Sports Fans: Welcome to the wide world of analytics
Sports lovers are the world’s leading amateur statisticians, tracking every shot, pitch, snap and goal in minute detail. With a data source so rich, it’s no surprise that sports organizations and fans are increasingly turning to analytics to transform numbers into accurate predictions.
“There is a greater opportunity for analytics in sports than ever before – and a greater need,” says Jeff Ma, the former MIT student who inspired the New York Times best-seller Bringing Down the House and the movie 21. Ma is the co-founder of Citizen Sports, a digital sports media business, and does consulting work for professional sports teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers and the San Francisco 49ers.
“Thanks to the information age, fans have increased access to good data, and thanks to social media, fans now have multiple platforms to talk about the research they’re doing,” says Ma.
Of course, fans aren’t the only ones collecting and analyzing data. Every team in every league is under enormous pressure to win games and make profits. “Teams have to be smarter about the way they do things in this new environment,” says Ma. “In order to profit from new, nontraditional revenue streams, teams need to better understand their customers – who’s participating in social media and how to market to different segments of their fan base. That’s where analytics comes in,” says Ma.
Whether you’re a fan, an athlete, or a business manager looking for a good sports metaphor, you’ll enjoy these examples of SAS customers using analytics to help produce game-winning strategies and priceless endgame insights.
NCAA PICKS: A method to March Madness
Every spring, the US National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament tips off the phenomenon known as March Madness – the annual ritual of brackets, bubble-busters and upsets. But two business professors and self-professed sports fanatics – Jay Coleman at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, and Allen Lynch at Mercer University in Macon, GA – apply analytic software from SAS to predict "at-large" teams – those teams that did not get automatic bids to the tournaments.
Over the past 16 years, their NCAA "Dance Card," powered by SAS software, has boasted an impressive 93 percent accuracy rate. In fact, 2009’s final predictions were 94 percent accurate as Coleman and Lynch correctly predicted 32 of the 34 at-large teams.
RBS 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Rugby turns to SAS for data
It’s the world's largest annual rugby tournament, and for the fourth year running, SAS provided the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) with comprehensive on-screen analysis for all matches, including the breakdown of vital information, such as the percentage of possession, penalties conceded, number of tackles made and line-outs won and lost. SAS also provided a live data feed of match intelligence to BBCi, so fans at home could access the same real-time competitive intelligence through the interactive service.
Immediately after each game, official pre- and post-match data analysis and graphical reports, generated by SAS, were posted on the official RBS 6 Nations Championship Web site and distributed to participating unions and team coaches. "The data, analysis and insight provided by SAS for each and every game have proven to be priceless,” said Dave Kavanagh, Commercial Manager of Six Nations Rugby Ltd.