2018 Panels

The 2018 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference offers panel lineup distinguished by the expertise of its panelists across business and sports analytics. It’s never too early to begin planning how you will spend your time at SSAC, where there is something to learn every minute of every day.

2018 MIT SLOAN SPORTS ANALYTICS CONFERENCE Panels

Description

Friday, February 23 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM
Bill James Room

Ted Leonsis and Michael Rubin are entrepreneurs renowned for founding billion-dollar companies and shaping entire industries. Leonsis is a successful VC investor and founder of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns professional sports franchises across several leagues and a first-of-its-kind sports network that is redefining the way content is delivered to fans. Rubin, founder and Executive Chairman of Kynetic, is one of the foremost entrepreneurs in the e-commerce space, and oversees Rue La La, ShopRunner, and Fanatics. Fanatics alone has revolutionized the licensed sports merchandise industry. In this panel, these wildly successful entrepreneurs will provide their unique insights on the fundamental shifts in the sports business landscape, technology-driven innovation, increasing role of analytics, and the experiences that have been key to their success.

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM
Pat Summitt Room

Data is on the rise in hockey as teams across the NHL build out multi-layered analytics departments. This panel will explore analytics from a variety of perspectives within an organization, from the GM down. It will also address the challenges front offices and coaches face in tailoring strategy to insights derived from analytics. Finally, panelists will address what the future holds for hockey analytics with the advent of player tracking technology on the horizon.

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 09:30 AM – 10:30 AM
Bill James Room

Investor interest in sports has skyrocketed in recent years, but generating headlines and returns are two very different tasks. Industry leaders are taking a variety of paths to be ahead of the curve. This panel features leaders in sports investment and business creation sharing their perspective on staying one step ahead, the rise of esports and other non-mainstream sports, the role of analytics in decision-making, consolidation in the industry, and the risks of investing in this space.

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 9:30 AM – 10:30 AM
Pat Summitt Room

In 2018 the US Supreme Court will rule on Christie v. NCAA, potentially overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). Regardless of the decision’s specifics, sports gambling is likely to continue changing in the years ahead alongside public attitudes. The implications for fans and leagues are massive. How will the Supreme Court’s decision impact the future of gambling in the US? In what ways are states and professional leagues preparing for the future of sports gambling? How will the growth of gambling impact the fan experience? On this panel, sports gambling and legal experts will discuss the implications of Christie v. NCAA, as well as the continued evolution of sports gambling more broadly.

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM
Bill James Room

This panel takes you behind the scenes and inside the board room with some of the most impactful business leaders in sports. John Collins, CEO of On Location Experiences, is transforming hospitality services at megaevents after putting the NHL’s Winter Classic on the map as the COO of the NHL. Katrina Adams, Chairman of the Board and President of the USTA, oversees the U.S. Open and is driving the reach of the sport to new segments. Tod Leiweke, COO of the NFL, is responsible for continuing to grow America’s most popular sport, and throughout his career has held executive positions at the NBA, NHL, MLS, and PGA. What drives these individuals and how has their approach to leadership and the industry changed over time? How do they keep their organizations ahead of the curve in the fast-changing sports world?

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM
Pat Summitt 

TV ratings for the NBA continue to be on the rise, interest in the league is high, and the game is flush with marketable stars. But how can the game be improved? What changes to the game would improve the on-court product, fairness, and the fan experience? Five of basketball’s most creative thinkers will explore what an NBA 2.0 might look like. What impact would change to rules governing timeouts, the three-point line, video replay, and resting have on the game? How could playoff seeding be changed to guarantee the most exciting and unpredictable matchups? How can the NBA effectively experiment with new ideas? Attend this panel to get a glimpse of tomorrow’s NBA today.

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM
Bill Walsh Room

The tools of sports analytics now drive coaching and personnel decisions in virtually every major professional sport, are at the heart of content created for fans, and are more and more a part of how we discuss sports on a daily basis. Sports related businesses are now also utilizing the tools of sports analytics to drive internal business decisions and directly create value. At ESPN, sports analytics is now being utilized to assist with decisions in new areas such as fan intelligence, marketing, programming, and sponsorship. This panel will discuss the tools used, and potential applications of sports analytics to drive business decisions across a variety of functions.

