Professional Sports and Big Data Analytics – With SAP Analytics, Nerds and Jocks Play Nice at Last

seats

By Jeremy Stierwalt
Service Line Director, Analytics
Optimal Solutions an NTT Data Company

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 

“Anybody who’s not building a team right and rebuilding it using your model, they’re dinosaurs. They’ll be sitting on their ass on the sofa in October, watching the Boston Red Sox win the World Series.” –Moneyball, 2011

The 2011 film ‘Moneyball’, based on the 2003 book of the same name, tells the story of how an enterprising baseball manager and statistician use statistical data to assemble a winning team from a shoestring budget.  By studying the data, they are able to uncover the hidden potential in previously overlooked players.  I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen the film, but it’s safe to say that this movie perfectly exemplified the power of big/unstructured data, when applied expertly, toward realizing untold possibilities.  In my time in and around the professional sports industry, I’ve personally witnessed and actively participated in the manipulation of data and information to help uncover and promote many of these insights.

The secret is out, and professional sports teams of all varieties are now employing the use of Big Data Analytics to affect nearly every aspect of the business.  Sports Teams now leverage Big Data Analytics to not only maximize profitability, but these advanced analytics are now being utilized to prevent injuries, drive practice routines, aid in game planning and, ultimately win Championships.  In today’s world, data from sensor technologies, high speed cameras, athlete performance systems, concession stands, and ticket vendors, are transforming the sports we’ve come to love.  Big Data Analytics are impacting athletes, teams, coaches, trainers and even fans.  Next time you buy tickets to a baseball game or watch your favorite team on TV, your experience is largely directed by someone who has been crunching numbers. Consider, for example:

The Seats: Professional sports teams put a lot of thought and analysis into ticket sales. They will typically screen their entire database with a calculated ‘wealth score’ in mind in order to identify prospects for the high dollar premium seats. Those ‘wealth scores’ are based on demographic information gathered, such as zip code, assets owned, family members and activities. This type of information allows teams to target the fans most likely, and most capable, of buying premium seats. This data also influences how all seats are priced.

SEE: PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS TWEAK TICKET POLICY, SET NBA PACE FOR DYNAMIC PRICING: http://www.oregonlive.com/playbooks-profits/index.ssf/2013/10/trail_blazers_tweak_ticket_pol.html

The Concession Stands and Merchandising:  Once the seats are filled, let’s get a beer and some popcorn.  Concession and Merchandising stands provide additional sources of revenue to the teams and their vendors, so you’d better believe they are using data to maximize sales. The New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey is at the forefront of the data trend, utilizing an advanced dashboard technology which allows them to track, in real time, everything from gross sales of pretzels to average spending to average best-sellers in which sections, and merchandise accordingly.

SEE:  NY JETS’ COMMAND CENTER OFFERS REAL-TIME ANALYTICS FOR SALES, STATS FREAKS: http://www.fastcompany.com/1686697/ny-jets-command-center-offers-real-time-analytics-sales-stats-freaks

The Athletes: Coaches are now using algorithms combining data regarding muscle fiber composition, muscle contraction times, electromechanical delay, muscle stiffness and symmetries and synchronization levels of muscle structures to determine athletes’ health, viability and susceptibility to injury. If your favorite player is on the bench, that call was very likely influenced by this kind of data analysis.

SEE: NEXT BIG THING IN NBA ANALYTICS MIGHT BE MOVING FROM THE EXTERNAL TO THE INTERNAL: http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/next-big-thing-nba-analytics-might-moving-external-232708549–nba.html

The Uniforms: Apparel companies such as Nike and Adidas are using sensor technologies, combined with meticulous data about athlete performance, to design high performance gear and uniforms. These apparel manufacturers are delving deep measuring athletes’ sleep patterns, diet, physiology and psychology in an effort to create more effective sportswear.

SEE: ADIDAS ANNOUNCES ‘SMART SOCCER FOR MLS:                                                    http://www.sbnation.com/soccer/2012/7/19/3169816/mls-smart-soccer

The sports industry is in the midst of an exciting data revolution that is impacting the way games are played, how athletes are utilized and how tickets are sold.  Numbers, however, don’t necessarily speak for themselves.  It takes human insight and technology to make the data work.  As Big Data Analytics continues to evolve in sports and business, SAP is leading the industry in leveraging Big Data & Analytics to drive results.

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