Sports Analytics Use Cases Applied to Business by Jeremy Stierwalt


By Jeremy Stierwalt
Service Line Director, Analytics
Sports & Entertainment Lead

In the immortal words of Vince Lombardi, “If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?”

This quote applies equally well to sports and business. For starters, success for both hinges on fielding a talented team, achieving a sustainable winning record, and growing a loyal fan base. Complexity, pressure, dynamic market conditions and fierce competition are constants for both, and ultimate victory is often determined by the smallest of margins.

While the specifics of ‘keeping score’ in sports and business can vary, collecting and analyzing mountains of data – across all aspects of sports/business operations – is how we measure performance, adapt processes, exploit opportunities, counter competitive threats, achieve efficiencies and chart a winning strategy.

It is precisely for this reason that I wear two hats at NTT DATA – Service Line Director of Analytics and Sports & Entertainment Vertical Lead.

I can’t imagine a more exciting, advantageous and rewarding vantage point for helping our customers identify opportunities to wrestle value from big data with SAP analytics solutions.

Sports is BIG business

By any measure, the sports & entertainment industry is big business, and it is growing rapidly.

Determining the precise value of any industry is tough. The sports industry is no exception. Revenue sources include ticket sales, licensed products, sports video games, collectibles, sporting goods, sports-related advertising, endorsement income, stadium naming fees and facilities income, just for starters.

Plunkett Research ballparks that combined the “Big 4” leagues in America: the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB), bring in about $23 billion in revenue during a typical year.

PwC predicts that global sports revenues will grow to $145.3 billion over the period from 2010 – 2015, at an annual compound growth rate of 3.7 percent. Key market segments PwC breaks out in its prediction include gate revenues, sponsorship’s, media rights and merchandising.

The promise of applying analytics to big data is straightforward and compelling – crunch large data volumes to unlock insight that supports predictions and guides decisions for boosting efficiency, the bottom line and competitiveness.

Deciding exactly where first to apply analytics or how best to expand upon an analytics program underway is a bit more complex.

Sports and stats go hand and hand, which is perhaps why the sports & entertainment industry is ahead of the curve in adopting analytics to improve performance, and a great place to gauge where your company stands on the analytics front.

For sports organizations, SAP analytics move the needle on everything from fan engagement to team improvement to revenue growth, among many other critical facets of operations.

Businesses of all sizes across all industries can reap tremendous benefit and rack up sustainable wins by understanding and emulating real-world use cases of how professional sports organizations are today applying SAP analytics solutions.

Here are a few sports analytics use cases ripe for general business adoption:

SAP Scouting for human capital management that wins

 While there’s no such thing as a foolproof plan to guarantee a company’s success, most business leaders would agree that hiring and retaining the best possible talent at all levels is a critical, indispensable ingredient.

A company staffed with talented, dedicated, properly utilized employees provides itself the best possible chance at succeeding in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace.

This fact is prominently displayed in the world of sports, which is why the San Francisco 49ers worked with SAP on developing SAP Scouting, a solution that helps the 49ers’ player personnel department identify the talent it takes to build a championship team.

Effectively and efficiently managing the scouting process and roster of existing players to field a competitive team is paramount in sports. Crossing the chasm between a competitive team to a championship team is the ultimate goal.

Mixing sports but maintaining focus on the competitive spirit universal to all sports, this quote from Michael Jordon nicely sums up the complexities of fielding a winning team – in both sports and business:

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”

To help a team accomplish the ultimate goal, SAP Scouting is a solution that analyzes myriad factors such as player stats/comparisons, evaluations, workouts, training regimens, video based analytics, draft-board analytics and numerous, additional points of disparate data to continuously and systematically improve their scouting and player evaluation processes.

SAP Scouting’s connection to Human Capital Management (HCM) is self-evident.

Gartner just published the 2014 Magic Quadrant (MQ) for Talent Management Suites, and for the second year in a row, SAP is positioned as a Leader in Talent Management.

At NTT DATA, we’re helping customers reshape the HCM landscape – from initial recruiting and on-boarding to ongoing development, performance management, retention and retirement – by leveraging the SuccessFactors HR portfolio and data-driven decision making learned from SAP Scouting.

Sensor-based technologies for intelligent logistics & supply chain optimization

Currently underway, the World Cup 2014 is making it clear that soccer is the world’s most popular sport, and is quickly growing its fan base in the U.S.

