2019 Competitive Advantage

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SSAC19’s Competitive Advantage presentations featured experts from leagues, teams, and industry providing insight on how new applications of data analytics are shaping and transforming the sports business. The speakers shared and showed details on analytic tools, technologies and strategies used in their organizations.

2019 MIT SLOAN SPORTS ANALYTICS CONFERENCE Competitive Advantage

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Friday, March 1 4:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Competitive Advantage West

Data without context, culture and organizational integration is just data. Michelle Kennedy, COO of the Nashville Predators, will speak about the history and evolution of the Predators, their organizational culture, and how data fits into the way they work.

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Friday, March 1 9:00 AM – 9:30 AM
Competitive Advantage East

Developing a tune-in marketing campaign has evolved beyond just targeting mass reach. Learn about Christine’s experience discovering tactics to measure and optimize marketing effectiveness towards driving Thursday Night Football tune-in.

 

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Saturday, March 2 3:30 PM – 4:00 PM
Competitive Advantage West

Despite exhaustive efforts at curbing injury rates, the number of players needing Tommy John Surgery (ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction) continues to rise. At the Major League level, these injuries can prove quite costly for not only the player, but also for the team and even the fans as well. This presentation outlines the costs associated with Tommy John Surgery in Major League Baseball over the past decade, and why players continue to experience this injury. The presentation will also explore how decision analysis tools can help front offices maximize value in the face of uncertainty with regards to treatment options for Tommy John injury.

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Saturday, March 2 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM
Competitive Advantage West

If Analytics represents the current frontier in sports business – because it answers the question “what is happening”, and to some extent “how is it happening” – then Behavioral Science represents the next frontier because it seeks to answer the question “why”: “Why do fans make the choices that they make, and how can teams use this information to create a better fan experience?” In today’s talk, Chicago Bulls behavioral scientist Kevin Brilliant blends real world field experiments with cutting-edge research and first-hand experience to take you behind the scenes of how the Chicago Bulls are thinking about applying behavioral science principles to the fan experience, and why it represents the next frontier in sports business.

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Saturday, March 2 2:30 PM – 3:00 PM
Competitive Advantage West

NBA basketball is poetry in motion: powerful dunks, soaring blocks, impossible finishes…and jumping in front of someone and falling down? Causing a collision and hoping the referee will blow the whistle is the antithesis of the incredible feats of athleticism that captivate fans. The block/charge call has long been a bane of basketball at all levels, tremendously boring, a massive injury risk, and inscrutable to even the referees themselves. This talk will dig into the details around what the data actually says about the block/charge call, examine whether taking a charge is even a good play, and offer potential options for reform.

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Saturday, March 2 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Competitive Advantage West

The use of wearable technology to measure and monitor performance in elite sport has become the norm. In this talk, Adam Douglas – an Applied Sport Scientist for Catapult Sports and Manager Sport Performance for Hockey Canada, will discuss two different applications of this technology in his work with the National Team. The first part of the presentation will explore the use of game intensity and performance decay, and the subsequent analyses to better inform daily practice and performance outcomes. The second portion of the presentation focuses on the importance of data collection versus data action, providing an example of planning and preparing a team for short-term competition through the smart manipulation of volume and intensity.

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Saturday, March 2 1:00 PM – 1:30 PM
Competitive Advantage West

Major League Baseball will outline the deceptively complex problem of identifying a fan’s favorite team, and then will describe the metric it developed to solve this issue, which incorporates both implicit and explicit fan signals, and finally detail the myriad ways the metric is applied.

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Saturday, March 2 12:30 PM – 1:00 PM
Competitive Advantage West

Television represents the single biggest revenue driver for sports leagues – these rights deals are worth billions of dollars, however as TV ratings have declined in recent years, it’s never been more important for leagues/networks to understand how to effectively market their product and convince audiences to tune-in. In the fragmented media landscape of 2019, advertisers need to work harder than ever to capture people’s attention. This research demonstrates how to effectively measure tune-in, proves that digital advertising can have a strong impact on driving TV ratings, and illustrates how to effectively reach these audiences.

