The Sports Industry Has Mastered Analytics – What Can You Learn?

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Matt JenkinsIn this special guest feature, Matt Jenkins of Vendavo asks what can the enterprise market learn from the sports industry? This contributed article will discuss what sports teams are doing right when it comes to analytics, what the major concerns are and what we can expect to develop over the next year. Matt is Vice President, Pricing Center of Excellence.​ Matt is a pricing subject matter expert with over 16 years of experience in the field of pricing, helping companies across multiple industries implement and automate enterprise pricing tools. Before joining Vendavo, Matt worked for Nortel Networks as the Director of Global Price Performance. His responsibilities included implementation and management of all price and quote-related tools across all divisions.

After each game, Aaron Rodgers, one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, does the same thing whether the Green Bay Packers won or lost. He watches the tape. He looks at each play to determine why it succeeded.

In preparation for the next week, he watches the opponent’s tapes: last week’s game, the game before and even the preseason. The organization gathers together to compile every detail possible about next week’s opponent—and the following week’s and the one after that.

But, why?

Competitive intelligence is crucial to success in the NFL and all other sports. Combined with historical data and analyses that look internally at behavioral tendencies, these reports provide the foundation on which teams can execute their game plan.

In these reports, teams see how their opponents react to different situations. Do they overcommit or panic when pressured? Are they excelling in one facet of the game over another? This competitive intelligence can be used to the team’s advantage when putting together their situational playbook.

The same questions should be asked of your organization.

The first step towards improved data utilization is to look internally. How has your company reacted to market fluctuations or competitor movement? What has worked in prior strategies and where can your company improve its execution? Has your company missed opportunities due to a lack of adequate information? The most effective teams track these factors on a play-by-play basis to always stay ahead of impending issues.

Once you have established a baseline on how to fill any situational gaps, look externally to your competition. Similar to Rodgers and his teammates, you must look at your competitor’s historical data. Where have they excelled? Are they consistently beating you in a certain area? Are they lacking in certain situations where your team excels?

Possibly the biggest issue facing today’s enterprises is the inability to interpret data. More often than not, your company will already have the data and analytics on your history and competition, but whether it’s due to obsolete technology, a lack of skilled professionals or simply a de-emphasis of its efficacy, the data is going unused. This is where sports organizations have lapped enterprises.

Athletes and teams utilize any and all pieces of data to gain an advantage. If Rodgers sees that an opposing player is still going through contract disputes and will miss their upcoming game, he will target the less skilled replacement. Similarly, if your company has the information highlighting an opening in a certain corner of your marketplace, use it to your advantage by adding it to your list of targets.

Finally, Rodgers and other players are prime examples of getting the information to the front lines and executing at the field level. In your enterprise, this is a much more difficult ask since the professionals collecting the data are (usually) in different departments from those that contact customers, such as the sales team. The best NFL teams have streamlined the process with incredible cross-departmental communication.

In the same vein, you must establish a line of communication between, say, the finance and sales teams or the research and marketing teams to ensure company objectives or situational margin opportunities are being executed upon from inception to execution. Arm your sales team with this data so they have the upper hand when negotiating with customers.

Sports organizations are more prepared than ever before thanks to their use of data analytics and they are only trying to win a game. Your company’s profitability is at stake, so why shouldn’t you be just as—if not more—prepared?


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