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Sports And Analytics: Vision for Tomorrow

Imagine traveling back in time to attend a major sports event in the early 20th Century. The game-day broadcast may be available, but only on the radio. You may be able to buy hot dogs, but there are no fancy drinks or snacks. Forget about large-screen monitors or billboards. And the only thing that fans bring to the game is themselves—no smartphones, and no tweeting.

Now, contrast that image against the world of sports today. The comparisons are amazing, and they remind me of how computer systems no more powerful than a pocket calculator were able to guide astronauts in the Apollo mission to the moon.

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Technology has transformed the fan experience into something that would have been unimaginable a century ago.

A Perfect Couple: Analytics is transforming how sports teams compete on the field, as well as shape and deliver the fan experience. Moreover, the volume of data now available for analysis is incredible. In the first installment of this series, I called sports and analytics “a perfect couple,” because analytics feeds on data — and sports has tons of data, whether it is about scouting, game-day stats, or ticketing and merchandising.

A Holistic Approach: However, having data is not enough. Unless we integrate it — take a holistic view — data remains in silos, fragmented and twisted. It does not matter which industry or which business model we are looking at. Data-entangled decisions require a perspective that is complete and integrated.

Fan Experience Matters: In any business, the customer is the focal point of any product or service. A business lives and dies by the wind of its customers and where it may take them. In sports, the fan is the customer, and fan experience matters. Winning is one measurement that counts most in sports, but in the absence of a championship, fan experience is the ultimate measure of success.

Innovate with Design Thinking: How we design to integrate smart technology solutions is as important as what we design and deliver. This is where design thinking can make a big difference in the development of innovative products and services to drive growth and profitability without disruption.

Sprint to Value and Insight: Speed is crucial because today’s challenges can’t afford the kind of lengthy IT implementations that were acceptable in the old days. The new century dictates that we deliver rapid deployment solutions to ensure not only quick realization of new value but also cost savings with direct impact on our bottom line.

Insight Through Mobile Dashboards: Finally, the new world is built on mobile. Whatever we deliver, we must deliver to and execute on mobile platforms to reach new markets and match the global fans’ 24/7 demands.

So, what does the future of sports and analytics look like?

I see five key areas that are certain to play an important role in the future:

THE CLOUD: The days of on-premise-only solutions are numbered, especially for organizations that can’t afford large implementations or that are looking for additional cost savings. Sports and entertainment organizations have to execute not only on smaller, tighter budgets but also with greater speed and agility. The cloud provides just the right opportunity.

MOBILE: Whether sports organizations are competing against the couch or against another option for entertainment dollars, they will need to bring the power of mobile to both the fans and their own internal operations. Mobile is where the fans are, and business is done increasingly on mobile devices because they provide unparalleled convenience, speed, and ease of use.

FAN ENGAGEMENT: The absence of engaged fans limits opportunities for growth, and the Millennial Generation is shaping a new fan experience. The avenues to engage fans are manifold, and teams must pay special attention to new pressures, such as real-time impact of social media storms.

REAL-TIME ANALYTICS: Technologies such as in-memory computing and other advancements in hardware and software bring the possibility of real-time analytics to sports. Real-time decisions can make a difference on the field as well as off the field. Similar to Watson’s victory on Jeopardy, the in-memory technology makes it possible to process millions of records in seconds, prompting insights and smart decisions.

PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS: It is no longer enough to look into the rearview mirror and define what happened; we must find what will happen in the future. Charting a course through predictive analytics is a genuine option now, and combined with real-time systems, it has the potential to deliver results that can provide a competitive edge.

The Bottom Line: The future holds great potential for integrated and connected sports and entertainment organizations. The industry today as a whole may not have reached that point, but every sport offers examples of forward-thinking organizations that are leading the revolution with their innovative approaches to deliver the ultimate fan experience.

Like many businesses, professional sports have been drowning in their own data. This is an exciting time because those same data floods now offer opportunities for growth.

Connect with me on Twitter (@KaanTurnali), LinkedIn and

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  • Hi Kaan, great post.  I keep wondering with all this technology impacting sports how will older folks embrace <or not> the technology.  I get it and see the value in real time information from a fans standpoint, but then I look at my father, who is a technological "Luddite" and doesn't embrace any tech at all. 

    I cannot see him being "turned off" by tech, but when he looks for someone to talk to at a game, will everyone be on their smartphone watching replays? 😉

    • Thank you Michael! You make a great point! And you are absolutely right about the generational differences. Two years ago, I took my father to a PGA event. It was his first golf tournament. Although he was mesmerized by the game and amazed by the use of technology, he said to me that he misses "the old days of sports." I knew what he meant. 

      I still believe that the raw emotions and excitement of a sports competition (professional or amateur sports) supersedes any technology add-on. However, as with anything else in our lives, fan experience is also being influenced by cultural and generational changes as well as advancements in technology. This is the core theme of my new series, called “Fan Experience Matters” scheduled to start next week. I will be exploring different aspects of the fan experience.

      Stay tuned 🙂

  • Hello Kaan:

    I think we can another area where analytics enhances sports - in determining awards. Analytics is transforming how baseball players' defensive performance is evaluated. Starting this year, the Gold Glove Awards will be determined partially by analytics methods developed by Society for American Baseball Research members. For decades, the awards were determined by a voting process including players, managers, and sportswriters - in other words, anecdotal information. This represents a major change in a sport with a reputation for slow change and abundance of tales. The Gold Glove Award is very prestigious, and so it is ironic that one of the most conservative of major sports is also one of the first to adopt analytics into the way it recognizes superior performance.

    • Ray, thank you for sharing this info! That is very true. That is a good point. If you think about it for a moment that same principle you mention also applies to rulings on the field during game time. Although we may, for example, take the NFL’s review
      option for granted, many other sports resisted this option. I truly believe
      that analytics and use of sports data (and in many cases, real time data) is going
      to make a big difference – the examples of NFL, NBA, etc. are just the