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How Data Analysis In Sports Is Changing The Game

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Any baseball fan knows that analyzing data is a big part of the experience. But data analysis in sports is now taking teams far beyond old-school sabermetrics and game performance. The market for sports analytics is expected to reach almost $4 billion by 2022, as it helps a variety of sports organizations in a range of areas. Here’s how analytics have (and will to) become more prevalent in the industry.

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Helping Teams Win

No one knows the role of data analysis better than the Oakland Athletics, the baseball team that general manager Billy Beane helped lead to the playoffs on a shoestring budget by using in-game statistics to identify undervalued players. The feat inspired the book and subsequent feature film Moneyball.

Today, the use of analytics software has advanced and is now used to electronically watch video of teams on the field across multiple games. And it’s not just baseball teams that are taking advantage of this technology.

Automated video analysis helped take ailing U.K. football team Lincoln City to the top of the league.

In basketball, RSPCT uses an Intel RealSense 3D depth camera to track and analyze every shot, including trajectory and location. Combined with wearable wristband technology from Kinexon, coaches can get a full end-to-end understanding of player position, performance and wellness on the court.

Driving Customer Engagement

Sports organizations can detect patterns in digital engagement, such as online sports viewing, to understand what and when fans are watching via app logins and online video views. They are creating more immersive experiences via augmented reality. They can mine sentiment from social media streams to understand what fans are thinking and can use analytics to engage those fans via social channels. Social media is proving to be a great marketing ground for university teams to connect with millennials and market tickets using data-driven campaigns.

Data from customer engagement also extends into the stadium, where teams can use electronic tickets — and even fingerprint or retinal scans — to understand fan movements. We’re already seeing these techniques among the more innovative teams. The New England Patriots track data ranging from what fans buy at the pro shop to when they buy tickets. By crunching those numbers with the help of the Kraft Analytics Group, they can predict everything from ticket pricing to staffing on game day.

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Benefiting The Broader Ecosystem

This analytics data even helps teams sell more beer and improve parking lot congestion at stadiums. This all leads to an emerging opportunity in sports analytics: mapping a fan’s broader behavior outside the stadium. By connecting to other stakeholders — including telecommunications companies, payment providers and retailers — sports teams could gain a broader understanding of fan behavior both before they arrive at the stadium and after they leave. Not only could this help to target them with key messages relating to games and special offers, but it could provide valuable crowd control data for municipalities.

Improving Back-Office Intelligence

Analytics from all these areas can help a company make operational improvements in areas that include procurement, supply-chain management and logistics.

Using advanced analytics technologies, companies can improve human resources practices and customer relationship management by using astute data analysis in sports. Teams and associations can make key decisions about their core products and services to help improve the experience for customers and maximize revenue.

At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, for example, Evan Wasch, senior vice president of basketball strategy and analytics for the NBA, described an intricate web of decision points that affect the quality of the product, ranging from scheduling and playoff structure to draft lotteries. Data can prompt small changes that make a big difference, he asserted.

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Expanding Partnerships

Sports are a massive business built on partnerships that revolve around everything from sponsorship and advertising to player trading. When teams negotiated in the past, they didn’t have a lot of information, forcing them to give up massive amounts of margin. Armed with data from sports analytics systems, teams can now optimize these negotiations and save millions.

The use of analytics in the sports industry will only increase as the deluge of data increases. Thanks to wearable devices, tagged equipment and video tracking, a game can generate more than a million data points. And that’s just on the field — imagine how much data flows through the stadium and beyond. As it mines new insights from all those numbers, data analysis in sports is already producing some game-changing results.

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