Panels

We are planning a wonderful set of panels for this year’s conference with a leaders on the forefront of sports and analytics.  Panels and panelists will be announced nearer to the conference.

For now, please enjoy the videos from the 2016 conference:

2016 MIT SLOAN SPORTS ANALYTICS CONFERENCE Panels

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Wearable technology has progressed rapidly in recent years, with hardware getting smaller and more durable, software becoming more specialized and accurate, and analyses becoming more sophisticated. As technology has improved, the data and usefulness has increased exponentially, even allowing some elite athletes to migrate the use of their wearables from primarily training onto the field of play. This panel will discuss the current role of wearables in mitigating injury risk, the technological trends on the horizon, and in-game use as the next frontier for wearable technology.

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While any sports fan would jump at the chance to own a professional team, thinking of ownership as a box suite with all the perks ignores the increasingly complex reality of navigating the modern sports landscape. In the last decade, 50 teams have either changed hands or been relocated. The very way that fans experience and consume their favorite sports has fundamentally changed. Even the decisions of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies receive far less scrutiny than the hiring and personnel decisions made by your favorite sports teams. Whether building a new stadium, signing a star free agent, or making decidedly more difficult choices like fi ring a coach or relocating a team, a heavy burden of responsibility falls upon the owner. The Evolution of Ownership, will provide a behind the scenes look into how owners, senior executives, and partners in the league offices manage these impactful decisions to continue to grow the sport and improve the bottomline.
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Franchise acquisitions and stadium financing are among the staples of traditional sports finance. However, similar to other dynamic industries, the sports landscape is rapidly evolving on multiple fronts – uncharted valuations, new emerging sports categories, globalization, and the inflow of venture capital, to name a few. Such growth not only requires significantly greater investment, but also introduces new opportunities. The Modern Sports Finance panel will explore current trends in financing, sports venture capital, investment opportunities, and how financial innovation can unlock value across the sports landscape.

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The use of analytics in ice hockey has been increasing in recent years, with teams integrating advanced metrics for talent acquisition and in-game strategy. Despite this rise, some hockey purists downplay the importance of analytics, believing that tracking metrics does not translate to winning. This panel will discuss how teams are going beyond a mere collection of statistics to fi nding reproducible patterns and important lessons about the game through analytics. Topics will include assessing value under salary cap constraints, cutting edge pre-game and in-game statistics, scouting criteria, and others.

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Success in an organization, like on any sports team, depends entirely on the quality and talent of the team. Whether on or off the field, a team is built, shaped, and developed by the leaders who inspire and invest in their people. This panel will feature admired leaders from a variety of settings, all of whom have built teams of diverse talents, succeeded in multiple industries, and serve as trailblazers in creating succession and lineage. The panel will serve as an interactive discussion on how to strategically build and sustain dynamic and talented organizations.

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In the past few years, eSports has continued its rise in North America. For those not familiar with the industry, it is time to take notice. North American competitions have purses valued into the millions. Colleges have varsity eSports teams and are giving out scholarships to the best gamers. North America is the second largest player in the global eSports market where 36 million unique viewers tuned in for the League of Legends 2015 World Championship Finals. To put this in perspective, Game 5 of the 2015 World Series averaged 17.5 million viewers and Game 6 of the 2015 NBA Finals had 23.3 million viewers (the largest ever). This panel will include stakeholders from various parts of the eSports infrastructure. Dialogue will include a refl ection of the past few years of growth, what analytics/metrics are becoming most relevant, a discussion as to where eSports is headed, and much more.

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Basketball Analytics have continued to gain traction at all levels of the sport, both in the US and internationally. Analytics have been used to assemble optimal rosters and unorthodox lineups, leading to the rise of the undersized stretch four, non-traditional point guard, and 3-and-D specialist. With new technologies that track player movement and monitor fatigue, teams are collecting more data than ever to impact strategic decision-making and find an edge. This panel, featuring former players and coaches, as well as front-office staff, examines the impact of basketball analytics and how it is changing the game.

