de France social media channels to connect with other supporters and share the agony and ecstasy of being a fan.
- See what it’s like to be a directeur sportif by taking part in the Tour de France Fantasy League.
- Bring the race to your living room by following on the unique 3D Tracker app.
Did you know?
- We analysed the performances of pro cyclists over the last eight years to create rider profiles that give a detailed view of their abilities. This data is also a key input into other analytics for the race.
- This year, we’ve aggregated that data to create team profiles. See What makes a great team? for more detail on this exciting development.
You can’t get through a day without being on the bike … or maybe you just look forward to a long ride on the weekend. You have data on your own power output, heart rate and calories burned. The big question is: just how many slices of pizza does that equate to?
Recommended for you:
- You’re probably on all the channels already, which is great. This year, you’ll enjoy the more user-friendly look and feel of Race Center, which you can customize to suit your interest in the race on any given day.
- Weigh in on discussions about stage favourites on social media. Our machine learning model looks at rider profiles, recent racing form, the nature of the stage and who else is racing to predict the likely winner.
- See how your data stacks up against the incredible achievements of the riders by keeping tabs on @letourdata
Did you know?
- In 2019, our machine learning model was just 5% behind the predictions made by race commentators with decades of combined experience.
- Soon, we’ll be taking our model even further to predict how a stage will finish. Bunch, breakaway, sprint, GC attack … will your forecast beat the machine?
- We’re also exploring data on a key rider skill: descending. Why are some better at keeping their speed around corners? Let’s see if the answers are in the numbers.
As a keen cyclist myself, creating visualizations that tell stories about the data gives me a whole new appreciation of what these athletes are able to do.
Joan Kuhrmann | Senior Manager, Innovation and R&D , NTT Ltd.
Which fan are you?
- The armchair traveller
- The aspiring actuary
- The loyal follower
- The Lycra legend
Teams on the World Tour typically have more than 30 riders on their roster. We’re interested in what’s behind their selection of eight riders for a Grand Tour like the Tour de France.
By aggregating rider profiles, we’re able to gain deeper insight into the make-up of the team and what that says about their strategy. Is the team stronger on sprints or climbs? Does it look as if they’re hunting for stage wins? Which ones? Do they have general classification ambitions? And, of course, will they be successful?
In analysing data from the last five years of Grand Tour races, here’s what we found:
Matching individual rider strengths to course types is no guarantee of victory
Having only strong climbers to tackle a mountainous race may seem like a good strategy, but there is not necessarily a strong correlation between this approach and team success.
Teams that have been together longer tend to do better
When it comes to success, team dynamics play as big a role – perhaps even bigger – than the abilities of individual riders.
When everyone gets a chance to win, the whole team wins
Teams that give all riders a chance to win races are generally more successful than those focused on just one rider. When given the chance to share the glory, everyone is motivated to perform.
When NTT Ltd. became one large, global organization, we were very aware of the risk of being stifled by bureaucracy. We therefore made a decision to focus more on the culture we wanted to create than on developing complex policies and procedures.
Getting the culture right, we believed, was crucial to building a sustainable business. By articulating how we wanted to work together, we could create an environment for people who wanted to make a difference and give of their best in a performance-driven organization.
Innovation is a big part of this. We have an open culture that values and fosters innovation, inviting ideas from anyone, anywhere, and strives to take advantage of the latest technology and trends.
We are firm believers in InnerSourcing – innovating from within to build intellectual property that creates value for our clients and ensures the sustainability of our business. However, when you have some 50,000 people working all over the world, bringing great ideas together can be a challenge.
That’s why initiatives like Hackfest work so well. They enable us to connect talent and show what’s possible when we work in diverse, agile teams.
Hackfest talks to all our values as NTT Ltd. – connection, innovation, diversity and purpose. It’s a celebration of our culture and the people we invest in. Reviewing this year’s entries was fantastic! I was struck by the energy of the teams and the immense creativity and talent we have in our business.
Marilyn Chaplin, Chief Human Resources Officer, NTT
This year, in addition to the 34 teams that participated, we had thousands of employees engaged in the competition. They followed the progress of the teams on Yammer, gave feedback and encouragement, made suggestions and had a say in the final results.
Our purpose is clear: Together, we enable the connected future. It’s what guides our values, decisions and the way we work with clients and each other. InnerSourcing is an incredible way to harness and maximize the impact of innovation in NTT Ltd. and we can’t wait to take these ideas to the next level!
