Sports Analytics - What it Means for US!

January 15, 2018

We are being targeted. There is a reason behind sport being so high on Britain's agenda. The Olympics and the Commonwealth Games in two of our great cities is meant to leave a legacy. A legacy of health and activity. In austerity that means a society that is less expensive to manage and care for and hey! It's good for us and ultimately great fun. The Scottish Sports Association's Manifesto, whose info graphic I have used, has captured this perfectly. A healthy populace drives a better society. The UK's Sport Minister has obviously seen the light and so it seems have her Cabinet colleagues. Tracey Crouch has successfully increased the budget to drive sports participation and elite success and is set on targeting us at an ever earlier age. She has successfully secured a massive 30% increase in UK Sports budget, if admittedly giving them a much bigger target in driving success in our countries sporting endeavours

 

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This is a tough ask and despite the admirable investments made by any number of organisations, the journey to get the UK more active hasn't been a bed of roses. Sport participation is definitely up. But it remains only a small increase that is confined to certain socio' economic mixes and the health of the nation is not improving.

 

So how does this manifesto for sport become a reality? I wouldn't presume to be an expert that understands the whole social, economic and commercial picture. However as an analytics and digital professional I think it is important to start to consider the capabilities that a digital world can bring to delivering this admirable manifesto and therefore help sport take advantage of its new found wealth and status in a post Olympic and Commonwealth games legacy. Digital, which seems to be the new name for IT, is entering a new phase. The world we view is now full of faces made blue from the screens of billions of hand held devices. We socialise, we research, we entertain ourselves and we plan our lives through these connected devices. At the same time we are pouring data into the connected world, data that makes up the information on our everyday lives. That everyday life that the government wants us to make more active.

 

 So what part does the world of digital and analytics have to play? If we go into the detail then the the field is nearly endless. Coaches huddle over laptops as the statistics of their athletes are transferred to them by a plethora of IoT or wearable devices. Scientists analyse every facet of the human physiology to ensure maximum output is achieved. Commercial organisations use complex web based marketing to attract us to use and wear their products and bring to our attention the fact that our sporting icons wear or use these products. At the end of the day the government sees this as not only a mental and physical benefit, but also as a £39bn UK marketplace and so a valuable asset in our overall GDP. 

 

So if we look at these admirable goals and the manifestos that support them, how and where can digital and analytics play a part:

 

Engagement -

The digital age will be spawning some 6.5 billion personal devices. All of these enable a connection and therefore the ability to deliver awareness and engagement. We have to work on how we engage the investment we have made in sports, and the venues that support that athlete and event investment, with everyday people. Some of the outstanding immersive work CISCO and Microsoft have generated underpins this. I recently looked at the CISCO use case in the Nordics. They created stadium solutions and fan apps which drove better commercial outcomes and therefore more successful venues, which inspired more people to be at those venues. It is a clear success and engagement is inspiring involvement. Where does this lead? Participation. Success in engagement is not just about cheering a football team or selling a shirt, it is about inspiring generations to get involved and getting generations participating. The digital age is upon us and creating and inspiring sport participation is about digital communities and digital communication. The solutions are there, so it is about creating a social digital engagement through traditional CRM to get society involved, participating and using the facilities that the Olympic and Commonwealth games invested in.

 

Health -

The government is driving a data driven approach to health. Companies providing food now have to provide open data to us. Every package comes with a set of data describing its contents and nutritional content. But for many of us its too much, measuring all this on a daily basis is just not practical or enjoyable. But increasingly the limits we are told about can be monitored via real time tests on our bodies and is certainly the case for serious medical problems. That allows for constant feedback and links into the performance an individual wants or needs. For the rest of us then the digital age is beginning to link the information into databases and mobile applications which lets us understand those contents. Applications like MyFitnessPal can track any manner of foods and therefore count the calories, salt content and any other nutritional element. If we link the engagement process with our sporting community and use our performance as a motivator then we have a rounded approach to making ourselves healthier. The data is their, connecting us and building it into our lifestyles is the next step into driving the pro-active management of our health.

 

Performance -

Well it is sports after all! But this is not elitism, this is about every ones goals, an individual, a team, a club or a community of friends. The digital landscape can change fundamentally how we measure our steps on the road to being better and enjoying that journey. If we go back to engagement, motivation is key. In a digital world measurement and analytics is now available to us all. Strava, MS Health, Fitbit and many others are providing us with almost elite athlete analysis on our journey to be that little bit better. Linking our venues and our performance can allow further engagement and therefore traditional up sell and cross sell to ensure the investments we are making into sport work.  Improving or wanting to be a part of a community can be enabled. Engaging means we can all set our performance levels and be a part of a community which has similar goals. After all there is nothing more demotivating for many than to come last or  to be completely out of their depth. Seeing performance and driving improvement all means better engagement and therefore use of facilities.

 

Digital and analytics is no quick fix and neither is it the answer. But the easier we make it for individuals to track and analyse their lives, the simpler it is to set goals and engage with communities that match our aspirations and interests. Basing these communities around the investment the country is making into our sporting infrastructure is a key to moving the active Britain agenda forward. Connecting our venues and our health to us as citizens can only help to drive a more active Britain that returns on that investment we have as a nation.

 

For me this is the right vision and one I think the Digital and Analytics community has a big part to play in and I hope we can help deliver the strategy and manifestos our governments are trying to drive. 

 

 

 

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