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23, 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM
Bill James Room

The NHL’s TV viewership is increasing, a new generation of star players is emerging, and parity is at an all-time high. Innovative leadership at the league office and team levels has positioned hockey for sustained growth in the years ahead. On the heels of a successful All-Star Weekend in Tampa Bay, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Lightning owner Jeffrey Vinik sit down to discuss the factors that have fueled the NHL’s renaissance, what it takes to succeed in new markets, and the innovations that will take the sport to the next level.

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM
Bill Walsh Room

As esports popularity grows worldwide, an increasing amount of attention and financial investment is directed toward esports ventures. From private equity groups to traditional sports franchises, diverse organizations are seeking to leverage their core competencies to build a new business line and reach the engaged millennial audience. Can these investors’ expertise build sustainable, successful esports franchises? How do teams with experience running teams within other professional league experience support new leagues? Do independent teams have an edge and how do they plan to compete? How will the influx of investment shape esports franchises over the next 5 years? This panel will feature independent and investor-backed team leaders as well as those participating in newly launched esports leagues discussing how quickly esports is evolving and what’s needed to build a competitive advantage.

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
Pat Summitt Room

Baseball analytics has come a long way since Bill James pioneered the field of sabermetrics almost three decades ago. The most recent leap forward has been the use and public availability of Statcast data, which provided teams with an unprecedented amount of information to instantaneously track players and evaluate performance. Now, with three years of Statcast data available, how has basketball analytics changed? This panel will examine how the adoption of advanced analytics in baseball permeates every level of the organization, from the front office to the dugout, affecting how decisions are made on the field.

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
Bill Walsh Room

With an insatiable appetite for sports, demand for access to athletes and teams has reached unprecedented levels. The evolving digital landscape bring fans closer than ever to the teams and athletes that inspire them, while organizations have more touch points than ever with consumers. Effective investments in social media, streaming, mobile, and video require extensive knowledge of what today’s fans want from their team across different platforms. Four stewards of the digital age in sports will share how their organizations are innovating to enhance the fan experience, the investments needed to be successful, and how they see the space changing in the coming years.

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Bill James Room

The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, will address the 2018 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on February 23, 2018 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. A lifelong sports fan and athlete, President Obama will address a wide range of subjects in his talk, from his most memorable moments in the White House, to his post-presidency plans. Daryl Morey and Jessica Gelman will moderate the discussion.

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Bill James Room

Baseball heads into the 2018 season on the heels of one of the most thrilling World Series Championships in history, but America’s Pastime is rapidly evolving to address its current place in the sports landscape. In this one-on-one session, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred will address the challenges and opportunities facing his sport, including pace of play, the role of technology, the future of free agency, and what baseball can do to reach a new generation of fans.

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Patt Summitt Room

While MLS has grown rapidly, and the US Women’s National Team is dominant, Europe remains the center of international soccer. This panel will explore how Europe has created the top national teams, clubs, and leagues on its way to continental supremacy. What can the United States, and other aspiring soccer powers, learn from the Old Continent in its quest for international soccer parity? This panel will address ownership, on-field strategy, partnerships, analytics, and more.

 

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Bill Walsh Room

Streaming platforms, easy access to out-of-market games, and handheld devices have revolutionized the way fans consume sports. Both traditional and newer media companies are working to capitalize on this enhanced flexibility with Twitter and Amazon streaming sports content such as Thursday Night Football and Disney’s growing stake in BAMTech. These developments leave leagues and broadcast partners navigating a significantly more complex ecosystem with new opportunities and challenges for the future. This panel will examine the latest trends in broadcasting, the impact of multiple-screen viewing, how tech companies are engaging with sports in innovative ways, and the future of the fan viewing experience.

