Take Advantage of STATS for Copa América Centenario

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The Copa América Centenario is set to be the biggest international men’s football tournament hosted in the United States since the 1994 World Cup, and interest in soccer in the country has grown significantly over the last 22 years. The 2014 World Cup Final set US television records, exceeding expectations as 26.5 million people tuned in to watch Germany defeat Argentina in extra time.

The interest in the World Cup Final was despite the game not featuring the US Men’s National Team, whose early progress had excited the nation. Their group stage victory against Ghana attracted the biggest US television audience for a non-World Cup Final football match up to that point, with 16 million people tuning in. Their draw with Portugal smashed the same record, with an average of 24.7m viewers. The US Women’s National Team followed up that progress last summer as a record 26.7 million viewers tuned in to watch the USWNT’s 5-2 victory in the 2015 World Cup Final against Japan.

The 2015 Copa América saw 14 million people tune into the group stages on beIN Sports in the United States, with 1.5 million watching the final. The presence of the USMNT is expected to hugely increase interest in this year’s tournament, to the point that Kathy Carter, President of Soccer United Marketing, Major League Soccer’s commercial arm, predicts strong interest in the tournament: “This event is going to be so big that we believe that it will equal or exceed domestic television ratings for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and we all know how much that event grabbed hold of the country.”

The tournament also has a strong presence on social media, as players like Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez and James Rodriguez are among the world’s most followed athletes. The Copa América was the top sporting event on Twitter in 2015, with 14 billion impressions over the three week tournament – 5 billion more than March Madness in second and the Women’s World Cup in third. The tournament was also a hit on Facebook, as 59 million users generated around 309 million posts, comments and likes during the tournament.

The appetite for information from the general sports fan continues grow, with fans searching for the latest news and data to keep up-to-date with the teams they follow and inform fantasy line-ups. STATS can power the content you need, with solutions available in a variety of easy-to-use formats from statistics and data feeds to customisable graphics. STATS’ data feeds save you time and eliminate technical integration headaches, whether you are looking for statistics, scores, standings, previews or reports for the Copa América.

Furthermore, STATS’ Hosted Solutions seamlessly integrates all of the action from the Copa América Centenario into an easy-to-deploy turnkey solution, providing your visitors with the content they desire without worrying about securing your own development resources. Customized to match the look and feel of your site within 24 hours, STATS’ flexible widgets allow for a streamlined integration with your content. As 87% of consumers use more than one device at a time, second screen options include STATS’ MatchCast and Trackers, providing your soccer audience with the most complete digital experience. Engage your audience with STATS’ advanced statistics and compelling data visualizations and a variety of interactive fantasy contests.

The Copa América Centenario will be broadcasted in 185 countries across the globe as the worldwide interest in soccer will peak like never before in a non-World Cup year, with Euro 2016 also commencing during the tournament.

Click here to find out more about the solutions STATS is offering to pro teams, broadcasters and digital media companies during the Copa América Centenario.

Wrist Assessment: Exploring the potential of wearable technology for sports fans

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From fitness bands to smartwatches, the increasing popularity of wearable devices has been one of the major technology trends of recent years. The development of products such as the Apple Watch has put wearables at the forefront of consumer technology, but what does the future of the industry look like, and how can sports organizations best equip themselves to take advantage of its growth?

Rapid Growth

The wearable technology market is growing at a phenomenal rate. Currently worth $15 billion, the market is expected to exceed $31 billion by 2020. In 2015, 84 million wearable devices were ordered worldwide, with CCS Insight projecting that 245 million will be shipped in 2019 as technology improves and prices fall.

The potential of the wearables market is huge. According to research conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), 20% of American adults already own a wearable device. As 53% of millennials say that they are excited by the future of wearable technology, PwC believes that businesses must evolve their current mobile-first strategies to embrace wearables and deliver cross-platform content. With continued growth in the market, consumer brands that enable engagement via mobile and wearable devices will be the most likely to thrive.

