What a day it was as we kicked of #SSAC18! Co-Founders Jessica Gelman and Daryl Morey along with Co-Leads Greg Kim and Sean Singer began the conference by welcoming all attendees, sponsors, and organizers. They reminded us of the importance of the effective communication of data, referencing the SSAC18 theme of #TalkDataToMe.

The morning started off strong with the Serial Entrepreneurs panel, which featured renowned entrepreneurs Ted Leonsis and Michael Rubin. With Leonsis’ experience owning several sports franchise and Rubin having founded a sports merchandise company, both were able to provide a unique perspective on trends in the sports business world. They highlighted the increased role of analytics in sports business and discussed important shifts in the industry, including the increasing focus on esports. This lively panel set the stage for a fantastic weekend at SSAC ’18.

The momentum continued with the How Legal Gambling Changes Sports: Contemplating a post-Christie v. NCAA world panel, we saw gambling and legal experts discuss the implications of a potential Supreme Court overturn of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). The panel agreed that the ramifications for fans and leagues would be massive. They also took some time to discuss the ever-changing landscape of the sports betting industry.

Top Shelf with Gary Bettman and Jeff Vinik riveted us as two NHL power players discussed the NHL’s recent revival and how the league can build upon its success. Jeff Vinik, who is regarded as a hands off owner, credited his leadership on both the business and hockey side for the organizations revival and success since his purchase of the franchise.

We kicked off the afternoon with one of our most anticipated discussions, a Conversation with Barack Obama. Conference co-founders Jessica Gelman and Daryl Morey led the discussion.

With the challenge of having a difficult act to follow, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred took center stage to discuss the issues facing professional baseball. He delved into hot topics like pace of play, the role of technology in the game, and how the league plans to reach a new generation of fans.

The day ended on an equally high note as Maverick Carter, Jason Robins, Alex Rodriguez, Nate Silver, and Michele Steele shared their experiences in launching sports businesses, noting their successes and setbacks along the way.

The Competitive Advantage talks featured topics ranging from golf analytics to the 76ers’ approach to season ticket holder retention. CJ Anderson of the Denver Broncos delivered an inspiring talk on the mission of his Dreams Never Die Foundation, and his quest to bring resources and opportunities to kids who need it the most. Other talks reconsidered suite and premium seating strategy and discussed new approaches to fan engagement.

LIVE FROM SSAC: A first ever at SSAC, the Listen Live Podcast Center presented by Bose was a hit! The afternoon saw broadcasts from the likes of Cynthia Frelund, David Griffin, and Zach Lowe.

INTERACTIVE EVENTS: Another first for the conference – the Daily Fantasy Challenge presented by DraftKings drew some of the best and brightest ideas from its finalists. Both tracks of the Startup Competition presented their entrepreneurial ideas, while the Research Papers finalists continued to dazzle the audience with their research & findings – stay tuned as both wrap up tomorrow!

FOLLOW ALONG: Don’t forget to keep tagging your tweets – #SSAC18 & #TalkDataToMe. And follow us @SloanSportsConf on Twitter and Instagram! For those who can’t make it to the conference, we will be live streaming select panels from the Bill James Room today on Twitter and on our YouTube channel.

WE’RE ON TO SATURDAY: Tomorrow’s highlights include Just the Facts in which LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer will discuss with Nate Silver how data and technology are driving sports and media. The panels will conclude with what promises to be a classic: Trust the Process? Team Building and Rebuilding, where NBA titans Sam Hinkie, David Griffin, Lawrence Frank, Chris Bosh, and Steve Pagliuca will discuss team building and the delicate chemistry that underlies winning cultures. Another exciting series of Competitive Advantage talks surely won’t disappoint! We’ll be showcasing multiple esports events, and will be presenting the finalists across multiple competitions, including the Hackathon and the First Pitch Case Competition. We’ll end #SSAC18 with closing remarks from our leaders, Jessica Gelman and Daryl Morey, as they finish the day with the annual Alpha Awards.