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Saturday, March 2 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM
Competitive Advantage West

Over the last ten years, the presence of player tracking data has revolutionized the way we understand sports. However, it does not provide a complete description of what is happening in the game. In this talk, we present the evolution of tracking data collection and analysis. By using OpenPose to track players directly from broadcast video, we are able to expand the availability of tracking data, as well as deepen the quality of data by providing human pose estimation.

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Saturday, March 2 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Competitive Advantage West

Entering the 2017 season and coming off two years of rebuilding on the field, the Milwaukee Brewers asked themselves the question: how do we maximize social media engagement when there are significant factors – namely, market size and on-field performance – outside of our social media managers’ control? The organization also wondered how to best balance the desire to drive authentic engagement with other key priorities for social media, such as ticket sales advertising. In this talk, Brewers Vice President – Strategy & Analytics Mike Schwartz will discuss the process the organization developed to create and analyze a data set that allowed the Brewers to better understand how to maximize the effectiveness of their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter strategies.

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Saturday, March 2 10:30 AM – 11:00 AM
Competitive Advantage West

Today’s best organizations share a commitment to fairness, equity and inclusion. When the most talented people are hired and promoted, organizations are more innovative and competitive. What are the best ways to limit bias and support inclusion? Professor Christy Glass will focus on specific actions organizations can take—from organizing teams to candidate recruitment—that will have the biggest payoff in terms of equity and inclusion in the short and long term.

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Saturday, March 2 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM
Competitive Advantage West

Yahoo Sports is an industry leader in Fantasy Sports. Despite a high volume of traffic from casual visitors to the property, historically a small percentage of them convert to playing Fantasy games. In this talk we discuss how Yahoo Sports is introducing more casual sports fans atop its funnel to lightweight gaming with its new product, Fantasy Slate, and dive deep into learnings from the game’s initial launch. We will also touch on how the recent PASPA repeal factors into the organization’s plans and strategy, especially around this product.

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Saturday, March 2 9:30 AM – 10:00 AM
Competitive Advantage West

In 2019, the Oakland A’s cancelled the traditional season ticket program and rolled out A’s Access, a first-of-its-kind access-based membership program. A’s COO Chris Giles will discuss the program and the market research that led to its development.

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Friday, March 1 4:30 PM – 5:00 PM
Competitive Advantage West

The market for consumer attention, especially in a crowded sports landscape, has become increasingly competitive in recent years. But as illustrated by the Los Angeles Football Club, a clear and powerful brand can act as a catalyst to resonate with people and build a passionate following before the team even takes the field, and without a significant traditional advertising spend. In this talk, we look at LAFC’s successful inaugural season as a model to discuss the importance of effectively branding a sports property, creating a clear identity, and making an authentic connection to the community.

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Friday, March 1 3:15 PM – 3:45 PM
Competitive Advantage West

Even prior to the recent merger with IMG College, Learfield managed multimedia rights for more than 130 collegiate properties and conferences across the country. The volume of account, proposal, industry, asset, activation and financial data aggregated represented a treasure trove of information for the organization. This talk will review the collaboration between Learfield and KORE to normalize and mine this data for actionable trends and insights that are now being used to shape their business.

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Friday, March 1 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Competitive Advantage West

Applying a complex systems approach to the identification and development of youth athletes may be the key to more pro-ready candidates emerging from the elite development pipeline. This talk is a review of the physiologic, environmental, and cultural factors driving current models of youth athlete development, highlighting the data-driven insights which inform optimal training paradigms for sustainable elite performance.

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Friday, March 1 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM
Competitive Advantage West

Head of FIFA’s Technical Study Group Mr. Carlos Alberto Parreira said “space between the lines was practically non-existent at this World Cup”. With an average team length of 26m, space to play was tight. This talk will look at how FIFA integrated tracking technology and advanced event data to support expert tournament observations with new analytics.

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Friday, March 1 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM
Competitive Advantage West

Fan expectations are changing dramatically. Once content to sit back and simply watch sporting events, they now want to be part of what’s happening on the field, court or green. It’s fueled the rise of everything from Madden to fantasy sports. Recognizing shifting attitudes, as well as the mobile explosion, Your Call Football gives fans the opportunity to actually influence gameplay. This session will look at how advanced technology was used to transform a live sporting event into an interactive, social and competitive experience. It will also explore where sports technology is headed and what this means for executives and fans across sports.

