Tag Archives: sports

Analytics in Today’s Sports Landscape

Do you remember when winning or gaining an advantage in sports was achieved by a coach’s gut decisions ‘ or when the value of a player was attributed to the ‘eye test’?  Analytics has spread like wildfire in sports and the days of ‘pure’ sports are long gone. 

The Spark that Ignited the Fire

Billy Beane, the GM for the Oakland Athletics, is notorious for his use of analytics in baseball. Chronicled by the Michael Lewis book ‘Moneyball’, Beane used analytics to better understand the ‘secret sauce’ of winning players. Beane looked past the traditional way of evaluating players (i.e. scouting services) and looked at the variables that led to more wins. It turned out that a team with a higher ‘On-Base Percentage (OBP)’ would likely score more runs, and ultimately win more games. Beane revamped his entire roster with players who fit those specs’. and the rest was history. 

Analytics in Today’s Sports Landscape

Fast forward over a decade after Billy Beane introduced analytics to baseball and the landscape has completely changed. Now-a-days, if you don’t have an analytics team on staff as a professional sports organization, you’re at a disadvantage. 

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has been on the forefront of the analytics movement. NBA teams are now using a form of technology called ‘Player Tracking,’ which evaluates the efficiency of a team and players by their movement. NBA arenas now feature 6 cameras that track player and basketball movement 25 times per second. No longer are NBA players evaluated by the ‘eye test’ or basic statistics like Points-Per-Game (PPG) or Rebounds-Per-Game (RPG). Teams are now looking at the speed of a player, how many rebounding and scoring opportunities he had, how far a player traveled during the game (i.e. 2.8 miles), etc. 

In 2014, Benjamin Morris wrote an article on FiveThirtyEight.com about the hidden value of steals in the NBA. To illustrate this, Morris created a regression using players’ box score stats (points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, and turnovers) to predict how much teams would suffer when someone couldn’t play. Shockingly, Morris discovered that a ‘steal’ is worth as much as 9 points. Put another way, Morris said, ‘A marginal steal is weighted nine times more heavily when predicting a player’s impact than a marginal point.’

In 2014, Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland wrote a fascinating article on how he used this new available player data to estimate the value of a possession ‘ moment by moment. As an example he used the last 9 seconds of a game where Spurs PG Tony Parker maneuvered through the lane to find an open player for the winning shot.  The article features an interactive visual of how the estimated possession value (EPV) changed after each second. 

The articles by Goldsberry and Morris are examples of how the advancement of analytics in sports has led to a new appreciation for the ‘little things’ of the game ‘ things that were previously overlooked or viewed as unimportant. 

What’s The Future?

Wearable tech is the trend now. We’ve already seen the NBA experiment with materials used for uniforms and basketballs. Perhaps the next step is to bring wearable tech to the players? For example, major league baseball players often wear sunglasses when at bat. Maybe if their sunglasses featured technology similar to Google Glass and the Apple Watch, then we could measure players’ emotional and mental health throughout the game. 

Closing Thoughts

Is advanced analytics in sports a good thing or a bad thing? I’m not convinced one way or the other but I don’t believe it’s been all ‘good.’ Just like in Market Research, there will always be value in the consultative side of things. I’m not against Do-It-Yourself research tools like SurveyMonkey but there’s a reason why Fortune 500 companies don’t assign interns to conduct their market research. We’ll always need people who can structure studies appropriately and make since of the data afterward. Analytics just for the sake of analytics can only go so far in sports. There must always be direction (a focus on things that make sense in context of the game/sport) and people in place who can make sense of the raw data. 

What do you think? Is advanced analytics in sports a good thing?  What do you think is next?

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Isaiah Adams is the Manager of Social Media Development at Optimization Group, a marketing research and analytics firm that uses cutting edge technology to help clients make fact-based decisions. Follow Optimization Group on Twitter @optimizationgrp

