Published on August 8, 2018 by Molly Olsofka  
Why is Data Analytics So Important in Sports?
Why is Data Analytics So Important in Sports?

The amount of data available in today’s world because of technology advancements is seemingly unimaginable. Sports teams are able to use this available data to their advantage. When many people think of sports analysis, the movie “Moneyball” often times comes to mind, but the movie only shows a glimpse what it all entails. The sports industry uses sports analysis to increase revenue, improve player performance and a team’s quality of play, prevent injury and for many more enhancements.

All this data is a great resource; however, it serves no use without people to interpret and analyze how it may be useful. Sports analysts are currently in high demand as many teams are developing entire departments just to analyze statistics, in order to become the best program in the league. In other words, sports teams are using analytics for a competitive advantage. As technology continues to progress, several new developments are expected to emerge in 2018. Three specific advancements include integrating data sources to advance competition, communicate why the data is useful and create a different fan experience. The data is beneficial to many in the industry including coaches, managers, agents, scouts, marketing professionals, medical personnel and the analytics staff.

With the current available technology, sports analysts are able to take data and create insightful yet simple visualizations to communicate to other key decision makers of a team. Many teams use a program called SAS to manage and understand their data. We watched a video addressing the effects the program had on an NBA team, the Orlando Magic. Because of SAS, the Orlando Magic is among the top revenue earners in the NBA, despite being in the 20th-largest market. Many teams are able to see just how much this effected the Magic and thus are encouraged to pay more attention to their analytics department, which may include investing in a resource like SAS.

Other data collecting resources include wearable technology which can be used for many reasons.  One example of this is NFL players wearing devices in their helmets to receive data to help minimize injury. Wearable technology is becoming more and more popular among other teams and leagues to help with injury prevention and player performance. Increasing technology resources are encouraging more leagues to take a closer look at the best resources for analytics to have that competitive advantage teams are looking for.

Another aspect of data analytics in sports is using data to increase revenue and to enhance the fan experience. When ticket sales and attendance are down from the previous seasons, it is the sports analyst job to communicate the numbers and changes from previous seasons.  The chart below shows a few MLB teams and the attendance numbers from the 2001 to 2016 seasons. This is just one example of the data that is collected and analyzed to help increase fan experience and attendance from year to year. I have read several articles that discussed ticket sales, and based on statistics, many sports analysts say that the most influential factor of ticket sales is the wins and losses record of a sport teams. The chart below shows increases and decreases in attendance that change each season, with other available data analysts can determine the probable success each team had the prior season. Sports analysts are able to compare other forms of data with these numbers to determine the biggest cause and further relay the information to sports marketers or other professionals involved in ticket sales and fan experience.

Major League Baseball Regular Season Attendance

Communicating data efficiently is what sports analytics all comes down to. Without people to analyze and interpret these numbers, they have no meaning to other professionals in the industry. Anyone can create a statistic, but if they are not able to explain the meaning behind how it can help improve the team, then the statistic is useless. Sports analytics are crucial to many teams by helping them become their best through interpretation and analysis of statistics gained in practices and games. As technology and resources are progressing for data collection, sports analytics is a growing field as teams are looking to have a competitive advantage against their opponents. In the technology savvy world, we live in, it only makes sense to use data and sports analytics as an advantage in taking sports teams to a new and improved level.

This blog post was written by Samford University student Molly Olsofka. You can learn more about Molly Olsofka at https://www.linkedin.com/in/molly-olsofka-549a17166.

Photo Credits

http://sportsmarketanalytics.com.ezproxy.samford.edu/research.aspx?subrid=649 

Eastwood, B. (2017, December 28). Watch for these sports analytics developments in 2018. Retrieved from http://mitsloan.mit.edu/newsroom/articles/watch-for-these-sports-analytics-developments-in-2018/ 

The magic behind the Magic. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sas.com/en_us/customers/orlando-magic.html