Let me tell you a story about a major sporting event.

It happened in Europe. And fans traveled hundreds of miles to be there.  There were no hotel rooms available, so they pitched tents and slept outside. Before the event, they prepared a feast, drank, and were filled with excitement. 

Then, the moment they were waiting for arrived. They stood all day in the hot sun, cheering on the athletes in contests of speed, power, and endurance.  The winners became hometown heroes and had statues built in their name.

The event I’m describing took place 2,000 years ago – the Olympic Games in Ancient Greece, but I could just as easily be describing the World Cup or Wimbledon today.

Naturally, there are some important differences between then and now, but the truth is, not so much has changed over the centuries.  Our passion for sports has always been part of our human DNA. Although today’s race cars may go faster than chariots, the Ancient Greeks would fit in perfectly at a Formula One track.

What has changed, however, is how we experience sports. Over the last century, advances in technology have revolutionized sports. In the 1920s, radio stations began airing boxing matches, bringing the sounds of live competition to millions of people for the first time. By the 1940s, television networks were broadcasting games, and fans could actually see their favorite athletes run, jump, and hit from the comfort of their homes.  As the sports media grew, so did our ability to engage with the competition we crave. 

Instead of being a hobby to enjoy at special times, sports became an obsession that we had to feed all the time. With the Internet and mobile devises, we can follow every game anywhere at any time.  As a result of this technological transformation, the lines between sports, entertainment, and media are blurring, which has enabled sports to quickly grow into a $100 billion global industry.

The Big Data Revolution as Arrived in Sports

We are still in the early stages of a new era in sports: the era of big data. Most sports fans love statistics. Goals, points, runs, saves.  They are the tools of the trade. But it’s only recently that we began paying attention to advance data, or analytics, which was strange and controversial just 15 years ago.

Passionate fans have evolved in this short time and completely embraced this new era.  They’re taking that data themselves and creating new and innovative metrics to measure player performance and value.  They’ve opened up a whole new world for this and rather than fighting it, cutting edge teams have hired these fans to run their analytical departments and find new ways to create a competitive edge.

The evolution has also come to the teams and players themselves. Many scouts, coaches, and sportswriters used to trust just what they saw with their eyes.  They didn’t have any use for computers, or data. Until the teams that used data gained a competitive advantage and they started to win. This changed the game forever. It changed scouting, training, fitness, injury prevention, and contract negotiations.  

Today, our ability to process incredible amounts of raw data is transforming professional sports at every level from the fans at home, to the owner’s box, and in the playing field – and that transformation is getting a big push from SAP. 

SAP is working with teams, leagues and sporting event organizations to deliver entirely new digital experiences for fans. From player comparison and match up analysis tools for fantasy leagues to team and tournament apps that put fans at the center of the action no matter what part of the world they’re in, there’s never been a better time to be a sports fan. They’re demanding more and they’re getting it.

And players, coaches and teams are stepping up their data A-game as well. After all, nobody wants to let down a sports fan!

With the power of SAP HANA, whose unique in-memory computing can process information up to 1,000 times faster than traditional platforms, we can find patterns in data in the blink of an eye.  Consider that a standard hour and half tennis match between 2 players creates an average of 60-70,000 records.  And in one hour of soccer training, 77.7 million data points are captured and processed.These are insights that no coach, player or club with all of their experience, could possibly see.

Today at SAP we’re co-innovating with sports customers to drive this technical transformation in sports. Our SAP Sports One solution launched in the summer is the first sports-specific cloud solution that includes team management, player training and fitness, scouting, and performance insights on a single, unified platform.  We are creating prototypes that will help teams and players predict and prevent injury with our SAP Injury Risk Monitor, pilot version.  And our SAP Tennis Analytics for coaches, available exclusively to the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), is live and giving players and coaches a competitive edge right when they need it most during a match  – all powered by SAP HANA.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

This week, SAP is sponsoring an event on Capitol Hill hosted by Bloomberg Government titled “Building the Big Data Economy: The Winning Formula in Sports”, featuring a star line up of experts and speakers on the topic of how the world of sports is undergoing a favorable digital transformation with big data as the underlying root of its success.

We’ll explore what basketball, baseball and soccer teams are doing in training and during games to ensure their players are healthy and performing at their optimum level. We’ll also discuss how the fans at home and in the stadium are at the center of the action with analytics at the tip of their finger, and we’ll have education and sports executives talking about how sports analytics creates opportunities for youth in technology-related careers.

You can follow the conversation on SAP TV’s Periscope channel at https://www.periscope.tv/saptv on Wednesday, Oct. 28 from 8:30 – 10:30 AM EST and find the link via our SAP TV Twitter as well at https://twitter.com/saptv when we go live.

No matter what team or player you root for, we know the winning formula in sports is technology that turns big data into smart data, making sports more competitive for players, fun for fans and successful for clubs.

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