When you think of the Super Bowl, you probably think of touchdowns, eating too many chicken wings, and actually watching the commercials instead of just using them for bathroom breaks. But it may be time to start associating the Super Bowl, and sports in general, with the analytics that drive them. Beyond Moneyball, Hot Hand Fallacy, and sports betting, analytics play a huge part in how we watch and play sports. Forbes recently reported that every major professional sports team either has an analytics department or an analytics expert on staff.
Boston-based startup WHOOP has developed a wearable “performance optimization system” that tracks strain, recovery time, and sleep patterns for athletes. This data allows a trainer to create a personalized training plan for every athlete that can minimize injuries, prevent overtraining, and optimize recovery and sleep time to improve athletic performance. WHOOP’s data-based system is currently being used by professional and collegiate athletes, Olympians, and the United States military. And the market is beginning to take notice as well: in December, Infosys invested $3 million in WHOOP, on top of the $22 million the company raised last September.
Even fans are demanding more insight into sports analytics, as seen through Nate Silver’s analytics website FiveThirtyEight.com, where you can find statistics on upcoming games and seasons, as well as political forecasts. Professional basketball is also leading the analytics movement, with an NBA focus on Player Tracking technology, which uses six cameras to evaluate every movement on the court and measure player and game efficiency.
The usefulness of data doesn’t stop with the athletes. NFL Sponsorships are a $1.15 billion dollar industry, which means that figuring out what fans want in all those ads on game day is big business. Building a “fan profile” to connect with as many of your fans as possible requires detailed analytics to know exactly what brands will generate the most revenue from every ad.
The 1.1 million people that attended San Francisco’s Super Bowl 50 attractions were also a rich source of fan data. Super Bowl City, the fan area in San Francisco, featured a Fan Energy Zone sponsored by SAP, with virtual reality games like “Quarterback Challenge.” It sounds like just another fun opportunity to get the company’s name out there, but SAP’s strategy was a little more sophisticated. Along with posting their scores on a giant video screen in the middle of Super Bowl City, players could also register to get their scores and gaming data sent to them via an app so that they could compare their scores to friends and other groups. While this was great fun for fans, it was also a way for SAP to rethink how it visualizes and presents data to create the best user experience. The insights they gained can now be applied to SAP’s enterprise products.
Super Bowl 50 may be over, but the opportunities for data analytics in sports and marketing are just beginning.