The Cloud Computing Ads in Sports Games Are Out of Control
The official cloud sponsor
With baseball, hockey and football seasons in full swing, a different sort of sport is playing out among the world’s largest technology companies. Amazon.com Inc., Google and Microsoft Corp. are pouring tons of money into promoting their cloud computing products during television’s premier athletic events.
Cloud commercials in sports are getting almost as ubiquitous as the grand (slash insanely annoying) DraftKings-FanDuel ad war of a few years back. Hardly a highlight can now pass without Google Cloud helping to spew an obscure comparison of baseball hitting averages or Amazon Web Services calculating the predicted overtaking times of Formula One drivers. Why all the rah-rah cloud advertising for highly technical enterprise services in an arena traditionally known for Budweiser and Big Mac commercials?
For many decades, live sports mostly offered an easy way to get a brand in front of millions of eyeballs simultaneously on television, but tech companies now see the big leagues as an opportunity to integrate their sponsorships into the games themselves. The best way to show off their products, in other words, is to have managers and players using them on and off the field. This hasn’t always gone as intended.
Microsoft invested massively in National Football League campaigns, only for New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick to publicly trash their Surface tablets.
Cloud-software promos should be a safer bet and can extend beyond TV into streaming apps, fantasy platforms, esports and video games. As part of an estimated $115 million that the tech industry banked on new National Basketball Association sponsorships last season, Microsoft outlined a league partnership to use Azure to deliver “personalized game broadcasts” and mine troves of basketball statistics “through state-of-the-art machine learning, cognitive search and advanced data analytics solutions.” As Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella said at the time, “We are thrilled to serve as the official AI partner of the NBA.”
Other hilariously nerd-tastic sports deals include one this year between the National Hockey League and Amazon, making AWS the “Official Cloud, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Infrastructure Provider of the NHL.” Alphabet Inc. published a Major League Baseball case study detailing how “Google Cloud’s Anthos, Google Kubernetes Engine, Cloud SQL and BigQuery services” are providing “databases, application management and data and video storage capabilities, and to increase reliability and manage governance at scale.” Oracle Corp. said its machine learning spits out “groundbreaking” soccer statistics for the Premier League, while International Business Machines Corp. has touted that Watson helped rank tennis players for the 2021 U.S. Open on “IBM Cloud with Red Hat OpenShift.”
The buzzwords may end up getting lost on the average sports fan, but companies are spending lavishly in the hopes of reaching corporate leaders in the audience. Cloud services are among the most lucrative businesses inside some of the richest companies on earth. The ads help associate these products with winning speed, number crunching and athletic greatness.
It’s not all marketing, either. Leagues and teams actually do use the productivity and data-mining services. Formula One, for example, has leveraged AWS for complex computer simulations of their new car designs. But what you see on TV is frequently glorified, albeit complicated, math, if not just a tech logo hugging a random on-screen graphic.
The reality is that AWS is likely no better at calculating hockey goals than Google is at determining home-run streaks. The halo effect is really what counts, and exclusivity only goes so far. AWS, after all, might power the F1 league’s insights, but the teams each use a range of different providers (NetApp for Aston Martin, Oracle for Red Bull, Hewlett Packard Enterprise for Mercedes and so forth). The viewers, meanwhile, are probably paying attention to the cars, not the cloud. —Austin Carr
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This article originally appeared on bloomberg.com, to read the full article, click here.
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