Sports Content Leads to Increased Website Traffic

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The best time for digital media companies to capitalize on sports content unsurprisingly coincides with popular athletic events, and spikes in traffic grow more valuable each year as digital advertising grabs dollars from the traditional media working to air coverage of those competitions.

STATS Hosted clients are among the beneficiaries of this effect on two-fold levels.

Consider March Madness. The days of calling in sick on the first Thursday of the tournament might be a thing of the past as digital and mobile connectivity send consumers real-time scores and highlights from their office chairs. Analytics comparing the day preceding the tournament to the tournament’s first Thursday show collective pageview growth of 91.7 percent for STATS Hosted clients.

It only got better as people traded the swivel chair for the couch. Data comparing the day preceding the tournament and the tournament’s first Sunday show an increase of 103.5 percent for the same client pool.

Spikes for one North America-based client saw shifts comparing Wednesday to Sunday from 59,529 to 282,264 views of Hosted content – or 374.2 percent.

The frenzy wasn’t limited to sites of that size that depend on a national or continental audience. An East Coast regional broadcaster saw traffic growth of 156 percent on the same dates.

Another spike came soon after as the madness quieted and the national pastime uncovered its infields. The end of this year’s tournament coincided with MLB’s first full slate of games on April 3. Hosted clients saw an increase of 89.1 percent from March 27 – the week before MLB’s Opening Day when clubs were still packing for the spring training exodus.

As for how this translates to earnings, the dollar values associated with such content are only increasing with projected digital ad spending becoming a more substantial prize in coming years.

In the second half of 2016, eMarketer reported U.S. digital ad spending would surpass television spending for the first time. Digital ads grabbed 36.7 percent of market, and there’s no going back. Digital spending reached $72 billion in 2016, and projections over the next four years indicate that reaching $83 billion in 2017 and $129.2 by 2021 – or roughly half of all U.S. advertising spending.

That means another substantial medium is losing out. Television’s overall share is projected to decline from 35.2 percent to 30.8 in that four-year period. It won’t be long before mobile ad spending makes television settle for bronze, which gives content providers additional opportunity.

The customizable nature of personal devices is at the forefront of future optimization steps from content providers. eMarketer projects mobile will overtake TV by 2019, but mobile as a subset is already accounting for 70 percent of all digital spending. With evolving tools such as real-time widgets and personalized sports content leading the way to easily adaptable digital products – both for media outlets and their consumers – the ways in which to engage and provide consistently relevant content on key competition days should only grow along with the shifting market share.

Sports and The Second Screen

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According to eMarketer, in 2014, only 51 percent of respondents used their smartphone at the same time as watching TV. By 2017, that number rose to 74 percent, and if tablets are included in the tally, more than 88 percent of US adults will use a mobile device while watching TV at least once a month this year.

As the trend of second screen multitasking has accelerated, media and advertisers alike have taken notice of the opportunity. Like any consumption shift, research has raised questions around whether the second screen could actually distract from engagement on each device.

On the contrary, research released in November 2016 from Ericsson showed a 25 percent increase in multichannel engagement since 2014, including a specific rise in online discussion and mobile surfing relating to the content being watched. Content format also contributes to engagement levels – live television may inspire more content multitasking than streamed content or time-shifted TV, according to a separate study from TiVo in 2015.

Sporting events represent the apex of unrehearsed, live television, and academic research arising from University of Texas supports the hypothesis that second screen use particularly enhances engagement for sports programming. The study confirmed prior research on the general influence of engagement across technology mediums, with fresh evidence of added engagement rather than distraction when it comes to sports. The low degree of overlap between capabilities of the second screen and the first screen (TV) means the two media’s diverse functions complement each other and coexist during the viewing experience – not compete for attention.

The rise of second screens does not pose a threat to first screen media – in fact, it’s an opportunity to pioneer complementary content and campaigns.”

The second screen phenomenon is probably not sport specific, either – the University of Texas study could not find a significant relationship between the type of sport watched and the level of second screen activities. Instead, user experience was a bigger factor in multi-channel engagement. If new devices and applications are difficult to use or don’t synchronize properly with the live event, content providers will not be able to maintain and grow their audiences.