'Innovation is the purest form of differentiation, but no single person or group ‘owns’ innovation. I firmly believe it can come from every corner of the business and from anyone in the business. There is power in tapping into new ideas and different perspectives from around the world.'
Adam Skovron, Senior Vice President, Innovation and Intellectual Property, NTT Ltd.
Driving deeper data insights
Securely and remotely
Bringing the Tour de France experience to fans wherever they are, from wherever we are
The digital environment has changed the way the Tour de France is delivered in two key ways: changing the fan experience by creating new channels and ways of engaging, and being able to run our operations as a distributed, virtual team for the first time.
As one major sporting event after another was cancelled or postponed earlier this year, we had to think very hard about contingencies for the Tour de France. We had a lot of question marks around the race itself as well as our ability to deliver technology solutions in what would likely be a very different situation.
In a live sporting event, business continuity is absolutely critical. We had to make sure that, come the end of August, we were ready to go.
Responding to a major challenge like this really took us out of our standard way of thinking and forced us to take a far more creative approach to solutions. We tackled several scenarios from two angles: how to provide a safe working space for our people involved in the Tour, and how to create a sense of community and engagement for fans – bearing in mind that many would not be able to attend the race as planned.
The Tour de France 2020 edition is going to be very different for the fan. Technology and the digitization of the race itself will play a much bigger part in delivering that awesome fan experience.
Tim Wade | Vice President, Advanced Technology Group for Sport, NTT Ltd
Usually, we’d have a core team in the ‘control center’ – a large truck positioned at the finish line of each stage – keeping an eye on all technology operations.
Our decision not to send a team to France this year meant we needed a new way of working, with new services and technology, to ensure we could deliver – we needed a new Zone Technique.
Creating the Virtual Zone Technique
The Zone Technique is the technology environment that supports everything NTT Ltd. does at the Tour de France, from gathering and analysing live-tracking data to creating data visualizations and stories that are published on various platforms and as part of the live broadcast.
We came up the idea of using all our digital and collaboration platforms to create a Virtual Zone Technique, so people sitting in Melbourne or Johannesburg would have the same level of access to the data, videos and conversations they were used to in the physical Zone Technique.
The Virtual Zone Technique is the proof of a new organization model that allows us to operate remotely without compromising on the level of service delivered, and improves the resilience of digital systems.
Pascal Queirel | Chief Information Officer, Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O)
New technologies around cloud computing, collaboration platforms and networking have enabled us to do things that probably wouldn’t have been possible five years ago. Since then, we’ve worked progressively with A.S.O to digitize our platforms so we can support the race remotely, from just about anywhere in the world. It’s because of that groundwork that we’re now able to take the next step in the journey.
The Virtual Zone Technique brings together various technologies so our operational team can look after the data, monitor various platforms and collaborate successfully – even though they’re in different locations and different time zones.
What's in the Virtual Zone Technique
Planning for the unexpected to execute with excellence
In many ways, the challenges we encountered helped accelerate new innovations in terms of the way we operate the Tour de France.
Remote execution has given us the opportunity to bring together a lot of services that weren’t together before – video streams from the end of the race, data monitoring, and an observability platform that allows the team to view everything through one portal, for example.
Working through all the different elements of this distributed environment, we did encounter some challenges. In some countries, for example, power and bandwidth are not as reliable as in others, which meant investing in backup power and internet. Some people struggled to run a video call or display a large amount of data and content at the same time, so we invested in the right equipment to make sure everyone had what they needed to perform mission-critical roles.
Our preparation for the 2020 Tour de France has also opened our eyes to different ways of working. It’s been an opportunity to embrace new technologies and new ways of interacting with each other in an environment where distributed teams and remote working will become more common.
Under the hood of innovation at the Tour de France
We’re fortunate to work in an organization of people who relish a challenge and love finding new solutions to difficult problems.
Peter Gray | Senior Vice President for Advanced Technology, NTT Ltd.
The way our Tour de France team is working this year is almost a pilot for figuring out how we’ll work together in the future. Our technology will play a big role in that, but it’s the passion and commitment of our people which will ensure we deliver for A.S.O and the fans this year.
The show will go on – and it’s going to be spectacular.
The Zone Technique is the technical area at the end of every stage of the race, supporting broadcasters, commentary teams, telecommunications providers and many other technical support teams
Transforming the business of pro cycling
in preparation for the new normal
Turning a corner in the business of professional sport
Over the last five years, we have built the Tour de France with NTT Ltd. and we have continued our digital transformation journey under unique circumstances this year. We can use technology to ensure the fan experience is richer than ever.