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Friday, March 1 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Competitive Advantage West

The Action Network data science and engineering teams collaborated to build an in-app feature that calculates and displays the win probability of a user’s tracked bet, in real-time. The calculation is based on custom machine learning algorithms that leverage 10+ years of historical sports betting, play-by-play and situational data. Using this, they were are able to generate models for every sport and scenario that can accurately forecast the probability of the outcome of an event. This talk will touch on how The Action Network is leveraging this technology to create a deeper connection between users and their live betting action.

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Friday, March 1 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Competitive Advantage West

The Basketball Tournament implemented a basic version of the Elam Ending (the hybrid duration format where the final portion of each game is played without a game clock, designed to preserve a more natural style of play through the end of each game) for 11 games in 2017 and for its entire 71-game event in 2018. This presentation revisits the reception to the format, examines how well the format met its primary and secondary aims, discusses criticisms of the format, and explores minor modifications to the format that could improve the Elam Ending going forward.

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Friday, March 1 10:15 AM – 10:45 AM
Competitive Advantage West

The ongoing legalization of sports betting across the US brings both opportunities and challenges for sport. Drawing upon a long track record in advising sports leagues and governing bodies in the UK and internationally, Northridge will identify the key considerations for sport in effectively dealing with betting-related integrity issues. The session will use case studies from across a range of sports to illustrate the key considerations, including looking at the recommendations set out in the Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis published in December 2018 (on which Northridge served as solicitors and secretariat).

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Friday, March 1 9:45 AM – 10:15 AM
Competitive Advantage West

Learn how Gillette Stadium is transforming how it uses data, analytics, and technology to ensure the best fan experience on event day and efficiency 365-days a year. This session will explore how Gillette Stadium’s investment in technology has created impactful use cases involving trend analysis and new metric definition for incident monitoring, staff productivity, resource forecasting for events, preventative maintenance, fraud & waste prevention, and more.

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Friday, March 1 9:00 AM – 9:30 AM
Competitive Advantage West

Nobody can tell you — not the NBA scheduler, those who work in the NBA offices in New York, nor historians of the game — why the NBA settled on an 82-game schedule, one they’ve maintained for more than 50 years. Even though the best science has persuaded NBA teams to routinely hold out their best talent, while players and fans widely regard the regular season as an interminable preamble to the exciting postseason, the NBA bows to a tradition whose origins are a mystery as the guiding authority. It’s time to consider everything we know about the physical demands of the NBA, the current state of the entertainment marketplace, and the basic laws of scarcity (about which the NFL can teach us a thing or two), and lead a substantive conversation about what would constitute the smartest and most compelling NBA schedule.

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Friday, March 1 8:30 AM – 9:00 AM
Competitive Advantage West

NBA referees make more than 4,000 calling decisions each game. But the accuracy of those decisions is only part of what it takes to be a great referee. Come for a candid conversation with Monty McCutchen, the NBA’s Head of Referee Development & Training, to learn about the other performance factors the league considers – from courage to communication – when developing and evaluating referees, as well as the league’s effort to turn those standards of performance into data.

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Friday, March 1 4:30 PM – 5:00 PM
Competitive Advantage East

How one Boston NGO is using different methods of analytics and the mobilizing power of basketball to extend health education and interventions to save lives and positively impact thousands of at-risk youth and women every single day.

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Friday, March 1 4:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Competitive Advantage East

We present an algorithm to construct multiple March Madness brackets. Our approach is extremely fast, generating thousands of bracket in minutes. Using simple predictive models for matchups and a clever integer programming formulation, we show that we can rank in the top 10 out of 18 million in the ESPN March Madness contest in 2017 and 2018. We will provide the code for our algorithm for anyone interested in playing in the upcoming tournament.

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Friday, March 1 3:15 PM – 3:45 PM
Competitive Advantage East

Cricket, the second most popular sport in the world trailing behind Soccer, has Machine Learning (ML) being integral part of it for decades. For example, the outcome of the game, in the event of reduced duration, is determined through Machine Learning. Despite such deep penetration of ML in Cricket, some of the very basic Machine Learning questions remained poorly addressed. We will discuss our novel Machine Learning approach to overcome this long standing limitation by explaining in the context of “ball-by-ball” forecasting and “automated highlight generation”.