Fan Engagement

Enabling users to receive calls, text messages and calendar alerts as well as collecting fitness tracking data, smartwatches are set to become the dominant form of wearable technology. Fitness bands currently outsell smartwatches, but that is not a trend that is expected to last. In fact, CCS Insight estimates that more than half of all wearables sold in 2018 will be smartwatches as their enhanced functionality eclipses that of single-function activity trackers.

Such is the growing popularity of smartwatches that they may pose a threat to the dominance of smartphones in the coming years. The ratio of smartphone to smartwatch shipments worldwide is currently 500 to 1, but research by IHS Technology claims that it will drop to around 20 to 1 over the next five years. Enhancing the smartphone experience and rapidly developing new functionality, the future of smartwatches looks bright.

As tech giants such as Apple and Google leverage their brands to drive the development of wearables, the delivery of customized content to users’ wrists is becoming a reality. Given that 69% of American smartwatch owners are aged 18-34, there are significant opportunities for sports teams to engage with digitally native fans via wearable technology.

Wearables are ideal for receiving live, bite-sized content that can be digested at a glance, information that sports teams and media organizations have in abundance. From live scores to team lineups and injury alerts, wearables are an excellent platform for keeping fans informed on the go.

Athlete Monitoring

Professional athletes are some of the most frequently monitored individuals on the planet. From speed and distance to heart rate and sleeping patterns, athletes are analyzed around the clock by coaches intent on evaluating performance and recovery. This type of in-depth health monitoring has traditionally been the preserve of elite sports, but technological developments are making it available to the masses.

The growth of wearable technology has given rise to online communities that facilitate the analysis and comparison of activities. Websites such as Strava allow users to upload their data and compare themselves to professional athletes. Presenting activity tracking through a social media-style interface, these communities engage users with the data generated by their wearables as well as connecting them with their favourite athletes.

Strava has over one million active users and is a good indicator of the popularity of personal health tracking. In the future there is the possibility that sports teams could use similar platforms to share selected player performance information and give fans the opportunity compare their own daily activity with that of high-profile players from leagues such as the NBA, NFL or English Premier League.

Increasing the reach of teams and brands through this tech can help organizations better interact with fans and exploit the burgeoning potential of wearable devices. It remains to be seen exactly how the delivery of content to wearables will develop, but these devices are here to stay and look set to provide an exciting new avenue for original and informative sports content.

Graphical Insights for Football Content

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In the world of big data, there is no better way to communicate insights than using data visualisations. In The Functional Art, Alberto Cairo explains that humans are visual species, and that ‘to see and to understand are intertwined processes’, as visualisations can more effectively allow the reader to digest information. Graphics can allow users to deliver insights in a much easier fashion than describing through text, and can also have a greater impact.

There is so much that can be done with football event data using graphical insights to add colour and contextualising the data. Data visualisations can supplement and enrich football content, as informative graphics can add context to the article. The aim is to be both eye-catching and insightful, as one without the other would limit the effectiveness of the image. Graphics can also bring data to a wider audience, making it more compelling than tables or paragraphs full of statistics, engaging a section of the audience that was previously dismissive of data.

People who are dismissive of data tend to claim that statistics mean nothing in football, all they need to trust is their eyes; however, an effective visualisation can present data that also does this. Take Real Madrid’s 8-0 victory against Malmo in their final Champions League group stage game in December – as the graphic tells the story.

Real Madrid

One-sided” and “dominant” are just two of many words to describe this game, and it comes across in the data. Even ignoring Real’s attack, the graphic still shows how little Malmo offered going forward, only attempting one shot inside the area.

Yet when Everton lost 1-0 against West Bromwich Albion in February, the Toffees attempted 34 shots but failed to score with any of them. That in itself is unlucky, as Everton were certainly the side taking the game to their opponents, yet the shot chart graphic highlights their biggest issue at both ends of the field – West Brom scored from close range while Everton hit the target with just five shots, and just one of them was located in the central area of the penalty area.

