If you think the equestrian industry starts and ends with the Kentucky Derby, think again. According to the Equine Business Association, the global equine industry is worth $300 billion and the horse industry is more varied than any other sector within agriculture or leisure.

Since the equestrian season primarily runs from March to October, the global pandemic meant that many major international events were forced to cancel, resulting in huge losses of revenue.

EquiRatings, a global equestrian technology company based in Ireland that provides data-driven solutions for Olympic teams, was hit particularly hard. Employing a range of analysts, data scientists, and storytellers, EquiRatings’ access to a global data set, deep domain knowledge, and inventive use of SAP technology have enabled the company to sit at the heart of major news stories in equestrian sport and develop a strong brand and platform.

But no sporting action meant no records, ratings, or opportunities to interact with the EquiRatings’ global fan base. How could the company maintain its place in the market and service its clients in the absence of live equestrian events?

The company needed its small team of analysts and data scientists to quickly implement a solution that provided value to event organizers at a price point which reflected the new market conditions. If that weren’t enough, EquiRatings also had to make the concept of simulated competition understood to a very traditional sporting audience, accustomed to a live in-person experience.

With SAP Analytics Cloud, EquiRatings used 10 years of international data to simulate competition results and used international commentary teams to present the competitions as if live. A fantasy-style app built on SAP Integration Suite with Qualtrics integrations allowed fans to select their teams for these simulated events.

How EquiRatings Champions Big Data and Redefines Fan Engagement

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How EquiRatings Champions Big Data and Redefines Fan Engagement

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“SAP Analytics Cloud allowed EquiRatings to respond quickly when the seriousness of the pandemic became evident,” said Diarmuid Byrne, managing director of EquiRatings Limited. “Combining domain knowledge with predictive analytics software and fan-facing solutions allowed a roll out of a complete fan experience solution in just a couple of months.”

International equestrian events around the world were able to deliver simulated competition for the first time in the history of the sport, so sponsor revenue continued and fan experience was maintained. Qualtrics allowed fans to deliver feedback for sponsors. Almost 10,000 fans from over 100 countries have now joined the Eventing Manager app.

The speed and creativity of EquiRatings response proved the differentiating factor. Using SAP Analytics Cloud, a single analyst was able to rapidly develop models based on the performance profiles of international athletes. These models supported the “simulated eventing” concept in feeling realistic, and in turn allowed for engaging game play within the app.

“We were the first event to feature Eventing Manager in 2020,” said Martyn Johnson, Burgham International Horse Trials, 2020. “The levels of engagement were huge, which helps with attracting and retaining sponsors and offering something new for fans.”

SAP Integration Suite also hosted the API powering the game, so all aspects from modelling, simulation, and API management could be contained in the same ecosystem. So that a solution could be delivered for event organizers and sponsors, Qualtrics surveying was built into the game play to collect targeted customer feedback from the now exclusively online audience. The placement of questions within the game ensured extremely high at more than 50%+ response rates and brought immediate value to the brands that sponsor equestrian events.

With live equestrian sport now returning, the fan experience element of the app is being utilized in real competition. The accuracy of the predictive formula for each athlete profile means that outside of fan experience solutions, SAP Analytics Cloud will now be used by multiple Olympic teams in the selection and management of their teams for Tokyo 2020/21.

“Being able to provide simulated sport and a fan experience tool together, a solution forced on us by the global pandemic, has opened up a range of potential new revenue streams for EquiRatings,” Byrne said.

To learn more, read about EquiRatings’s story here

This story originally appeared on SAP BrandVoice on Forbes.
Top image via Jenni Autry.