At STATS, we’re already helping media, teams and leagues achieve amazing user experiences, whether in traditional media, through search engines, with voice-activated assistants or via social networks like what we’re doing with Snapchat LiveScore geofilters. But we’re also looking ahead to the next era of personalization. We are gearing up with deep learning and data science to prepare for the next frontier of fan engagement, whether that means creating interaction between personal devices and stadium signage, customized in-game advertising or delivering next-generation statistics to fans on their second – and soon, maybe even third and fourth – screens .

 

Sports Data: Why It Can Fall Flat and Why It Doesn’t Have To

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Sport has never been more competitive. Today, every athlete, coach and team are tapping into data analysis to achieve the slightest winning edge over their rivals. There’s huge appetite for this, but is the analysis as effective as possible?

The context here is that the volume of data available to teams is expanding exponentially. If you take football as an example, as the amount of data increases, it’s becomes harder to analyse these millions of data points into something that be quickly absorbed, tailored and shared to enhance teams’ performances and win more games. So instead, many teams only receive flat, statistical reporting, devoid of tactical context.

This ‘flat’ statistical reporting and data is limiting for two reasons:

Firstly, because data analysts are under increasing time pressures to produce new tactics and strategies. With only two or three days before the next game, implementing different playing styles on a team can be challenging. This means that analysts, more often than not, dive deeper into flat reporting and video footage.

Where’s the time for analysis? Likewise, sports scientists feel they have to spend much of their time in raw data and this leaves less time for analysis and guidance.

Secondly, there is no guidance for those attempting to interpret the figures. Simply, the tools that provide the data outputs don’t’ provide interactive analysis that enables analysts, coaches and managers to better understand the opposition’s playing style and the impact of their own team’s style. This would enable better decision-making around the likes of team selection, tactics and training regimes.

However, data can be segmented based on tactical situations and provide an understanding of how a team’s style will affect the opposition’s physical requirements. This can be done using a method called principle component analysis.

Principle component analysis, in the case of football, takes eight on-pitch incidents such as a dribble forward and reduces it to ‘playing styles’ for each team. These insights then allow analysts to classify teams into specific playing styles, for example the high press, counter attack or sustained threats. Narrowing down the analysis into playing styles helps save time and provides contextualised actionable data. Simplifying data and adding context can help data scientists and coaches understand how an opposition’s playing styles will affect their player’s requirements. This then allows sport scientists, coaches and players to create evidence-based tactical training sessions and capture the tactical workload for each position.

Does the fact that Manchester United or Chelsea have taken the highest number of shots this season really give valuable insight to an opposing coach to develop a strategy to stop that team shooting? The answer is no. Instead insights in today’s competitive climate must take all factors into consideration to provide a clear and accurate picture of what happened and most importantly why it happened.

On average, during a game, a footballer spends 97% of their time without the ball. That’s why it’s so important to know, not just what event is happening with the ball. It is critical to know what is happening all over the pitch. Achieving the winning edge can only be done when the numbers provide context. With context in place and algorithms that address data points on multiple levels across an entire game, scientists, coaches and players will have a more accurate predictor of what it takes to win and perform at the highest level.

AI and the Growing Use of Technology in Sport

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The use of data in professional sport has grown significantly in recent years. In football, the volume of data available to teams is expanding exponentially. It is increasingly difficult to capture all of the relevant data points available and distill the complex information contained in those millions of data points per game into a series of simple representations. These representations then have to be quickly absorbed, tailored and shared to enhance teams’ performances and win more games.

The adage that big data provides big insights has never been more important, while also being increasingly more difficult to achieve. Sports analysts rely on data to do their jobs, collating and clipping information from training sessions and competitive matches, which helps manage squads, deal with injuries and help coaches make the decisions that matter.

Sports data intelligence is an exploding industry due to the sheer value behind the data. Player monitoring and tracking technologies have been in place for some time, but without timely and relevant context the numbers simply do not add up. Finding the context behind each situation is crucial for data analysts to get immediate answers they can rely upon to make informed decisions.