Image Credit: lonely11 / 123RF Stock Photo

The Impact of Mobile Viewing on Sports Networks

The 2015 College Football Playoffs on New Year’s Day saw the cable TV viewing records be beaten not once, but twice. In fact, 28.271 million viewers (the most of all time) tuned into ESPN to watch the Ohio State Buckeyes defeat the number one seed Alabama Crimson Tide 42-35 in the Sugarbowl. This was preceded by the Oregon Ducks winning 59-20 against the Florida State Seminoles, which received 28.164 million viewers (the second most of all time). These viewing figures had increased by 51 percent and 150 percent, respectively from last year’s games.  
So, with figures like these why do many people believe that TV is dying out? Of course, events such as the College Football Playoffs do not occur every day, however I believe that TV is not dying out, but is simply adapting to the challengers that have recently emerged.
The recent popularity of companies such as Netflix has pushed many major channels to create ways to watch programs and stream live shows online. This has come about in correlation with the advancement of tablet and smartphone technology which now allow you to stream video. Daily media usage for tablets has increased from 21 minutes per day per person to 159 minutes from 2010-2014, smartphones have increased from 40 to 134 minutes, and television only increasing from 269-279 minutes.
ESPNis a prime example of the online charge as 1,728,000 unique viewers used Watch ESPN, its new online stream to watch the Football on New Year’s Day. That huge number of people will have been ESPN subscribers on cable, but were able to watch the game remotely despite not being at home with their cable box via Xbox, laptop, tablets and smartphones.
Despite this surge of online streaming. Bloomberg News discovered that U.S. pay TV subscriptions fell in 2013 from 100.9 million subscriptions to 100.8; not exactly a terrifying statistic for TV companies. Bloomberg’s Ian King points the finger at young people or ‘cord-nevers’ who have never paid for cable or satellite television. These ‘cord-nevers’ are mostly students or young graduates who turn to alternatives such as YouTube, Netflix or Google Play to watch their most loved shows at cheaper prices than a TV subscription.
However, more often than not these people’s families will have television sets; it was found that TV reaches nearly 90 percent of US households. So the recent drive to provide remote online streaming means that these people who may not be able to afford a TV subscription can still watch cable and satellite channels such as ESPN but in different locations. From personal experience, while I was at University in England I was able to watch the FA Cup final live (the English, less glamorous version of the Super Bowl!) while my family watched it at home, instead of having to watch season three of Friends for the ninth time on Netflix.
There is a belief amongst many people that these young ‘cord-nevers’ will continue to use cheaper alternatives as they are used to living without cable TV. I, myself am living in a foreign country on a small budget so television is not a priority, but I believe there will come a time where again I will be able to afford the luxury of satellite TV and I will want to provide it for a family and for them to watch remotely when they themselves can’t afford it.
Understandably, the emergence of cheaper alternatives to watch television shows has caused a decline for cable and satellite TV providers. I believe that the battle for TV domination will continue and TV will have to keep adapting to keep up with the increasingly mobile world but it will not become a thing of the past. People will continue to sit down on New Year’s day to watch Football Playoffs with 28 million other people.
About the Author: Harry Kempe, a marketing intern at IIR USA, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. He is a recent graduate of Newcastle University who previously worked for EMAP Ltd. and WGSN as a marketing assistant on events such as the World Architecture Festival, World Retail Congress and Global Fashion Awards. He can be reached at hkempe@IIRUSA.com.

Now Streaming Sports: Will Facebook Revolutionize The Way We Watch?

Do you “Like” Soccer? Budweiser UK is betting that you will, introducing the first live streaming sporting event to be broadcast on Facebook today with the FA Cup match between Ascot United and Wembley FC.

According to this post on The Sociable “‘Ascot United has a capacity ground of just 1,150 people, so live streaming the game to potentially millions of Facebook users will be a real boost to the club.’ Mick Harrison, Ascot United chairman stated”

The live stream will likely be a boost for sponsor Budweiser as well as fans click “Like” to access the stream. Streaming video isn’t a new development for Facebook. Studios such as Universal and Warner Brothers have been playing with the idea of allowing video rental through Facebook pages since this past spring, with “The Big Lebowski” to mark the latest addition. However, the FA Cup match will be the first example of a live sporting event streamed in this manner.

Will you be tuning in? Have you ever streamed video content on Facebook before? Do you think this development will change fans expectations for Facebook pages?

Are you taking advantage of the iTunes Apps Store?

I recently found a post by Ben Lorica which looked into the best selling apps at the iTunes store. According to his post, the top sellers are apps dealing with sports, education and entertainment. Read his analysis.

After having a chance to browse the iTunes Apps store, I found a few companies who have already started to use it to their advantage. Slate has a Poll Tracker ’08. ESPN has a few apps as well. What could something like this do for your company? Have you seen a great example of companies taking advantage of the iTunes Apps Store?