Everton 34 Shots

While some people may only care about the final score, graphics can show whether that agrees or disagrees with the narrative of the game itself. In one image, the state of play can be shown, whether it is attempts on goal such as in the above, the effectiveness of a single player or the performance of a team overall.

The heat map is a much maligned graphic in football at this point, but that’s mainly due to its improper use, often being presented without comment and frequently used to highlight a lack of input from a player rather than how much he featured. However, there really are many legitimate uses for heat maps, such as when presenting tactical insights on a game. In Manchester City’s 2-1 defeat at Arsenal in December, City were mainly limited to touches in wide areas when reaching the final third as they found it tough to break through the defensive shell of the Gunners.

Man City Heat Map

This is just one use and it is based on touches, yet heat maps can be used for various data, such as where passes are received by players in a game – and visualising where players typically received the ball can provide insights into their performance as a whole.

Showing how dominant one team has been over another can also provide interesting visualisations. In Arsenal’s 3-0 victory against Manchester United earlier this season, the game was as good as over in the first 20 minutes of the contest as Arsene Wenger’s side dominated, completing 120 passes to United’s 48 and attempting the only shots of the game. The graphic highlights Arsenal’s advantage over this part of the game, which proved to be decisive.

Arsenal v Man Utd

Yet Arsenal were on the receiving end of one of the most possession-dominated periods of play over the course of this season. In their Champions League round of 16 match against Barcelona at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal successfully completed just nine passes over the last 15 minutes of the first half – over 100 fewer than Barça.

Arsenal vs Barcelona

Data has so many potential uses, but visualisations can be one of its most powerful. Graphics are typically much more easily digestible by the user, with content becoming more engaging due to the visual aids in the article. For football, visualising event data can provide insights to supplement the content, with a wide range of potential uses and images, and the aim should be to aid the analysis with interesting graphics. As data journalism grows in the digital age, the effective use of graphics will only augment the content – and potentially reach a wider audience.

Make sense of the madness

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March Madness® is one of the highlights of the sporting year. A breathless blur of high-octane basketball, the NCAA tournament captures the attention of the nation as the NBA stars of the future take to the hardwood.

STATS is committed to supporting client brand activations and a range of other data-driven solutions during the tournament. Delivering 131 unique products for NCAA basketball, STATS is engaging fans with the magic of March Madness®.

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Engaging Users through Rich Sports Content

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The fanaticism of sports fans has allowed the industry to embrace the information age as the digital revolution allows fans to get closer to their teams than ever before. The general sports fan now has options on how they follow their team and where they get their information, with a wealth of choices available to them. Rich sports content, whether it’s written, graphical or video, is the best form of reengagement, and data can play a big role.

The resources available to fans continue to both increase and improve, driven by the rise of the smartphone. Eighty three percent of all internet usage is via mobile devices, while 87 percent of people used more than one device at a time in 2015 as the second screen grows in its importance. Fans have numerous choices when surfing the net too; there are many news websites, all with slightly different takes on the same subject. A match report would generally cover the same key discussion points on numerous sites, as would the reporting of a trade or injury – there is certainly a place for this content. However, it should be supplemented with more engaging articles. Social media creates further issues for digital platforms, as news tends to be broken on Twitter before the story is completed online, with journalists racing for the scoop.

While ‘clickbait’ content may attract some consumers, it can lead to a high bounce rate and limited reengagement. Clickbait headlines could also just as easily turn off other users, as revealed by Outbrain and HubSpot research suggesting that headlines containing words that promise quick-fix solutions, are pushy and stress urgency are responsible, with other words likely to decrease click through rates.

The best form of reengagement is with quality content, whether it’s written, graphical or video, and using data can offer this, from providing insights to backing up opinions. Engagement is in the detail, and statistics alongside strong analysis can still offer an edge over the competition. Many fans also follow their favorite websites on social media, allowing for further reengagement – and stronger content is more likely to be shared by others.