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Bill James Room

In the NFL, whether on the field or in player acquisition, teams are using analytics to improve their success rates more than ever. Over the past two seasons, the league began implementing RFID chips in players’ pads to track speed and movements, and into balls themselves to measure rotation and ball speed. Teams are also incorporating more advanced tech into their practices and game-planning, where they have more freedom than they do on game day. Front offices have successfully leveraged data to unearth diamonds in the rough, including players from non-traditional backgrounds and lesser-known college programs. Coaches are increasingly moving towards analytics-driven play calling to setup their athletes for success. This panel brings together professionals with decades of experience across the NFL to discuss the current state of analytics in America’s most popular league.

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Pat Summitt Room

This past year saw major changes to the ticketing landscape as digital tickets continue to grow and open distribution becomes the norm. For the fan, the new ticketing world allows for true market forces and an improved experience. Digital ticketing, mobile applications, and social media are easing how fans search for tickets. However, in an increasingly complex ticketing marketplace greater insight into fan behavior through secondary providers, loyalty programs, personalized experiences, and season ticket strategies are difference makers. This panel will explore in depth how ticketing data has transformed team, league, and vendor operations, and what additional advances these key players see on the horizon.

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Bill Walsh Room

The best ideas often come from unexpected places, and some of sports’ most innovative companies have gained a competitive edge by looking outside the industry. This panel looks to forward-thinking business leaders in healthcare, education, and finance for insights that could put leagues, teams, and companies over the top. From market trends, to leveraging analytics, to retaining talent, learn how other sectors are confronting challenges and seizing opportunities.

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Bill James Room

Eight out of ten entrepreneurs who launch a business will fail within the first 18 months. This daunting statistic alone deters many, but what drives the 20% who succeed? And once they’ve made it, how do they identify new opportunities for growth and expansion? Jason Robins, Maverick Carter and Alex Rodriguez have launched successful businesses and scaled their enterprises, emerging as leaders in their respective fields. This panel will explore the mindset necessary to achieve sustained success. From what initially compelled them to start a business to the competitive edge that sustained them, these leaders will share insights bound to be of interest to anyone interested in entrepreneurship.

 

Speakers
Description

Friday, February 23 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Pat Summitt Room

Analytics has provided NBA front offices with a new arsenal of tools to evaluate prospects. But in the one-and-done era teams have a small sample set to justify their investment of precious draft picks. What stats matter most when trying to predict NBA success? How do scouts account for the differences in European professional leagues and collegiate hoops? How do teams use pre-draft workouts to fill in gaps in their knowledge of players? Featuring representatives of three NBA front offices and Jonathan Givony of ESPN, this panel will delve into how analytics is changing teams’ draft day–strategies.

Speakers
Description

Saturday, February 24 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM
Pat Summitt Room

The career panel provides a lively discussion on the skills vital in today’s sports industry and what analytical leaders are looking for in talent. Students and those interested in transitioning into the sports industry will hear unique stories of entering and succeeding in the sector from accomplished individuals with diverse backgrounds

Speakers
Description

Saturday, February 24 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM
Bill James Room

Former Microsoft CEO and Los Angeles Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer is a leading thinker across business, technology, sports, and now public policy. Nate Silver is a leading statistician and has pioneered data-driven approaches to storytelling across a range of subjects. This session presents a unique and exciting opportunity to explore how data informs leadership, how technology is driving innovation in sports and media, and how analytics-based efforts like USAFacts have the potential to impact public policy.

Speakers
Description

Saturday, February 24 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Bill James Room

Hear from the on-court leaders and behind-the-scenes strategists who have built modern sports dynasties. Developing and implementing a strategic vision depends on a variety of factors ranging from scouting, drafting, player development, trades and free agent signings, instilling a winning culture, and on-court leadership. Navigating trade-offs might vary across sports and markets, but the ultimate goal never changes. This panel will explore the challenges of building a consistent winner and the culture to match, featuring insights from the front-office and the locker room.

