Showcasing SAP Through Sports

Foto: Malcom Kimberlin
Photo: Malcom Kimberlin

For SAP, the sports industry isn’t a game. Recently announced as the company’s 25th focus industry, sports played a major theme at SAPPHIRE NOW, as they can help SAP educate the largest possible audience about its offerings.

“When we look at that industry, it’s really a way for us to demonstrate our capabilities through providing technology showcases that can demonstrate SAP’s products and solutions,” explains Frank Wheeler, global vice president of business development for sports and entertainment sales. “The beauty of sports is that there is a common global interest in the topic. And also when we as an organization can try to humanize and consumerize our SAP brand, there’s probably no better industry than sports.”

Nicolas Jungkind, a member of the SAP Global Sponsorships Team, agrees. For the sponsorship team, gone are the days when they would simply hang up an SAP logo, invite customers to watch a game, and serve them food.

SAP enhances sailing fan experience

The sport of sailing provides a prime example of such a showcase. Sailing spectators have an obvious disadvantage: The races occur out at sea, so fans can’t clearly see what’s happening. To alleviate this problem, SAP worked with a partner that put sensors on the boats that track the data — including location. SAP software, in turn, delivers this data to users, who can follow the race in real time and understand what is going on.

Next page: SAP works with the NFL

Another case came courtesy of a sponsorship with the National Football League (NFL). (That’s American football, by the way. Not the sport that Americans call soccer — and the rest of the world calls football.) SAP landed one of the few major deals that the NFL announced last year.

SAP creates NFL tool

SAP took advantage of this opportunity during the NFL Experience, an event that provided fan festivities as part of Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. On the showcase side, SAP gained access to all legal player data from the NFL and then created a tool that could give fans better insight into their favorite team, their favorite player, and so on. For example, they could compare the statistics of athletes who play the same position, see how offensive players might match up against certain defenses, review a player’s year-to-year performances, and determine how a player might react in certain situations (based on how the player reacted in the past).The tool was so simple and intuitive, a child could use it. Literally. “A 7-year-old boy said, ‘That is fantastic. Can I buy this video game?'” Nicolas shares.

From the NFL to the NBA

While this NFL tool provided a demo to a limited audience, SAP is also providing showcases such as to reach the general public. The National Basketball Association (NBA) has statistics for games going back to 1946, but prior to a partnership with SAP, the NBA had no way to make this day available to fans. In fact, fans would get this information from Web sites not affiliated with the NBA.

Next page: Bringing SAP technology to the masses

The SAP HANA platform changed all that. Using this real-time in-memory appliance, SAP worked with the NBA to create This site not only makes the NBA the premier statistics provider for its own league, it also provides a better fan experience, according to Frank.

“ allows fans to access all of the statistical data that the NBA has in various metrics: player performance, player measurements, shot charts effectiveness, and looking at things like box scores of games going back to 1946,” he says.

Increasing global appeal

SAP’s work with the NFL and NBA illustrates showcases that have brought SAP technology to the masses, but both of these leagues are based in the United States. What about the rest of the world? Nicolas points out that the sponsorship team does keep regional specifics in mind, to focus on sports that have the broadest appeal.

Tennis, for example, is a sport with wide cultural appeal, and SAP sponsors players and tournaments. For showcases, SAP released a Sony Open Tennis app, which allowed fans to follow play by play or watch 3D replay animations. Similarly, SAP has given fans the ability to get data about matches with Andy Roddick, an SAP-sponsored player. Heat maps and ball tracking can show when Andy was successful (and unsuccessful) in his matches, with measurements of where he stood, his shots, and so on.

“It’s good feedback for the players, good feedback for fans, but also good feedback for broadcasters, who are using that information on television programs,” Frank says.