By: Billy Nayden
It has become somewhat of a stale trope that data is everywhere in today’s world. Terms like “big data”, “data science”, and “data analytics” permeate the everyday conversation of the business world. Furthermore, households all over the world are parsing through computer science and statistics documentation in an attempt to understand a newfound media fascination with this broad new world defined by the amorphous idea of data.
However, the reality is the world has always been defined by data. Isaac Newton observed apples falling from trees to develop theories of gravity. Ticket takers outside Yankee Stadium in the early days of baseball counted the number of male customers coming through the turnstiles. Companies like Facebook and Google provide detailed demographic breakdowns on a daily basis. These three disparate examples demonstrate the prevalence of data analysis throughout human history. Our success in society is largely characterized by the ability to observe and act upon the information provided by others.
The sports and entertainment industry is far from exempt from learning via data analysis.
From the days of sports marketing legend Bill Veeck, who identified that baseball fans come to the ballpark for entertainment and the sport needed more showmanship in the game presentation, to the legacy of NBA commissioner David Stern, who recognized the potential popularity of the game overseas, sports business executives have always used data. While I am not suggesting the forerunners of sports business spent their days pouring over Excel spreadsheets, they used mass amounts of observations to improve their business. In its crudest form, that is data analysis.
This data analysis process has transformed recently in two primary ways: size and speed.
Companies have more data available to them than ever. Not only do they have more years of data collection under their belt and more customers to analyze, but they also have more data points to measure those customers. Segmentation and statistical testing have evolved significantly over the past few years, with businesses now able to better group and define customers within their base, as well as establish trends within those groups to determine purchasing behavior more easily. The IDC estimates that by 2025, humans will create over 175 zettabytes of data daily, the equivalent of over 2 trillion high definition movies worth of data created each day.
Simultaneously, the improvement of data storage, analysis, and visualization technologies combined with advancements in computing coalesced to provide a data structure that produces insights at rapid rates. Sports and entertainment properties can get information on the tastes and preferences of their fans nearly instantaneously. Touchpoints for customers in the arena, on connected devices, and at other points of activation allow organizations to glean insights at lightning speed. Technologies like 5G, which will gain widespread adoption in the coming years mean we will be connected in more places, and able to transmit more data, faster than ever before. The time is now for sports and entertainment organizations to capitalize on this change.
Herein lies the challenge for many firms in the sports and entertainment space: keeping up with the rate of change in processing and understanding these insights. Teams, leagues and promotions ingest mass amounts of data. Sports executives receive data points on their customers across all levels of an organization, many times in ways they may not even realize. However, very few organizations have the bandwidth or the technical know-how to effectively synthesize this data or develop actionable insights that result in increased revenue, engagement, or overall business improvement.
Insights come from established patterns, trends, and comparisons that experts generate in a usable manner for the non-analyst members of a particular organization. It takes careful inspection and expertise to read between the lines of a chart or table and recognize ideas hidden within the cacophony of statistics and information that make up the data stores of a particular sport or entertainment property. Data scientists and analysts function largely as authors, building the narratives within data through a series of mathematical testing, segmentation and comparison. Through this process, actionable insights elicit themselves plainly for the organizations in question.
Ultimately, data is about storytelling. Without the context to provide color commentary, data is just a set of numbers on a black and white spreadsheet. However, with the proper blend of technical skill and industry knowledge, data can speak volumes about an organization, its fans, and the indelible bond between the two. Effective data analysis can serve as a gateway to bountiful sponsorships, raucous stadiums, or brand synergies previously buried beneath a mountain of traditional, inside-the-box thinking.
While analytics is rarely thought of as flashy, sexy or as a catalyst for creativity, the stories it tells can fuel these types of changes in an organization. Expert teams like 4FRONT can assess the available data points, organize them into a usable form, and cross-reference against other data sets to provide valuable insights to sports and entertainment organizations. In today’s competitive marketplace for sports and entertainment, these types of insights are not just important, they are essential for success.
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