Speakers
Description

Saturday, February 24 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Pat Summitt Room

The use of technology has rapidly spread across sports, moving beyond being the “next big thing” to becoming the new norm. In spring 2016, MLB approved the in-game use of a compression sleeve that measure arm stress, and last year the NFLPA signed a three-year deal to provide fitness trackers to all active NFL players. Pistons center Andre Drummond uses virtual reality to tune up his free throws, Vikings quarterback Case Keenum uses it to get extra reps outside of practice. Coaches, athletes, teams, and leagues are searching for new capabilities to track player health, to optimize training, to improve fan experience, and, most importantly, to make a difference on the field. As technological progress continues, what new opportunities will emerge? This panel will take a deeper look at the potential of technology to disrupt sports, how the current landscape is continuing to evolve, innovations in data to come, and what industry leaders are planning for the future.

Speakers
Description

Saturday, February 24 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Bill James Room

In today’s NBA a split second or a step in the wrong direction can be the difference between a bad shot and an uncontested layup, between winning and losing. The ability to identify which match-ups and lineups provide the best chance of victory, the exponential growth in three-point attempts, and the quantification of defensive impact are all outgrowths of analytics’ mainstreaming. What comes next for basketball analytics and how are teams trying to gain an edge in the face of widespread adoption of analytics? What does it take to build a data-driven organization at all levels? This panel will provide the inside stuff on what comes next for the NBA.

Speakers
Description

Saturday, February 24 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Pat Summitt Room

Many people dream of owning a professional sports franchise, but with a limited number of sales and soaring demand, teams have become some of the hottest commodities on the open market. With prices reaching upwards of $2 billion, the time, expertise, and resources necessary to purchase a professional team are more important than ever. This panel features experts who have worked behind the scenes to make professional franchise ownership a reality. Joe McNulty, Rafael Stone, and George Postolos will share what they have learned over decades of experience guiding ownership groups through the bidding and legal process of buying a franchise.

Speakers
Description

Saturday, February 24 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Bill James Room

Player representation has evolved to become more multi-dimensional than ever before. In the past year social activism, pay equity, and data privacy have grabbed headlines and sparked intense debate. The increasingly complex job of agents and union leaders sets the stage for this discussion of recent changes in collective bargaining, marketing, and privacy rights. How will technological change and the demand for data shape labor relations in the years ahead?

Speakers
Description

Saturday, February 24 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Pat Summitt Room

Industry executives who are championing the adoption of analytics in sports business will discuss the biggest opportunities and challenges to growing a business. From ticket purchase to venue experience to digital engagement, learn how the evolving data and technology landscape is redefining these leaders’ businesses and their partners’ businesses. This panel will discuss data limitations, technology investments, building an analytics team, new marketing platforms, major changes impacting sports business, and how analytics will continue to shape the industry.

Speakers
Description

Bill Walsh Room

Nothing has the potential to devastate an athlete, team, or fans like a serious injury. In the analytics age teams are investing in personnel and research to minimize injury risk to players, while athletes are also taking preventative measures to prolong their careers. By working with retired athletes, researchers are developing scientific techniques to better mitigate injury risk. This panel focuses on charting the future of sports medicine.

Speakers
Description

Saturday, February 24 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Bill James Room

Social media has opened new avenues for teams, leagues, and athletes to engage directly with fans. The year in sports has shown social media’s potential as a medium for an all-star campaign, philanthropic efforts, commentary on political and social issues, and talking trash. However, the virality of social poses risks where the line between friendly banter and disrespect can be misunderstood. This panel will focus on athletes’ approaches to the digital age, including how and what they choose to share on social media.

Speakers
Description

Saturday, February 24 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Pat Summitt Room

Recent innovations in machine learning have made its methods more accurate and more accessible. Enhanced prediction capabilities are increasingly used to inform strategic decisions from the field to the boardroom. While these decisions are made based on data, it can be hard to justify those that seem counterintuitive to interested parties, whether they are season ticket holders or employees. This panel will address cutting-edge tools, their limitations building internal capabilities, potential opportunities to use them, and challenges of gaining buy-in across an organization.