Fans are hungry for information and many want to get something from content that they didn’t know before, from contextualizing performances to adding insights. The range isn’t limited to fans searching for details on their favorite teams either, as fantasy sports players look beyond the team that they support. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association revealed that 60 percent of players read more about sports because of fantasy, and fantasy can engage fans like no other content.

Social media engagement is also important to attract one of the key demographics in the industry. Millennials are not just the largest group of consumers in the United States, they’re also the first truly digital generation. An Accenture study revealed that there are roughly 80 million Millennials in the US alone, spending approximately $600 billion each year – with estimates that spending will increase to $1.4 trillion annually and represent 30 percent of total retail sales by 2020. Accenture also revealed that Millennials can be exceptionally loyal consumers, provided they feel like they have been treated right. Millennials have also produced growth in non-traditional sports as well as e-sports, turning formerly niche interests into major competitors in the sporting industry.

Sports fans can be as loyal to websites that they follow as they are with their teams, but can be easier to lose users than gain them. There are various modes of initial attraction for sports fans, but quality content is required for continued engagement, and it can lead to users marketing the content themselves.

Euro 2016 & Copa America on the Second Screen

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As technology develops, fans are finding different ways of engaging with their favourite sports and teams on a daily basis. During a season, changes may be seen as gradual by fans, just something new in a series of developments. However, for major international competitions that happen once every four years, the landscape is likely to have made huge advancements between tournaments.

With Euro 2016 and the Copa America Centenario being played at the same time this summer, a huge percentage of the typical World Cup audience will be captivated as fans are treated to a festival of football. The Copa America kicks off a week prior to Euro 2016, as fans will be able to switch from the end of a day’s worth of action in France to the commencement of action in the United States during the European Championship group stages, with the Copa America final taking place during the round of 16 of Euro 2016.

An IAB UK/ESPN study found that 54% of UK sports fans used another digital device whilst watching Euro 2012, as fans were using second screens heavily for sports as 68 percent of people used the extra device on Euro 2012-related activity. Of this group, 39 percent visited social networking sites in relation to the matches, 17 percent visited related websites (such as viewing tournament scores and statistics), 16 percent placed bets and 11 percent used related apps.

Since then, the use of the second screen has increased. Reportedly, 87 percent of people used more than one device at a time in 2015, with the smartphone accounting for 57 percent. It has led to competition between social media platforms to engage users. Facebook launched its Sports Stadium feature ahead of this year’s Super Bowl, Twitter regularly introduces its ‘Hashflags’ for major sporting events, and Snapchat has its Live Stories, with its dynamic Geofilters allowing Snapchatters to add real-time score updates to their photo and video Snaps to better express the excitement of the game, which are now powered by STATS.

Competition among social media platforms should come at little surprise given its boom. During the 2012 European Championships, at its peak there were seven tweets per second using #EURO2012, and more than 15,000 tweets per second were recorded by Twitter when Spain scored its fourth goal in the final, which set a then-new record for a sporting event. Entering that competition, Twitter had around 151 million monthly active users but the end of 2015 that number more than doubled to 305 million, as Facebook has also seen considerable growth over this period, allowing brands to reach customers like never before, with football content likely to be at the forefront of discussion on both platforms this summer.

Social media isn’t the only area of advancement, as fans are hungrier for information than ever before. ESPN scored big during Euro 2012 with their website offerings as page views averaged 3.5 million per day, an increase of 35% from four years before, and TSN’s Euro 2012 web-page attracted more than 10 million page views throughout the tournament. Furthermore, during the 2014 World Cup, 24 million unique users watched more than 15 million hours of content through FIFA’s multimedia solutions alone.