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They say good things come to those who wait. With more and more clubs starting to leverage analytics tools pioneered in other sports, this adage now applies to analytics in soccer. In this panel, members from all levels of the soccer world will delve into this topic to discuss what the future of analytics in soccer holds. In a low-scoring sport with traditionally few data-points to track, how can new technologies and the use of analytics provide greater visibility in team, manager, player, or even referee performance? With the English Premier League breaking transfer fee records year after year, and the other European leagues following suit, are clubs really gaining value from expensive transfers? Further, can new ways to view the game in real time actually bring about change to a sport notorious for resisting change?

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From track times to the multitude of counting statistics, data has always been a part of sports. Recently, leagues, teams, and private organizations have become increasingly sophisticated in the data that they are collecting and the applications of this data. They have also begun to collect data on a scale previously unimaginable, leading to the term “Big Data.” This panel will bring together organizations at the forefront of the collection and application of this data to talk about the uses and future of Big Data and sports.

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The modern stadium is a cathedral of sport: a marvel of architecture and technology that brings thousands of fans together for one moment to enjoy the glory of competition. As the world becomes ever more connected, new stadium technologies will allow fans on the inside to connect to each other and the greater world outside. This panel will discuss new technologies under development that will deepen fan engagement with the game on the field. Soon, the digital fan experience will become as important to teams and leagues as the physical fan experience. Technology will allow fans to watch and share instant replays on their personal devices, connect with the world through social media, and purchase food and merchandise — all from their game seats. Panelists will discuss their visions for the stadium of tomorrow, the challenge of designing a new stadium, and the cost and complexity of the backend systems that make it all happen. The pace of new construction continues unabated: over the last 10 years, there have been 15 new stadiums built in the four major American leagues, and in the next 5 years, there are 9 more planned. The infrastructure put in place now will affect the stadium experience for decades to come.

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Nate Silver has built a following in sports, politics, and business through his brilliant analysis of the data at the heart of every issue he studies. This one-on-one session between Nate Silver and Daryl Morey will discuss topics across an array of fields familiar to Nate and of interest to the audience, as the questions will all be crowdsourced from Facebook and the SSAC audience. Submit questions on the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference Facebook page in the comments section of the Nate Silver Post and make sure to come by at 10:15AM Saturday morning to hear Nate’s thoughts on these wide-ranging questions.

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Because sports fans no longer have to wait until the morning after to read the box score or the game story, and the emergence of social media has all but torn down the fourth wall, the content that occupies the sports page is continually under construction. Compounding this is the rise of new analytical tools that can provide new insights for journalists. Panelists will discuss how (and if) a traditional journalist can maintain integrity and some distance from just anyone with an internet connection and blog, and how the athletes have completely disrupted the process by taking the story-telling into their own hands. They will talk about how new technologies and analytical tools like VR headsets and Statcast are revolutionizing breaking news and storytelling. And they will debate the future of storytelling in an arena that once relied on personal relationships that now can be reduced to 140 impulsive characters or a grudgingly provided soundbite.

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Contract negotiations have been transformed by the use of analytics. Almost every aspect of a negotiation, except perhaps the final handshake, has changed with the availability of advanced metrics. With so many more data points available to contest, how can agents and teams possibly structure deals and come to an agreement that is mutually beneficial? In this panel, prominent representatives from both sides of the table will sit down and discuss how their approach to negotiations have evolved and what new challenges have emerged over the years.

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Football is the most recent sport to begin fully embracing analytics, with new wearable data-tracking devices, an increasing shift in on field strategy, and new methodologies for scouting/salary cap management. NFL and college football teams’ ability to interpret and execute on the data collected is increasingly important to maintain a competitive advantage. Within the NFL, teams are developing analytics departments, investing in technology to manage data, and changing decision-making on fourth down. While coaches compete to keep pace with rule changes, analytics are also altering long-held beliefs of player combinations, evaluation of performance in realtime, and the value of tracking performance during practice. As analytics catch a foothold, the rush to find and capture meaning is quickly evolving for the most lucrative US sport.

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There is nothing like a live sports game. From the beginning of professional sports, ticketing has been the heart of the business and one of the key areas of analytics innovation over the past decade. Join the ticketing and analytics experts who will share how inventory is managed and pricing is set, as well as the impact of technology and big data on the customer’s ticketing experience. Representing many view points from the industry, our panelists will discuss the impact of ticketing trends such as escalating ticket costs along with escalating fan expectations, the role of secondary markets influencing primary ticketing, the opportunities and challenges of mobile ticketing, and the evolution of season ticketing with fan loyalty.