The power of machine learning and artificial intelligence is being harnessed by blue-chip businesses looking to amplify human potential. The same is happening in professional sport. Behind the scenes new technologies are maximising the value of data – so important in a complex football match with thousands of events per game translating into millions of data points. Machine learning is helping players and their sports science teams come up with objective measures and spot scenarios impossible to the human eye.

Artificial Intelligence can simulate such a quantity of events that it allows a data scientist to translate the insights, and make recommendations as to what will happen on the pitch. This arms coaches to make informed decisions on individual players and is vital in preparing for a game. The added insight can influence which players are selected in team sports and be helpful with a tight turnaround between games such as is the case with football. Beyond individual training schedules that should be organised, it can aid in determining tactics based on the opposition’s playing style.

When imagining a sports scientist or analyst, you often envisage a room full of screens, spending time analyzing footage (akin to Billy Beane’s assistant in Moneyball). Machine learning is improving this time-intensive role to enable faster and better-decision making. So using actionable insight, as opposed to a series of numbers that have no relevant context, helps those in this role get quicker, deeper analysis and add even greater value to the coaching staff.

The technology is only getting better. Artificial Intelligence is quickly being implemented in our everyday lives with digital assistants on our phones and in our homes. And it’s here to stay. By applying technology to sport where marginal gains are vital, we’re seeing effective analysis allowing football clubs and players get ahead.

Sport creates some of the greatest human achievements and holds such an inspiring emotional connection for fans around the world. It’s fascinating to see the relationship between artificial intelligence and team performance. In celebrating the peak of human or team performance and emotion, it’s machines that provide data for insights to be drawn. As machine learning algorithms evolve and become further sophisticated, they hold great potential to unlock performance on the sports field.

The Five Most Tweeted Stats in American Sports

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When it comes to storytelling, there are few areas with more depth and richness than sport. Perhaps this is how sports statistics arose in the first place – fans have always wanted more ways to memorialize the experience of the game.  Well before technology began to redefine sports, fans have even been willing collect the stats for themselves.  Just talk to any old-timer at a baseball game, detailing each moment with his most trusted tools: a pencil and scorecard.

Today, not every fan may want to manually score the game, but there’s no doubt they want to fully experience it by interacting with fellow fans as something special is happening on the field. This is an excellent opportunity for brands of all types to connect with their customers’ deepest passions and in-the-moment state of mind. STATS conducted research into the sports moments that generate the most mentions on Twitter to give you a sense of the most engaging statistics in sports.

  1. The Grand Slam (2,229,043 mentions)

Perhaps the most exciting play in baseball, a grand slam changes the game entirely and creates buzz in the stadium and social networks alike.  For fans, a grand slam represents a batter picking up his team and likely securing a win. Since 2000, teams that hit a grand slam have an .871 winning percentage. So far in 2017, teams are 25-7 (.781) when hitting a grand slam. The batter gets the glory or the slam, but the bases can’t be loaded if teammates didn’t do their jobs first.

  1. The Triple Double (2,371,567 mentions)

Thanks to Russell Westbrook’s NBA-record 42 triple-doubles this season – joining Oscar Robertson as the only players in league history to average a triple-double – this term has risen in popularity on Twitter in 2017.  For fans, the triple-double represents a superhero level of performance. In games that Westbrook recorded a triple-double, the Thunder went 33-9 (.786). They were 14-26 (.350) in all other games.

  1. The Three Pointer (2,630,985 mentions)

A buzzer beating three-point attempt might be one of the most exciting moments in sports. This stat has grown in popularity with the success of the Golden State Warriors’ Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Each of the last five seasons has seen a new record for most three-pointers made league wide. Curry had the most by a player in each of the last three seasons – 286 in 2014-15, 402 in 2015-16 and 324 in 2016-17. They’re also the top three totals in a season all-time.

  1. The Home Run (6,004,212 mentions)

Not quite as powerful as a grand slam, but much more common, the home run is still the gold standard for sports fans when it comes to talking about success. The popularity of the long ball should not come as a big surprise as home run records have been amongst the most prestigious in sports. It doesn’t hurt that many of baseball’s rising stars like Aaron Judge, Freddie Freeman, Mike Trout, Joey Gallo and Bryce Harper are atop the leader boards for home runs.