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Friday, March 1 2:45 PM – 3:15 PM
Competitive Advantage East

AI and machine learning are transforming the sports industry from changing the way teams make player personnel decisions and on-field coaching decisions to how teams interact with their fans. However, with the rapid increase in data regarding player performance and competitive changes in the market for fans, the industry needs to scale its data science capacity to address these changes. In this talk, we will discuss what needs to be done to build this capability, how automated machine learning helps accelerate this process and how this applies to the sports industry.

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Friday, March 1 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Competitive Advantage East

Machine learning is opening the door to a new wave of rich, real-time, insights that will transform the viewing experience for sports fans everywhere. Data scientists from the NFL, MLB, and F1 are working with AWS to train a deep neural network that can do everything from successfully predict a stolen base, to determining the catch probability for any given receiver. In this session, we will explore how the NFL, MLB, and F1 are transforming the fan experience with Amazon Web Services and building new capabilities around ML-driven analytics.

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Friday, March 1 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM
Competitive Advantage East

Sports analytics are built using data-powered insights. When a new type of data becomes available, it can change the game for sports participants, spectators, and franchises. Learn how BOSE AR is creating a new class of data to enable more personalized experiences and enabling new leaders to drive to the next level of innovation.

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Friday, March 1 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM
Competitive Advantage East

As soon as he published Moneyball, Michael Lewis launched a newfound obsession with sports analytics. However, Moneyball framed analytics as an endeavor for individual teams to use to gain competitive advantages. Over 15 years later, Beautyball proposes a different approach, where analytics can be applied at the league level to help monitor trends and optimize rules as means to build the prettiest games possible. In this talk, we explore how analytics can and will be used to optimize the aesthetic of NBA basketball and other sports worldwide.

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Friday, March 1 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Competitive Advantage East

Data clearly shows that when a team wins, fans think the food tastes better, the parking is more convenient, and they get better value for their tickets. When a team loses, the reverse is also true – fans think the same food doesn’t taste as good and the same parking is less convenient. So what can teams do to ensure a great fan experience regardless of whether or not a team wins? Qualtrics ran a series of studies to determine what fans care most about, where they place the most value and what organizations can do to consistently provide great experiences to their fans.

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Friday, March 1 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Competitive Advantage East

Building on a 15,000 person national survey, we explore key areas of importance, satisfaction, and value drivers for US sports fans across their experience in and around the stadium, as well as while consuming sports content though broadcast and streaming media. We will cover key attributes for teams to consider in their fan engagement strategies, as well as the value of developing an elevated fan experience to create new “fanatics.”

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Friday, March 1 10:15 AM – 10:45 AM
Competitive Advantage East

Do a few things brilliantly well rather than try to cover everything. This is the ‘Hedgehog Principle’ as explored in the book Good to Great, which calls on the power of simplicity to elevate the chances of success. In this session, Glenn will take the audience through this Hedgehog mindset for sport and the high performance strategies that led to his team the West Coast Eagles winning the 2018 Australian Football League Premiership. He will explore the four or five things the high-performance unit chose to do exceptionally well, and how they distinguished the great strategies from the good using data aggregated in Smartabase to critically analyze what related to player and team success.

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Friday, March 1 9:45 AM – 10:15 AM
Competitive Advantage East

Kitman Labs is a sports analytics and software company that applies patented multivariate and machine learning techniques to the world of sports. Their athlete optimization system delivers analytical insights using flexible cloud-based software, helping teams to uncover the factors that influence success. With objective insights in hand, teams can now use numbers to answer their most pressing questions and increase certainty in training and development strategies. This talk will discuss some of the projects Kitman Labs has undertaken over the past few years – the findings of which are now being used by teams daily to enhance performance.

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Friday, March 1 8:30 AM – 9:00 AM
Competitive Advantage East

When you win championships, accounts tend to renew themselves, but how you adapt when your team struggles show the true capabilities of a team. Aaron LeValley, SVP of Business Operations and Strategy with AEG Sports & LA Kings, will share how variations in retention scoring, incorporation of service team feedback, and the utilization of text pushes and open-ended text analysis drives renewal.

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