The past weekend, MIT Sloan hosted the 10th annual Sports Analytics conference, which is one of the largest conferences dedicated to sports and data. The conference attracts some of the brightest minds in the sports industry, and it provided a great opportunity for us to reconvene with our clients and industry peers to learn more about the latest trends that will be driving the industry.
Here are just a few trends that really stuck out to us during the weekend.
- Crowdsourcing to lower data collection costs
Over the years, sports startups have grappled with the vast array of sports data that can be collected and the prohibitive cost constraints of collecting that data internally. While many companies have successfully leveraged automation and outsourcing to drive costs down, crowdsourcing is also emerging as a method worth considering. While the sophistication of ranking systems has allowed companies to zero in on reliable providers, an additional layer of quality control is still needed. Companies using crowdsourcing will need a strong quality and management team to ensure accuracy and consistency of the data. A company’s ability to control the quality of their data will be paramount to their success.
- Fan consumption is an exciting and growing market
For any company in the business of collecting and presenting sports data, the fans represent an increasingly lucrative market. They are a growing segment with an ever increasing interest in consuming statistics to further connect with their favorite teams. The data collected is now being viewed by millions of fans, making data integrity critical to the brand value of the provider. There were many companies at Sloan presenting data visualization products because of the huge potential in the market to satisfy the insatiable needs for a growing number of data hungry fans.
- Performance off the Court is just as Crucial
If you’re a sports club, bringing home silverware is important, but it’s the greenbacks that will end up paying your bills. Increasing ticket and sponsorship revenue were huge priorities for sports teams, evidenced by the multiple sessions devoted to this topic. Everyone from StubHub, to KORE, to sports club executives were at the conference to weigh in on this discussion. StubHub talked pricing algorithms, KORE talked CRM, and Leah Rindler from the NFL talked about season ticket sales. There were also many discussions around deploying analytics to drive sponsorship revenue. Many clubs are looking at analytics not only as a tool for winning games, but for winning financially.
- Wearables are gaining traction
For over a decade, analytics companies have been obsessed with tracking physical performance data of their players to determine which athletes work the most on the pitch. They want all the data: Distance ran, velocity, acceleration, space between players, and much more. Electronic wearables are a compelling proposition because of their precision and their ability to gather data in real time. While they can easily be adopted by individual teams in practice, the barriers in competitive games can be higher because they require league wide acceptance. Zebra sports is one company that overcame that hurdle when it secured a league wide agreement with the NFL. Expect to see more adoption of wearables in Leagues with heavy equipment and highly centralized governing bodies, such as the NFL and NHL.
- Data Collection paves the way to Predictive Modeling
As many new data collection companies have entered the market, the commoditization of data is forcing companies to work their way up the value chain and provide a more compelling offering to their customers. Many companies are focusing on not only how to collect the data, but how to present it visually and create predictive models that provide meaningful insights to sports fans and coaches. These companies to fall into two groups: Startups that interface with data companies to provide analytics, and established data companies that are moving upstream in their analytical offerings. For both companies, we can expect technology to play a huge role in not only presenting visually engaging data, but in also successfully mining it to create new cutting edge insights.
Overall, there are a lot of exciting trends driving the Sports Analytics industry with tons of opportunities for technology to add immense value to the sports industry.