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Volume 24 No. 156
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Team Execs Discuss Using Big Data To Grow Business, Generate Incremental Revenue

Sports teams remain in the early stages of the Big Data movement despite business intelligence groups in place across the big leagues. There is no quick fix for how teams use analytics to grow business and generate incremental revenue. Ultimately, it is a journey that takes time before teams see results, AEG VP/Digital Strategy & Analytics Aaron LeValley said during a panel discussion at the ’17 AXS Ticketing Symposium. “You’re not going to get there tomorrow,” LeValley said. “You have to make sure you have a plan and know how you’re going to use data. Make sure you know which business problem you’re trying to solve.” Part of the issue is that industries that have used Big Data for years are moving so quickly in the space that “as soon as we feel we catch up, Google does something new,” Kroenke Sports & Entertainment VP/Business Intelligence Jeremy Short said. “A couple of years ago, we weren’t talking about machine learning and artificial intelligence. All of a sudden, there’s a new technology that we haven’t embraced yet.”

IT TAKES MORE THAN JUST DATA: In many cases, teams are just starting to invest in Big Data and analytics, compared with others that have been more aggressive in spending money in technology to find out more information on who is attending events in their buildings. It takes a tremendous amount of resources in addition to money to form a data analytics group that can effectively grow business, panelists said. “If you think about when those conversations started, so many teams had nothing,” Cavaliers VP/Business Intelligence Kevin O'Toole said. “It’s taken a long time for teams to build the foundation … making recommendations and creating more personalized experiences, which requires a lot more than just analytics.” But these efforts can pay off in the long run. The Patriots have been entrenched in Big Data for the last 15 years, and have tested multiple business strategies tied to their research. One “big win” for the Patriots tied to analytics was the design of a T-shirt printed with the slogan, “Do Your Job,” and sold only at the team store at Gillette Stadium. It ultimately became the No. 1 seller in that retail location, said Kraft Analytics Group CEO Jessica Gelman. “That product line became a million-dollar business,” Gelman said. “It all started with this very small piece of data and testing and analytics, and thinking about your customer and what they want, and it became something much bigger.”

AVOIDING THE PITFALLS: For the Magic, it also took a few years to get results after the initial investment in data generation. It takes patience before it all comes together, Magic CMO Anthony Perez said. “You can look at it as, What’s the return going to be on my investment?” Perez said. “The other side is, if I don’t do these things, how relevant will I be in the future? If you’re not at the level that consumers expect, you’re falling behind.” Some of the biggest mistakes teams make in the analytics space revolve around collecting too much data for the numbers to make sense, which can result in a waste of time and research. “A huge focus of learning is how to leverage technology to actually do the work for you,” Gelman said. “We were changing over systems every two years. That’s really painful to be both managing a system and transitioning. ... It’s not reasonable for continued growth.”