Yann Le Moenner | CEO of Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O)
2020 has been an extraordinary year. No country, industry, business or individual has been left unaffected by the events of the last nine months. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have changed what we mean by ‘business as usual’, in every sense.
In the business of professional sport, we went from a full calendar of events to empty greens, tracks and stadiums within weeks.
Facing an empty road
On 30 April, 45,000 people registered for the Paris Half-Marathon, an A.S.O event, were told they couldn’t run the next day. With the 2020¬ Paris–Nice race set to start just a few weeks later, A.S.O liaised with all stakeholders to find a safe way of allowing the race to continue. As the crisis escalated, however, the race was stopped a day early.
It was, as Yann le Moenner puts it, like watching a bad movie: ‘The situation became worse and worse. Nobody thought this could happen so nobody knew how best to respond.’ As the seriousness of the situation became known, it was clear that this was a time to ‘be agile and find solutions.’
Finding our way
Change of any kind can be an impetus for improvement, compelling us to find solutions to new problems or simply a better way of doing something.
In many ways, the new circumstances we found ourselves in enforced innovation.
With A.S.O, there’s a huge amount of mutual respect and trust, and a belief that we can achieve more together than we could on our own.
Ruth Rowan | Chief Marketing Officer, NTT Ltd.
Working with Zwift, A.S.O launched the first Virtual Tour de France, which ran from 7 July to 19 July (when the ‘live’ event would have taken place). It featured both a men’s and women’s event. Using a similar platform, the Virtual L’Etape du Tour de France saw 90,000 people riding the same roads as the pros in a virtual race.
In addition to raising funds for cycling-focused charities, these events maintained interest in the sport and gave fans something to look forward to and enjoy. Although there was no certainty about the live event going ahead, the A.S.O remained optimistic and planned accordingly. It was firmly decided that the race could not go ahead without spectators, so A.S.O embarked on a complex risk assessment and analysed hundreds of scenarios to ensure they would have the agility to change direction at any point during the Tour.
Filling the world’s biggest stadium
The anticipation and vive émotion surrounding this year’s Tour de France is intense – and justified. It’s the first global sporting event of this magnitude to be held since lockdown, with an incredible route and the participation of the world’s cycling best.
For A.S.O, protecting everyone involved in this year’s event – riders, soigneurs, mechanics, journalists, spectators – is a huge logistical challenge.
For NTT Ltd., the challenge is to deliver all our technology services remotely, with no crew on the ground.
Although we won’t be there, we’re just as excited as the rest of the world about this year’s event. It’s the first time we’ll see our team racing as NTT Pro Cycling at the Tour de France – there are 50,000 NTT Ltd. employees and contractors around the world waiting to see them take to the road in August.
We’ve doubled down on our efforts to bring fans closer to the race this year, but we’re also thinking differently about the future of sport and how to further extend that reach.
Forging a new path ahead
We’ve chosen to be a purpose-led brand, and our pro sports partnerships reflect that. We’re not just adding our logo to a team or an event – these partnerships reflect our ambition, our values and our purpose: to enable the connected future.
In the midst of increasing concerns about the role of technology in our lives, we see the ways technology can make our lives better.
We see how it can bring billions of people that much closer to the Tour de France each year, and to improve the performance of the NTT Pro Cycling team, riding for Africa, as well as the safety and performance of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in North America.
We see the potential of high-definition technology used in Major League Baseball to democratize sport, giving more people access to the live experience than ever before.
We see how data, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics can help us answer critical questions in a high-pressure environment.
What we see in all of this is how technology can do great things.
There’s an urgency now to change our world for the better, to create a blueprint for a way of living that has less impact on the planet and creates a more sustainable future for everyone.
One of the biggest calls to action in the world right now is the decade of action linked to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. We are privileged to the Business Avenger representing the ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’ goal, using our voice to raise awareness of the Goals and demonstrate the role of technology in addressing all 17 Goals.
As a global technology organization, we’re also very mindful of our role in raising awareness of these issues in our industry and finding new ways of delivering services to lighten our footprint.
The events of this year have shown us that we often don’t realize how much we love something until there’s a threat it may no longer be there. We hope that this year’s Tour de France connects people in new, deeper ways and inspires them to change direction for the better.
'Our partnership with NTT Ltd. is always focusing on what’s next – the next challenge, the next objective.'
Yann Le Moenner, CEO of Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.)
Together we enable the connected future
The business of cycling
Webinars on demand
Keeping the Tour de France dream alive
Great moments with NTT Pro Cycling
Under the hood of innovation
NTT Pro Cycling [data-driven] team announcement