  1. The Touchdown (6,064,479 mentions)

Nearly every NFL or college football fan has imagined this moment – and perhaps even practiced a touchdown dance in the mirror. The touchdown has reliably become the most engaging moment for American sports fans. Nothing gets fans excited on Twitter like a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson created the biggest buzz last year in the end zone with seven – four on the ground and three through the air.

Telling Better Stories through Data

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As the saying goes, “Numbers don’t lie,” right? It turns out that phrase isn’t wholly true, especially when those numbers are telling a story concerning sports. Take the 2014 FIFA World Cup match between Germany and Brazil. While Germany took home the win, Brazil far outstripped them in total shots, shots on target, saves, dangerous attacks and deliveries in pen area – typical indicators of a high win probability. Brazil’s likelihood of winning appeared greater because those numbers are missing one key piece: context.

The crucial part of this match’s story is told is in the context of those numbers. STATS has crafted the Expected Goal Value (EGV) to look at the bigger picture of what happened on the field and why this match ultimately turned out the way it did. By reviewing nearly 10,000 shots from across recent soccer seasons, and analyzing the 10 seconds before each shot, STATS created an algorithm that can break down the large chunks of data – like total shots, saves and passes – into context-specific classifiers.

These classifiers allow for a detailed understanding of what happened. Brazil took more total shots than Germany, but where were Germany’s defenders in proximity to Brazil’s shooter? What part of the field was the shooter at? Was it an open-play formation or a counter-attack? All of these factors need to be taken into consideration to provide an accurate understanding of what happened.

The EGV isn’t only valuable in understanding what has happened; it can be used to determine more realistic probabilities of future matches and the effectiveness of teams. With these contextualized data points mapped into clusters, STATS can drill down and create formations to model behavior in a significantly improved manner. The goal is to find the formative data, which leads to results like understanding how teams have interacted over time, the most-used formations of one team in home or away games, and whether “home-field advantage” is actually real (it is!).

With context in place and an algorithm that addresses data points on multiple levels, STATS is proud to have developed a more accurate predictor of the success of teams. You can read more about the EGV in our paper HERE, or watch our webinar HERE.

STATS and Budweiser Light Up SXSW

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STATS and Budweiser brought the game changing viewing experience to SXSW where more than 300 people watched the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime and the Tampa Bay Lightning win 3-2 against the Florida Panthers. The 300 Goal-Synced Glasses lit up 10 times during the games creating an exciting atmosphere for the SXSW crowd.

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Budweiser’s Goal-Synced Glasses, powered by STATS, allow hockey fans to celebrate their favorite NHL team in their home the same way they would in stadium when a goal is scored. Once a user pairs their Goal-Synced Glass to their mobile app, their glass lights up every time a goal is scored. The innovative Goal-Synced Glasses create a way for fans to celebrate in the moment.

“Working with STATS has allowed us to provide the data to power an idea that truly changes the game for hockey fans. The Goal-Synched Glass was designed to enhance the viewing experience for fans – while helping us sell more Budweiser,” said Andrew Oosterhuis, Budweiser Canada’s Director of Marketing. “The program has been overwhelmingly successful with over 30k daily users and thousands of incremental cases of Budweiser sold.”

A part of Budweiser’s Red Light campaign in Canada, the Goal-Synced Glasses have been the most successful sports brand activation in Canada. With more than 30,000 daily users and 75,000 glasses purchased, NHL fans in Canada have spent more than $8 million on Red Lights.

4 ways to engage sports fans with your brand

No matter the technology or the format, fans are looking for new and exciting ways to engage with their favorite sports. Brands can capitalize on this opportunity by creating different ways for fans to use the brand as an avenue to get closer to sports. Fans may not want to interact directly with a company, but they will if the company can bring them closer to something they are passionate about.

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Harnessing the Madness!

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STATS, the global leader in sports intelligence, helps brands find the winning edge in fan engagement. STATS developed fan engagement solutions for Men’s College Basketball Championship Tournament for several of STATS partners, including Allstate and theScore. Both games have tipped-off for the 2017 tournament to engage all college basketball fans.