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With the rapid growth of emerging technology and media innovation, sports entrepreneurship has taken off in recent years. In 2015, venture capital firms invested more than $1 billion on sports tech startups and that number is expected to continue to rise. This panel will focus on the challenges entrepreneurs face, what investors look for, and how to attain success starting a sports business. We will hear from founders and CEOs, investors, and leaders of startup accelerators.

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Even with the explosion in interest in analytics and statistics, the playoff system has more or less stayed the same. Every year, at the end of the regular season, all the win-loss records are wiped clean and a single playoff tournament determines the year’s champions. But why is this so? How can analytics help design the “best” playoff system? Are playoffs even the right way to choose a champion if the best team doesn’t always win? This panel will investigate the tension between large-sample win-loss records in the regular season and random outcomes in the playoffs, recent rule changes to playoff structures, and innovative playoff formats in non-traditional sports, where the American playoff system is different from the rest of the world. Panelists will discuss ideas for changing playoffs and the challenges in making playoff format changes in practice.

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Traditional television broadcasts of live sports remain the primary mode of consumption, however the migration of how and where sports are watched is well underway. MLB’s At Bat mobile app is the highest grossing sports app in history; ESPN3 is a digital network from the worldwide leader; and this past fall Yahoo live streamed an NFL game and made it available globally without authentication. Just recently, Verizon scored the rights to offer live out-of-market streaming of NBA games through its go90 mobile app. This panel will discuss how the new media platforms fit into the overall broadcast rights landscape, if there will be a place for “exclusive rights holders” in the future, and how the new distribution channels will impact revenue opportunities for sports leagues.

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Today’s sports fan experience begins with a love for a team or player which quickly extends to ticketing, merchandise, game experience, in-home viewing, and all forms of fan interaction across media mediums. Ticketing has evolved from inventory management to a technology-infused, pricing-driven, experience-focused integrated platform. Meanwhile, over the past five years the sports merchandise business has grown to $20 billion and corporate sponsorship spending jumped 21%. As fans want to “show their pride,” the business of sports apparel has evolved to player-specific, game-worn, and personalized merchandise experience, and athletes have cashed in on this market with ever more lucrative endorsement deals, headlined by the lifetime deal LeBron James recently signed with Nike. While there is a limit on who can attend games, there is no limit on who can own the merchandise. From sports teams to leagues to partners, all parties are altering their strategies to engage and capture today’s fan. Meet the masterminds who are leading the innovations at preeminent brands for engaging fans and who are redefining the fan experience.

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Analyzing athletes’ performance during games and workout sessions is essential to assess their fitness and skill levels. Sports science is evolving continuously to enable different stakeholders to understand the athlete’s needs and how to get the best performance possible out of them. This panel will discuss how to avoid in-game injuries by analyzing the athlete’s health and techniques, designing the proper workload, correcting techniques, and designing the proper apparel and equipment for each athlete.

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Advanced analytics provides sports media with an opportunity to provide fans with new insights and information. Turning all of this in- formation into compelling stories can be challenging however, as it often involves complex analysis that fans have never seen before.

Analytics can be the building blocks for engaging stories or can lead to dry lists of numbers that fans quickly tune out. This panel will discuss the challenges and opportunities for better storytelling with analytics, exploring all phases of the research and writing process. Panelists will discuss examples of good and bad storytelling with analytics in a variety of sports.

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Hear from the leaders and innovators behind-the-scenes who are shaping and shifting the future of sports. Teams, leagues, and their key media partners have long been the early adopters of analytics and have often had even more success implementing “game changing” decisions based on the data. Whether maximizing ticket revenue, redefining the venue experience, or building new businesses around the sports asset, the business of sports has reshaped the experience of sports.

As the rate of change continues to accelerate, leaders in sports have adapted to stay competitive. Experts from the business sectors will share their perspectives on the areas critical to driving revenue such as: fan engagement (converting customers to ambassadors/ customers); second screen content and the potential impact of cord cutting; athletes and social media; globalization; and the rise of non-mainstream sports competing for fans’ time.

