Time was when all it took to make a sports fan happy was a hot dog and soda washed down with a home team win. The advent of mobile, cloud, and in-memory computing has changed all that. Managing Big-Data in order to deliver the ultimate fan experience that brings people closer to the action and fuels better decision-making for scouts and coaches is emerging as the next frontier for sports franchises and leagues, as well as athletic apparel manufacturers. During an exclusive roundtable discussion with SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott at this year’s SAPPHIRE NOW, three of these companies shared their vision and strategy around using technology to improve engagement with fans and athletes. All are partnering with SAP to gain an edge in the sports entertainment industry. In fact, they think that software is critical to any business aiming to get closer to customers.
According to Jed York, CEO of the San Francisco 49ers football team, using the SAP Scouting solution application to analyze game film, and support clock management makes sense for team managers as well as the fans. “We asked ourselves how we can get an edge in a game with salary caps? It’s about the data you have and how you use it. We asked, tell me what you want to see as a head coach, a scout and we’ll build it. We can make the league a better product with a smarter, more efficient game,” he predicted.
Bill McDermott, co-CEO of SAP, pointed out that ninety-nine percent of data is inaccessible to companies. ”Winning organizations like the National Basketball Association, the San Francisco 49ers, and Under Armour want to put that data to work. SAP HANA has the power to unlock data for patterns that companies didn’t know existed, for insights from sentiment analysis, and to conduct predictive analytics,” he said.
Technology brings fans closer to the action
All of the panelists agreed that always on, any device connectivity is revolutionizing the fan experience, driven by the demands of so-called millennials, people 18 to 33 years old. “Everyone is used to having information at their fingertips and fans are no exception. With the right software fans can look up player data in real-time, figure out what questions to ask, and get involved in the game further,” said York.
Next page: Wearable computers change the game
When asked if their respective organizations were actually becoming technology companies, the panelists demurred, focusing instead on software as a tool for change. York focused on filling more seats with happier fans in the 49ers’ new stadium. “We chose SAP software because it will let us deliver a unique fan experience. It may be ticketless or cashless, involve delivering refreshments to their seats, or use Big-Data to explore player stats and what-if analyses in real-time,” he said.
Meantime, the National Basketball Association (NBA) has co-innovated with SAP to develop the website, nba.com/stats, where millions of fans obtain real-time data on players and teams. Powered by SAP HANA, the site allows fans to obtain analyses from data back to 1946 using over 4.5 quadrillion combinations. Fans can create their own statistics, get answers to specific questions, and plot player and team performances on their mobile devices. Future enhancements will pair video clips with performance data instantly.
“Technology helps unleash the passion fans have for the game. They can get a better understanding of what’s happening by instantaneously seeing how their favorite player is doing, and how that player performs with certain teammates and different combinations of players on competitive teams,” said Adam Silver, Deputy Commissioner and COO of the NBA.
Wearable computers change the game
Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour athletic performance apparel and footwear manufacturer, said that SAP software directly supports his company’s phenomenal growth rates that have tripled its size in the past three years. Plank believes that innovations like real-time biometric data can revolutionize sports entertainment, allowing scouts and coaches to measure player performance and make optimal adjustments for the good of the team and health of players. York agreed adding that, “Better data makes it less likely players will get hurt and teams can win.”
There’s no question that the ability to analyze and make actionable massive amounts of real-time data for historical as well as predictive purposes is transforming every industry, including the sports business. For companies intent on staying ahead of the pack, technologies like SAP HANA and analytics represent a whole new ball game.