As you’re no doubt aware by now, I’m on a mission to infect everyone with my
enthusiasm for analytics, which sometimes spills over into my life outside
work. But not in a geeky or obsessive way – it’s just that more and more
frequently, I uncover yet another imaginative or life-changing use case for turning
a stream of digital exhaust into a breath of fresh air in real-time.
I think analytics is starting to become a more accessible concept these days,
though. I often hear people talking
about the algorithms behind search engines, online advertising, social media and
loyalty cards that help brands “learn” about us. Data is increasingly being created socially,
analysed collectively, then mobilised and visualised so it becomes meaningful
and relevant to everyone, not just data scientists.
The Beautiful Game is often used as an analogy, but the world of football today
literally plays by the numbers. For 90
minutes, I’ll be on the edge of my sofa as our star player tears up the
opposing team’s defence to score a hat-trick, occasionally shouting at the TV.
But somewhere out there, somebody else is watching
the play just as avidly, and sees fifteen completed passes, seven in the final
third, two assists and another couple of shots on target. That somebody typically gathers
around 2,000 data points in a single game.
The output of all this number-crunching is fed to the commentators who provide the live
narrative of the match, while seemingly plucking player and team forms from
memory. Media publishers, online, offline and on mobile devices, use the
collated statistics to run match previews and report on the action after the
final whistle. And broadcasters apply
these insights to power snazzy graphics and replays, and clip their highlights
packages. I’m not a gambling man, but in-play
analytics similarly enables bookmakers to create and settle innovative betting
models, rather than simply who won or lost.
Then think about the sponsors and advertisers.
The massive, real-time Premier League audience gives brand marketers the
chance to reach a huge cross-section of the global population, so a season can
represent a significant investment in media property. The need for fiscal accountability means
marketers are using dozens of metrics and indices to evaluate the impact of
So next time my wife complains that I’m banging on about analytics again, I can
quite truthfully remind her that it’s just my passion for sport in full flow,
rather than shop talk, honest!