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For the second consecutive year, Zebra Sports will host a one-hour keynote presentation on tracking technology. This panel consisting of senior level executives across the industry will provide interesting insights of how real-time sport tracking technology is, in-fact, the next generation in sports. Industry experts will discuss how various applications have not only impacted their respected businesses, but the influence sports tracking has had on sports, leagues, fans and teams alike.

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As new means of viewing sports and interacting with fans and players continue to proliferate, the traditional model of sports sponsorships is further threatened – no longer is it enough to bombard viewers with vast quantities of commercial airtime. Does sponsoring sporting events provide enough return on the sponsorship investment? What are the best ways to leverage marketing dollars in the current live sports landscape to engage in a meaningful way with the target audience? In this panel, representatives from teams, leagues, agencies, and brands will discuss how analytics can help to measure the effectiveness of a sponsorship in order to create more valuable partnerships in the future partnerships in the future.

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In the NBA, a league uniquely reliant on its superstar athletes, the recipe for success isn’t as straightforward as one might imagine. Having a superstar talent like LeBron, Kobe, or CP3 in your lineup offers the amazing luxury of a trustworthy, go-to player throughout the season. However, it also offers the coach the challenging mission of integrating those supernatural skills – and mix of personalities – into a cohesive team. This panel offers an unprecedented look into the unique challenges and opportunities associated with developing winning teams around hall-of-fame worthy athletes, as told by some of the NBA’s premier coaches: Mike Brown, Vinny Del Negro, and Scott Brooks.

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Today, consumers have information and technology at their fingertips and the sports industry is redefining how to find, reach, and connect with fans. Backed with Big Data and marketing acumen, the content creators are partnering with leading digital companies like Google and Facebook to drive ticket sales, engage the fan base, and grow other parts of the business. Our panel of experts will discuss the opportunities and challenges associated with driving customer engagement, managing customer data, and creating new ways to connect with fans via digital media. Other topics will explore the future focus on monetizing social media to creating attribution modeling to the value of marketing analytics

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Across all sports, the ability to capture and understand data has transformed the way front offices think about player evaluation and team building. Scouting, coaching, and player development, which were once emphasized as the singular answers to why good teams win and bad teams lose, have been complemented with rigorous data analyses to arrive at better individual player and team outcomes.

Teams are investing in wearable technology as they seek a better understanding of how to optimize athletic performance and prevent injury. The individual sports leagues are adopting advanced cameras and player tracking to provide insights to teams as well as fans. The level of available data has never been higher and is only expected to increase going forward.

From the perspective of current general managers and heads of player personnel, Future of the Front Office will address how organizations are currently harnessing the information at hand while also delving into what’s next.

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The rise of data hasn’t only changed the way that players are evaluated; it has also changed their approach to the game. The midrange jumper patented by the NBA’s greatest player is now considered to be one of the least efficient shots a player can take, and consequently data has prompted teams to shoot more three-pointers or drive to the hoop.

This panel, Analytics in Action, will address how individual players have altered their training, game preparation, and in-game strategy based on the information revealed to them through analytics and also will seek to explain how data and technology have helped them to optimize performance.

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From friendly wagers between the mayors of the Super Bowl teams’ home towns to rotisserie leagues to dedicated professionals, gambling and fantasy games are inextricably linked to sports across the globe. This panel will look at the cross-section of sports gambling and gaming, including the current explosion and controversy surrounding daily fantasy sports.

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Bill James and Billy Beane inarguably pioneered the practical use of data in sports. A decade after the start of SSAC, we bring together the founder of Sabermetrics, the original quantitative GM, and the writer who introduced analysis in baseball to the masses to discuss how things have changed – and how they’ve stayed the same.

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Liam McHugh sits down with the longest tenured commissioner of the four major sports, Gary Bettman, to discuss the state of the NHL. Under Commissioner Bettman’s tenure, the league has experienced unprecedented growth, from expansion teams to innovative partnerships with Major League Baseball Advanced Media. Furthermore, Commissioner Bettman has overseen significant rule changes in order to increase the speed of the game and make it safer for players. Commissioner for over twenty years, Gary Bettman shares his perspective on the NHL under his stewardship and his vision for the league’s future.

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