Analytics Revolution Impacts All Facets of Sports Industry

Highlights from IE Sports Analytics Innovation Summit

Annual Sports Analytics Innovation Summit held in San Francisco. Rich Campbell

The annual Innovation Enterprise Sports Analytics Summit brings together representatives from top sports organizations worldwide to present the latest applications and developments in the area of analytics.

This year's version again featured a wonderful international flavor - including speakers from the Olympic organizations in Singapore, Brazil, and the Netherlands - and representatives from organizations located close to the conference site of San Francisco - like the Golden State Warriors, San Francisco Forty Niners, and Oakland Raiders.

In addition to the geographic diversity of the speakers on the agenda, there were firms from team sports, the apparel industry, regulatory agencies and sports events like Tough Mudder.

What follows are a handful of quotes, themes, and topics that illustrate just some of the ideas shared during the two-day event:

  • "It's not what you say, it's what they hear" - Brian Hampton, Director of Football Administration & Analytics at San Francisco 49ers. This theme has been offered consistently at every analytics gathering I've attended in the last decade. Intra-organizational communication about how statistical analysis will be conducted, shared and implemented is certainly an important issue. But It is simply a subset of the larger communication issue that permeates all organizations.  But worth a careful examination within sports organizations that claim to have an analytics focus.
  • "Retention is the issue" - David Spindler, Director of Revenue Management and Data Science at Tough Mudder. While Spindler was referring specifically to the challenge of getting participants in Tough Mudder events to come back and run again - and the data that is helping the organization improve the product to attract repeat customers - this issue of increasing repeat business is another common analytics application in sports business. How can data (and the subsequent analysis) be used to increase opportunities to better serve customers to encourage repeat business is a common refrain for sports teams, retailers and sporting goods manufacturers, too.
  • Networking means embracing others' ideas outside your field - Brett Kirby, Lead Scientist at Nike+ Sport Performance Lab. Not a direct quote, but an important idea that Kirby shared during his presentation. While the term "networking" is typically applied as a career development term, it also has important implications for those working in analytics.  Conferences like the IE Summit, the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, and other cross-disciplinary events provide a forum for sharing ideas that can stimulate new ideas in your firm.  While conferences are not the only way to expand your thinking, they are a great way to look beyond your own firm or discipline for cutting edge ideas.
  • "The key is using data and analysis to make better business decisions" - Brandon Doll, Director of Strategic Projects at Oakland Raiders. And this is the bottom line for all businesses - in sports or other fields. The explosion of data that is available from social media networks, mobile devices, wearables and other emerging technologies provides an amazing opportunity to collect and analyze data sets of sizes that were unimaginable just a decade ago. But what will really drive the analytics discussion going forward is the ability of decision makers in organizations to properly identify the research questions and appropriate data to make better decisions.

The conference was again informative and thought provoking and I would strongly encourage anyone in sports - even if your current role is not directly in the analytics - to attend this Summit or any other professional event that brings together sports analytics professionals. Data is the future of sports business, so may as well grab a front row seat.

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