Sports Strategy in Digital: Actioned Introduction

Sports Strategy in Digital Disrupted Introduction
February 3, 2017
Sports Strategy in Digital: Transformed Introduction
May 13, 2017

Sports Strategy in Digital: Actioned Introduction

The online course ‘Sports Strategy in Digital: The DATA MODEL Story’ is now available on Institute Of Sport

Excerpt from Actioned: Data & Analytics Introduction

Big data, digital trace, digital exhaust and whatever other terms can be used to describe the proliferation of information that is now available to monitor and analyse every part of life, is what brings us to closing the loop on ‘Sports Strategy in Digital’.  The DATA Model Story pays tribute to the foundational importance of data and analytics and the need for every sports business to value its strategic importance.

Data is the foundation of every business.  Every touch point, every click, every digital exhaust is relevant insight, Ray Wang, Analyst

Welcome to the final module, Actioned, which is dedicated to unlocking the power of data to create new and actionable insights for the business.

If social media is the most pervasive of our five forces of digital disruption, then data and analytics is the most foundational to the business.  In fact, Ray Wang believes that in just a few years’ time if your organisation’s business model is not 20% based on data, then it will not have an effective digital business.

Data is also the hardest of the five forces to harness and yet doing so can yield the most significant competitive advantage, particularly in terms of innovating and personalising your sports product. Revenues and other measures of shareholder value flow from this fan centric approach.

‘Big data, social, and data analytics are the 3 areas which will give companies a competitive advantage” Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM.


“Consumer data will be the biggest differentiator in the next two to three years. Whoever unlocks the reams of data and uses it strategically will win.” Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry

Data makes what was previously unknown possible and implemented properly it enables simplicity. Seventy percent of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand because it provides a simpler experience and 38% are willing to pay more for simpler experiences.

Interestingly, data and analytics is the area that research reveals does not get the leadership attention it deserves compared to other digital areas and initiatives.  Whilst the CEO doesn’t need to be directly involved in the detail of the data management program that should be sponsoring the need to treat data as an asset and invest time in cultivating a data-driven, rather than instinct-based, decision making organisation.

Complexity is one of the biggest challenges facing modern business. It slows companies down, costs them roughly 10% of their profits and harms employee morale. Seventy-four percent of companies believe business complexity hurts their ability to meet goals whilst only 17% believe that current simplification efforts are effective.  Even digital masters can struggle to match their data ambitions although they are invested in the journey of data innovation.

Analytics usage in sports is expected to grow to $4.7 billion by 2021 up from $125 million in 2014.

20 Mind Boggling Facts Every Business Leader Must Reflect on Now

SAP making sport run simple

You Don’t Need Big Data You Need the Right Data

In sport, for teams and leagues looking to better engage fans in the stadium it’s all about better identifying who exactly is at the game. Many believe that digital, specifically mobile devices, is the best way to do that.

“We take for granted as an industry that we haven’t cracked and solved the core problem, which is that tickets are a very anonymous product,” says Jared Smith, president, Ticketmaster North America. “The way that we ticket and the way that we identify that person has not changed very much in the past 30, 40, 50 years. The holy grail of data is understanding who that attendee is and build a profile around that person.”

Extracting data from digital transactions is the obvious key, but there’s loads of data out there and many sports properties are still figuring out how to best use the combinations of website traffic data, e-commerce data, social data and so on.  Knowing which data sets are most important to your organisation and the core problem that they are going to solve are early questions to answer.

“We believe we are just getting started in our ability to make the experience for the fan incredible based off the data that we’ve learned.  Every bit of data helps us better customize the experience for the fan, and that just creates more value for everybody.” Michael Rubin, founder/executive chairman, Fanatics, and co-owner, Philadelphia 76ers at MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

These insights introduce us to the power, importance and relevance of data and analytics and as the authors of ‘The Sports Strategist’ observe;

Because of the affordable cost and growing pervasiveness of digital technologies, sports strategists at all levels will be able to capture significantly more data about fans, media and sponsors.  Data mining will be increasingly instrumental in analysing data to inform sound decision making.  The implications of data mining in sports are wide-ranging.


  • Through Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, organisations can capture detailed demographic and purchasing habits information on how fans buy products during specific promotions, time periods or opponent visits
  • Web analytics systems can track how many unique visitors come to a site, where people are accessing a site from, on which device and how long they stay on web pages
  • Mobility innovations allow organisations to use location-based services to better understand fan behaviour in stadiums such as spending on concessions and merchandising

According to the Association of Information Management Professionals, the questions that any business needs to answer are;

  • How do we automate our business processes
  • How do we manage the risk of growing volumes and complexity of content
  • How do we get any business insight out of all the information we are collecting
  • How do we use information to better engage with our fans or members

These questions set the tone for this topic on data.

In the knowledge economy, data is the new oil, analytics its refinery and digital platforms are the technology that delivers its actionable insights to the right people, at the right time and on the device they need it.

The purpose of this Actioned module then is to understand how the successful data miners and refiners have gone about this foundational business activity.

Moving to a data driven culture is the part of digital transformation that is most like changing a tyre while the car is moving.  So much information has come into the organisation because of digital technology investments, analytical tools such as social listening solutions and data generated by increasing number of automated processes.  Now the organisation has to turn back around and ask itself if its core business focus needs realigning now that the fan or member experience is the product; what are our biggest challenges and therefore how is data going to get us to where we want to go?

Whilst improving the bottom line is undeniably the end result it shouldn’t be the focus of any data plan.  In sport, the purpose of data should be used to get as close to the fan as possible by turning analytics into actionable insights to improve or innovate the guest experience.  The aim is to provide a tailored experience for each individual through tools that they used for their own value.  In co-creating value they return data to you from a range of sources such as transactions, social and mobile interactions.