The importance of the second screen will only increase with advancements of technology. The use of smartphones and tablets has only increased over the last four years since Euro 2012, as more users have more options available to them when using their device – companies have improved their own platforms while others, such as those offering daily fantasy sports, have broken into the market. Euro 2016 and the Copa America Centenario are both therefore likely to see more users accessing second screen devices than the previous incarnations of each tournament, as second screen may devices also become the primary mode of engagement for many people this summer as online streaming increases.

Click here for more information on how STATS’ second screen applications provide your football audience with the most complete digital experience.

STATS and AI at SXsports®: The Automated Future of Sports Analysis

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The robot sports analyst has arrived. Powered by data from historical records, game logs, play-by-play streams and tracking technologies, machines are increasingly capable of analyzing sports information and producing valuable performance insights.

In the media there are algorithms designed to write real and fantasy sports stories that sound completely natural. Soon, sports data will collide with algorithmic advances to expand the reach of automated analysis. With teams and media companies having access to highly specialized insights and unique content, the automation of analysis has the power to transform the sports industry.

Human-or-Robot

So what does the future look like? The opportunities in professional sports are endless. Automation will reduce the workload of analysts and give them the time to ensure that the most important insights are factored in to the coaching process. Officiating will also be transformed, with referees receiving instant information to assist decisions without disrupting the game. Automated analysis could also support interactive in-game decision making for players. It may seem a strange concept now, but one day the sight of a quarterback selecting plays from information beamed to an interactive visor could be the norm.

In the media, automated content enables journalists to spend more time investigating and less time writing. In a broader context, these innovations will give media companies the ability to produce a higher volume of content, improving brand visibility, SEO and audience engagement. Businesses involved in industries such as fantasy sports will be able to use automation to better inform users and speed up the delivery of key match information.

On Saturday, March 12, Darryl Lewis, Chief Technology Officer of STATS, and Joe Procopio, Chief Product Officer of Automated Insights, will be at South by Southwest® in Austin, Texas to host an in-depth discussion on the future of sports analysis.

A part of the SXSW® SXsports convergence track, the session will assess the development of automated analysis before offering insights into the likely development of the industry over the next 5-10 years.

Congratulations if you correctly guessed that the automated content was Exhibit A. As for me, I’m off to get reprogrammed…

STATS CEO Ken Fuchs to speak at SportsPro Live

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STATS CEO Ken Fuchs will be speaking at SportsPro Live in London on Wednesday 23rd March.

Hosted at Wembley Stadium on 22nd and 23rd March, SportsPro Live showcases the concepts and technologies that are driving innovation in the sports and media industries. Focusing on the areas of governance, media rights, digital and data, SportsPro Live brings together leading industry figures for discussion, knowledge sharing and networking opportunities.

Speaking on the subject of data in sports, Ken will feature on a panel session entitled Dredging the Data for Gold: How Much Data is too Much Data? Analysing how teams, digital media companies and broadcasters can best use performance information to their advantage, the session will highlight ways organisations can mine sports data to quickly and efficiently access the most valuable insights.

Ken joined STATS in 2015 from Yahoo! Sports and has an extensive background in sports technology, with particularly deep domain experience in fantasy sports and analytics. He will be joined on the panel by Chris Lencheski (Vice Chairman and CEO, IRG Sports + Entertainment) and Blake Wooster (CEO, 21st Club), with the session being moderated by Jon Ford (Consultant, Seven League).

Ken will be accompanied at the event by Darryl Lewis (STATS CTO), Ryan Paterson (Managing Director, EMEA, APAC) and Roy Clements (Managing Director, UK). Click here to arrange a meeting with STATS representatives at SportsPro Live.

STATS 24/7 Olympic Coverage

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The Olympic Games represents the pinnacle of sporting achievement and endeavor. A festival of sport and the stage of legends, the Olympics captures the world’s imagination like no other event.

With just five months to go until the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, STATS is preparing to cover the games in more detail than ever before. Powering your Olympic content with unique performance information, STATS engages your audience with every moment of the action as athletes go faster, higher and stronger in Brazil this summer.
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