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Analytics and Sports: Data doesn’t just change the game. It changes the business.

Author: Dr. Patrick McCreesh

Publish Date: June 21st, 2019


The concept of “moneyballing” has taken over sports. Sabermetrics started as the fine art of using analytics to find the hidden trends of the game and give the team an edge. Now, each sport develops their own unique way of exploring the minor analytical nuances of the game to find a slight edge over competitors.


As data becomes more available on players through wearable and advanced technology, these capabilities will only improve. Coaches, players, and agents will all have more data at their fingertips to manage the game, their training, and their clients, respectively. This data is already leading to rule changes and shifts in the way that the industry thinks about athlete health. But that is still less than half the analytics story around sports.


The bigger analytics opportunity sits in the stands.


The bigger analytics opportunity sits in the stands. While analytics swept across the playing field, a gap still remains in the management of operations and experience. Let’s start with tickets. The robust secondary market for tickets created an entire industry that is taking revenue away from the franchise. Analytics can help teams collect more of that revenue directly through demand-based pricing. Moreover, each ticket sale can be accompanied with more unique fan experiences tailored to the interests of the customer.


The arena is the center of the fan experience and it is potentially a missed opportunity for analytics. In the arena, the franchise controls a closed system with all eyes on a multitude of products - not just the team on the court, but the retail and food/beverage opportunities around the event. The closed system includes an opportunity to understand spending patterns, behavioral trends, and sentiment analysis of the fans. By using the data at the fingertips of the event host, franchises can learn about how their customers are interacting with all the services around the arena.

Social media creates an opportunity for robust sentiment analysis around the team. Franchises can understand how fans react to the entire fan experience whether they are in the arena or on their couch. Of course, the franchise gets real-time feedback on players (maybe more than it wants), individual plays, and opposing teams. Additionally, social media allows for location tracking to understand the location of the fan base. This data creates the opportunity for the team to form “team watch parties” where fans can gather and watch the games together, reinforcing team loyalty.


Each of the data types mentioned here creates a unique analytical opportunity, but the real power comes when the data is combined. The franchise can create a centralized repository that serves as the “collective memory” of the fans. From this, a franchise understands the impact of on-the-field performance through the supply chain of all other products and services. When this happens, a franchise is using analytics to manage its business, not just its team.

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