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Fast forward more than 30 years, I am proud to say that I been able to combine my SAP marketing work with the SAP University Alliances team (an amazing team) and serve as “branding ambassador” for the Duke/Fuqua School of Business. Funny how my experience reminds me of the Mark Twain quote, “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

The Duke Basketball Analytics #MBB Stats project discussed at the MIT Sloan School of Business Sports and Analytics Conference shows that they follow the same philosophy when it comes to the Duke fan experience through:

  • Intellectual property and solution to dynamically present information on Duke men’s basketball to fans, in a graphical, intuitive, and impactful way
  • Services to provide the “how” for the application and solution, translating user requirement for the optimal fan experience as well as the planning and execution of a project
  • The technology to share the solution “in the cloud” and to take “Big Data” representing the full history and statistical record of Duke basketball and serve it up in a split second in an intuitive and easy to understand graphical way

“Cool” doesn’t even begin to describe this!

The brains behind the fan experience: Kevin Brilliant

Before the conference, I had met the “brains behind the solution” – Kevin Brilliant, a rather unassuming 20-something, second-year MBA and former McKinsey consultant at the Fuqua School of Business the previous year.

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Kevin clearly lives up to his surname – a self-professed lifelong sports fan (fanatic). Hailing from Chicago, he’s “an insane Bulls and Blackhawks fan”.  Kevin and a virtual team worked tirelessly to define the solution.  In addition, he has

also headed up the Duke/Fuqua sports club as well as the Fuqua club for military veterans. If I had any qualms about the next generation of business leaders our academic institutions are training, they were quickly answered by my interactions with Kevin. He represents the best and the brightest and the latest crop of millennials who are increasingly contributing and defining the future of both business and technology.


Kevin and a virtual team worked tirelessly to define the solution:

  • Data requirements that included the entire history of Duke Men’s Basketball (Big Data basketball, anyone?)
  • A solution that would provide an innovative new online fan experience
  • Work with an integrator, SAP Partner NTT Data, to run and execute a project based upon SAP technologies including SAP HANA and data visualization

Duke bball Screen.jpg

Kevin and the team have worked with the Duke University Athletic Department – including Ryan Craig, Director of Duke Athletics On-line Media – to design and then promote the new solution:

Ryan was on the panel at the MIT Sloan School of Business Sports and Analytics Conference. After the session, he spent the day making himself available to conference participants to discuss and see the solution in the SAP booth.   See some images and comments from Ryan’s section of the panel session.


It’s really extraordinary work and a great example of how analytics, Big Data, and technology in the era of the 3
rd Platform combine to create an entirely new fan experience.



Go, Duke, Go!

Fast forward to this past week:

  • Duke Men’s Basketball has had another amazing year, including Coach K reaching 1,000 wins and reaching the NCAA “Final Four” and ultimately winning the school’s fifth NCAA championship
  • The new Duke Basketball solution under development had been shared with Duke students during their “camp out,” when the “Cameron Crazies” line up for days to get upcoming game tickets (an amazing experience in itself).
  • The Duke Basketball analytics solution, launching soon and expected to be featured prominently on the goduke.com Web site, has garnered amazing visibility and excitement. In fact, the state-of-the-art of analytics may be expanded to provide college basketball stats and analytics beyond any other current source.

Taking the analytics solution on the road to Chicago


While on campus recently for a new round of my “brand ambassadoring” at the Duke/Fuqua School of Business, I was fortunate to meet again with both Ryan and Kevin. Ryan was fresh from his March Madness travel, back from the “Elite 8,” and soon to head to the “Final 4” in what we all hope is another Duke Men’s Basketball national title. Kevin (who has maintained a full course load while working on and supporting the solution, speaking at conferences, and more) recently accepted a position with the Chicago Bulls to join their analytics team. He had received a great shout-out at the MIT sports analytics conference, not something the average MBA does before graduation!

In summary, several things stand out throughout this experience:

  • Something that I had learned first-hand at the MIT Sloan School of Business Sports and Analytics conference in Boston MA was now more apparent to me than ever – we are in a new era of sports fan experiences with bright minds such as Kevin, Ryan, and others leading the way that we have only started to comprehend.
  • With the rise of the 3rd platform, including new technology such as cloud, Big Data, and analytics, and enterprise mobility for delivery, the landscape of sports has changed forever.
  • These are both disruptive technologies and key enablers, especially when combined with the creativity and IP of young minds and a framework and services capability to provide the critical “how.”

All of this is being driven by analytics – which for Duke Basketball is the “6th man on the court.” This is only the beginning to put up the big numbers and play important minutes for the team and to delight its many fans. Go Duke Blue Devils!

About Fred Isbell:
FMI Cameron Jan 2015_small.jpg

Fred Isbell is Senior Marketing Director for SAP Services & Support Marketing for Thought Leadership, Demand Management and Planning for the worldwide Services & Support Marketing team. A 15 year veteran of SAP, he formerly led SAP Global Services Marketing Field Engagement, the North American SAP Services regional marketing team and SMB Channels Marketing for the SAP Small and Midsize Business team. Prior to SAP he held a variety of senior solutions, services and partner marketing roles with Compaq and Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Fred is an honors graduate of Yale University with a BA in Economics and Political Science, and has an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business where he was a Fuqua Scholar. A passionate sports and hockey fan/player, he is a MA/USA Hockey advanced patch coach and includes coaching/playing hockey with his three kids among his favorite moments in life.

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