As reported by Forbes, the match between the USA and Ghana was watched by 11 million ESPN viewers (a record for the channel), and the final game of the Brazil World Cup 2014 will be watched by at least 1 billion people around the world.

The German Bundesliga football club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, sponsored by SAP, is using the latest sensor-based technology combined with SAP HANA to better understand player performance and push the limits of player potential.

SAP is currently collaborating with Fraunhofer IIS to help enable individual player movements to be monitored via sensors during football training and matches.  With the ability to analyze collected data in real time, coaches can provide direct feedback to players on their performance, paying particular attention to the importance of positioning, speed and stamina – all vital attributes of intelligent logistics & supply chain optimization.

Processing spatial data with SAP HANA allows businesses to view, understand, interpret, question, and visualize data in a way that reveals relationships, patterns, and trends in real-time on geo-spatial maps and grids.

NTT DATA works with companies around the world whose logistics and supply chain operations are core components of their business to combine analytics of location data and enterprise data to enrich and enhance real-time business applications and drive sustainable efficiency and competitive gains.

Advanced Analytics for converting customers to fans

 Both traditional companies and professional sports teams make a product that is sold to people. So what’s the difference between a customer and a fan? More pointedly, what’s the business value of this difference?

A customer might buy from you because you offer the best product and/or the best price and/or the best experience. Connect on all three levels, and you’ve probably won a loyal customer, one who will go out of their way to shop with you and spend more with you.

Fans do all this, plus they help market you — online via social media, with word-of-mouth referrals, often raving, and by wearing your brand on clothing and other merchandise. Suffice it to say, the difference between a customer and a fan is immense, and the business value of each (revenue potential) follows suit.

SAP helps individual sports franchises and entire sports leagues gain deep insights into fan behavior from massive volumes of data. Leveraging solutions like SAP Customer Engagement and Intelligence (CEI) and the SAP analytics platform (BI Suite), sports organizations can build 360-degree profiles of each fan and deliver a truly personalized experience that increases engagement and drives lasting team loyalty.

In addition, NTT DATA’s social and sentiment analysis solution powered by SAP HANA helps sports teams keep their finger on the pulse of their fan base, analyzing what fans are saying in real-time so teams can react quickly to emerging trends in fan sentiment.

SAP analytics power precision marketing and loyalty programs for numerous sports teams, recognizing and bolstering fan loyalty with real-time, integrated omni-channel programs that deliver special rewards, targeted offers and access to unique experiences.

Providing an immersive, interactive experience is a great way to win fans. According to Plunkett Research, online fantasy sports generated over $1 billion in revenue in 2013.

In a joint effort, SAP and the NBA created, an online destination giving fans easy access to player and game statistics dating back to the game’s 1946 inception.  Also in a joint effort, SAP, NTT DATA and DUKE UNIVERSITY are collaborating and creating a new DUKE Basketball analytics portal (release date Fall 2014) which will enable fans to analyze 80+ years of DUKE Basketball statistics and player information on GODUKE.COM, ad nauseum.

Working in collaboration, SAP and the NFL launched, an enhanced fantasy football analytics platform that offers player comparison tools for making game-day decisions based on NFL player statistics and by factoring in statistical performance and intangibles such as weather, injuries, game location, player rest and more.

SAP and SAP partners are helping a growing number of consumer-facing businesses step up their sales and marketing game with analytics solutions currently deployed in the sports & entertainment industry.

Often-cited barriers to adopting analytics include the cost and complexity of software, hardware and systems integration; the lack of skilled resources, the extreme volume, variety and velocity of data growth, and — understanding that analytics is a continuous cycle of model discovery, deployment, and optimization — identifying an optimal use case for initiating and growing analytics capabilities that yield both immediate and long-term value.

SAP Sports & Entertainment analytic solutions, powered by HANA, illustrate that these obstacles are no game stoppers.

In fact, with the help of SAP and NTT DATA, some would argue they’ve been vanquished.

To learn more about how sports analytics use cases can help drive your businesses’ analytics initiates, be sure to watch and listen to the ASUG & NTT DATA keynote on Sports Analytics (Sept. 22nd) and meet with us at the ASUG/SAP Analytics & BusinessObjects Conference, September 22-24, in Fort Worth, Texas.

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