Speakers
Description

Saturday Feb 24, 1:00-2:00 PM
Bill Walsh Room

Over the past few years, MLS has experienced rapid growth in viewership, social media engagement, attendance, merchandise sales and team valuations. The league which had 10 clubs and was contracting as of 2001 is now executing a plan to grow to 28 teams by 2020. Interest in the world’s most popular game is surging in the United States. Meanwhile, the importance of data-driven decision making by MLS clubs has also surged in recent years. Teams are employing analytics in several different ways, looking to gain every possible advantage over their opponents. Clubs are employing player-tracking capabilities to assess the development and health of their athletes. Data associated with players on the transfer market is being analyzed more than ever so that teams can be assured that they are targeting candidates that fit their needs and styles of play in the most efficient ways possible. Coaches are increasingly using video analysis and in-game data driven decision making to put their athletes in the best position to win. With data and analytics permeating multiple levels of the league, these quantitative methods are sure to play a big role in MLS’ continued rise to prominence.

Speakers
Description

Saturday, February 24 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Pat Summitt Room

Athlete activism hast taken center stage in the past year. More than record-breaking performances, unlikely champions, and unforgettable on-field moments, some of the most significant sports conversations of the year have focused on athletes speaking up, taking a knee, and addressing social issues through sports. Increased activism has brought attention to critical issues in the world at large and allowed an open and sometimes heated conversation around athletes, teams, leagues, sponsors, and broadcasters. During this panel, educators, athletes, and social commentators will discuss the role of athletes in impacting our social and political landscape moving forward.

Speakers
Description

Saturday, February 24 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Bill James Room

Twelve years ago, Jack McCallum spent the season with the Mike D’Antoni-coached Phoenix Suns and authored Seven Seconds or Less, which documented the early stages of a revolution in basketball. Since then, pace-and-space, high-octane three-point shooting, small ball, and measuring defensive impact have gone from the periphery to the center of modern basketball strategy. This panel brings together some of the key figures in the sport’s transformation on and off the court for a look at how basketball reached this point and how it will continue to evolve.

Speakers
Description

Saturday, February 24 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Bill James Room

What’s a logo worth? The growth of new technologies to track impressions during broadcasts and growing digital viewership has enabled companies to collect and measure data on customer engagement. For many sponsors, this information is defining ROI of their sponsorship investments while others are focused on brand association. Leagues, teams, and corporate partners are finding new ways to assess the impact and lift of their sponsorship dollars. How are they working with business partners to develop a holistic view across print, television, web, in-stadium and mobile? This panel will explore new innovations in partnerships and technologies created to measure impact.

Speakers
Description

Saturday, February 24 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Pat Summitt Room

As the esports industry grows, team franchises are becoming increasingly competitive. To find an edge, teams are developing new tools, including new player analytics, to search for that talent. How do teams currently find the best players? What are the networks and techniques used to identify the best players in a game? Will analytics play a role in developing the next generation of esports stars? We will discuss with esports managers and experts to learn how player scouting works today and where it may lead in the future.

Speakers
Description

Saturday, February 24 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Bill Walsh Room

Analytics once provided teams with a competitive advantage, but now that data is the new normal, front offices across sports are searching for new ways to establish an edge. The holy grail is a new metric that measures a previously unmeasured key to victory. Our panelists have created statistics that have revolutionized their respective sport: measuring a pitcher’s effectiveness, a MLB player’s above average value, a NBA player’s efficiency, and in-game NFL win probabilities. This panel will draw upon these past examples to predict where, when, and how the next breakthrough stat will make its impact.

Speakers
Description

Saturday, February 24 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Bill James Room

Every team in the NBA wants to reach the mountaintop, but the path there is rarely a straight line. Expectations, pressures, and opportunities vary from city to city, shaping different approaches to team building, re-building, and definitions of success. This panel will draw on a range of experiences to explore and compare different team-building strategies. In particular, the panelists will explore the tradeoffs involved in championship-or-bust approaches, chasing playoff spots, and how organizations balance short-term success with a longer-term vision. The panel will also address fan support, free-agent acquisition, establishing a winning culture, and other factors that influence what it means to be successful in the NBA.

Speakers