The Allstate Bracket Predictor gives every college basketball fan the opportunity to harness powerful predictive analytics from STATS and beat their friends, family and coworkers in their favorite NCAA tournament bracket games by using data science. With historical/past years’ accuracy exceeding 70 percent, the Allstate Bracket Predictor utilizes advanced predictive analytics from STATS, allowing users to select any two teams in the tournament and analyze the probability of a victory in a head-to-head matchup.

theScore $100K Team Tourney Challenge, developed in partnership with STATS, delivers the same bracket-picking fun as other contests, but allows friends to team-up and take on other groups of fans. At the end of the 63-game tournament, the group of friends with the highest average score walks away with $100K, while there is also a $25K prize for the best overall individual bracket from the contest. The challenge is only available on theScore mobile app creating a mobile-first sports experience for the connected fans.

Innovative activations such as these are a result of STATS investment in predictive analytics, data science, and customizable digital solutions for brands to create new shared experiences that connect brands with consumers’ most authentic and personal passions – sports.

Previewing STATS Interactive Sports Analytics Panel at SXSW

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STATS, the global leader in sports intelligence and the pioneer of live sports data, will participate in the SXSW panel titled Interactive Sports Analytics: Empowering Domain Experts in Austin on Saturday, March 11 at 12:30 pm.

Director of Data Science Dr. Patrick Lucey will represent STATS in the panel discussion about the current state and future of sports analytics and data. Patrick will be joined on the panel by Kirk Goldsberry, VP of Strategic Research for the San Antonio Spurs, and Nick Ross, CIO of Genius Sports Group.

Together the panelists will discuss the concept of “interactive sports analytics” and how this can be used across different domains. In the era of big data, there is so much data to process the key to unlocking the value in sports data isn’t developing new metrics, but developing new technology which will enable users and consumers to interact directly with the data. This shift will empower them to find their own patterns and stories, which allows them consume the game in whatever form they see fit.

This is the second year in a row that STATS participated in a SXSW panel. Last year STATS Chief Technology Officer Darryl Lewis presented alongside Joe Procopio, Chief Product Officer at Automated Insights, on the Automated Future of Sports Analysis.

Five Compelling Takeaways from SportsBusiness Journal’s Momentum Sports Marketing Symposium

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The Momentum Sports Marketing Symposium has become a must-attend for anyone involved in sports marketing and sponsorship. Throughout the two-day event held there were dozens of insightful panels, presentations and discussions about the current and future state of sports marketing. We walked away with five compelling things that could have a big impact.

  1. Millennials are NOT anti-advertising when it comes to sports. If anything, they actively interact with advertising from brands when it feels authentic to them. The key is keeping to the brand’s core message and align with the correct type of content given the platform. For instance, a campaign on Twitter is going to drastically differ from a TV spot, or a video shared on YouTube.
  2. Reaching fans at an early age is crucial. When fans are exposed to sports at a young age – less than 10-years-old – they are more likely to have a deep affinity towards the teams, and the sports themselves. This is in contrast to fans who were first introduced as teenagers and are more casual fans for both their teams, and the leagues.
  3. Esports is the new frontier in sports. Esports continues to grow, both in viewership and advertising dollars, and it’s paving the way for new leagues like The Drone Racing League, which is starting to garner traction in the US and globally. This isn’t a new concept, as we’ve seen over the years with extreme sports, which recently has been leading the growth for the World Surf League and ToughMudder events.
  4. Teams are turning to brands for fan engagement.Teams and leagues are looking for ways to work with brands to create fully immersive and fan focused campaign activations. AmEx was referenced as a brand that successfully is able to make campaigns feel fan-centric due to unlocking specific team or league activations using their AmEx cards, while it simultaneously pushes the AmEx bottom line goals forward.
  5. Stadiums are just entering the digital revolution.As teams continue to build new arenas and stadiums, the fan-first concept is driving decisions. Venues are becoming more digitally connected, and integrating all aspects of the fan’s experience into their designs. The Minnesota Vikings have installed activities that are tracked around the stadium with RFID bracelets to see how their “combines” compare to other fans and athletes which can then also be pushed to social media. Meanwhile, New Era is looking to integrate more seamless retail opportunities within venues to drive in-person sales.