Speaking Fans' Language is Critical to Reaching Them, Say Sports Data Chiefs

by Devon Thomas  |  11.10.2016

Data is driving sports team management, said top sports data and analytics chiefs at Variety’s Big Data Summit at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills on Thursday, November 10.

On a panel called “Scoring High with Sports and Data,” topics centered around how data and analytics management is crucial for sports organizations that are working to ensure fans have the best experiences at games.

Jay Tucker, a program head at the USC Marshall School of Business, moderated the session. There were five speakers on stage, from left to right (pictured above) Brett Broich, head of analytics with MLS’ Los Angeles Football Club; Thomas Ciszek, head of research for Twitter; Cynthia Frelund, analytics expert with NFL Media; Sean Kundu, VP of New Ventures with the San Francisco 49ers; and Todd Sims, SVP digital at AEG.

“Actionability” was a key phrase used by several speakers.

“We’re trying to be better marketers, but none of it matters if you can’t act on it,” said Simms.

“If you don’t speak the language people listen to, they just don’t listen to you,” said Frelund.

Regarding the different tools panelists used to manage data projects, Kundu said he uses “geo-fencing” to track what attendees Tweet about and how they engage in a sports arena. Ciszek added that he uses GitHub to gather data. Frelund noted that the “empathy of storytelling” was key to gathering information, and she mentioned that talking to the players directly about what happened during a particular play was a great immediate source of data that’s much more immediate and human than a score on a board.

The panelists also touched on using Twitter to leverage data. Chicago Cubs fans, for example, “are a little more Trump than Hillary” fans, Ciszek found when looking at Cubs followers’ Twitter conversations. Also, to help ensure fans have memorable experiences at games, he was able to gauge music preferences to determine what to music to play during downtime.

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