Dialling up the disruption with data-driven sport

By Grant Caley, NetApp chief technologist, on how moving the goal posts can engage the fans
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The sporting experience is being disrupted by the transformative power of data at every level, from scouting talent to personalised marketing – putting fans at the heart of the action. With a jam-packed calendar of sporting events ahead of us, and the Premier League in full swing, there’s no time like the present when it comes to bringing a critical eye to the potential for data-driven innovations in sport. As the goal posts move, which areas are ripe for revolution in the sporting arena – and how can organisations thrive amongst the change?

We’re used to considering the transformative power of data among more traditional verticals, like the financial services and telecommunications providers, but with sport, it’s a little different: your customers are your fans and they want to support teams that are on their game. They want to be on top of the latest news and feel a part of the organisation and they don’t want to miss a beat when it comes to watching their team. Whether it’s top football clubs like Chelsea FC or England’s Team GB, loyal fans love being at the centre of their club: they want the benefits of a turbo-charged, data-driven team.

Data analytics: From scouting on the field to personalisation

In the football world, data analytics is enhancing talent scouting activities. Scout 7 is one such example, offering football clubs a database of player information collated by a team of researchers – including video content from around the world. Aston Villa and Wolves were some of the first to sign-up, but now over 230 clubs in 30 leagues around the world utilise the software, which has evolved to enable subscribers to stream full matches and clips straight from their mobile device on-the-go. Applying data analytics to scouting means the best players can be recruited, improving the quality of the game from the grass roots.

Meanwhile, the digital age means fan bases can not only expand beyond local and national borders, but those supporting from afar can truly feel a part of the family. Digitally transforming a sports team means thinking globally and improving the fan experience for all. Enabling a mobile first strategy is a crucial part of this, giving fans the always-on interactions they have come to expect – this means the ability to roll out real-time updates, sport coverage and targeted marketing campaigns. Personalisation is crucial, as with business customers, you can get a whole variety of football fans within any given club and they want the sporting experience curated especially for them.

Digitally transforming the stadium experience

The same sentiment is filtering through to stadium design. The much anticipated opening of the redeveloped Tottenham Hotspurs stadium at White Hart Lane this year – billed as the intelligent stadium of the future – offers a tantalising snap-shot of what a data-driven approach can achieve in sport. With a capacity of 61,559 and set to be one of London’s largest sporting stadiums, you would be forgiven for thinking you might feel a little lost in a sea of football fans. But this stadium has been designed to engage visitors as a destination – not simply a sporting venue.

Apart from the more obvious large screens and LED signage, the facility will boast public WiFi access, mobile point of sale systems, as well as click and collect food and beverage systems. Underneath it all, an analytics platform is in place to learn about user behaviour – uncovering customer flows and providing opportunities to personalise and scale services. The intention is to create an experience that fans enjoy beyond the 90-minutes of a match.

As sports venues around the world look to transform their digital strategies, fan safety is particularly pertinent, as is aggressive fan behaviour which can deter visitors. Deloitte predicted this was an on-going trend for 2018, with fibre-optic camera surveillance, video analytics, and other non-invasive technologies playing an increasing role in stadium security.

Millennial fans and data-driven sports consumption

However, with digital platforms making it easier than ever before for fans to tune in and live-stream the game, sports viewing is changing – and creating ample new opportunities to engage with fans. As clubs track the digital footprints of their growing millennial fan base, from viewing the game to social platforms and reaching fans with targeted content, the viewers on the sofa are just as important commercially as those in the stadiums.

Sport is being disrupted at every level by data-driven innovations that ultimately put the fans at the heart of the action. But in order to truly thrive and digitally transform, sporting organisations need to ensure that all their stakeholders are aligned and the right data management strategy is in place – tailored to their needs. Extracting the true value of the hybrid cloud and innovating in order to manage data effectively will ensure the fan experience remains tip-top of the range. No one wants data down-time during a penalty shoot-out or while purchasing their prized match tickets. With fans so invested in the game, an own goal in the business of sport can lead to fans giving you the red card.

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