Statistical analysis aims to better understand fans

Mike Kelly uses unique information to give a different perspective on hockey

Statistical analysis consists of collecting and analyzing information or statistics about target groups or trends, in order to better identify and understand them. This procedure, now used by most sports organizations, was discussed at the John Molson Sports Marketing (JMSM) conference on Nov. 2, and panelists see it as a benefit for fans.

“I think it allows the fans to understand the game and the players better,” said TSN hockey analyst Mike Kelly. “The more you understand something, the more passionate and invested you will be in it.”

Kelly explained that statistical analysis often brings new angles to his stories. It is an asset in his work, as it helps to reach a vaster audience.

“I think my goal in all of this is to get [sports fans] more engaged in the game,” Kelly said. “It tells them stories they might not know, or adds context and layers to stories they might know.”

The JMSM conference was held from Nov. 1-3 in downtown Montreal. Photo by Alec Brideau.

Statistical analysis is used in many different ways to customize a fan’s experience. Scott MacIntosh, head of sports analytics and business development with SAP Sports, said the use of statistical analysis in sports can go as deep as it can be casual.

“If you start building products that fit with the fans and the level [at which] you identify them, in terms of what experience they want to have with you, it can go really deep, or stays as casual as a fan telling you they want a certain thing,” MacIntosh said.

MacIntosh added that statistical analysis allows creativity for organizations, which leads to unique experiences for their fans.

“There was a team in the United States that was giving something as interesting as creating virtual season tickets for the fans,” MacIntosh said. “An NBA fan could receive a recorded phone call from their favourite player on a game day. They were bringing that experience from the start of the day, right until you got to the arena.”

According to co-founder and CEO of Stathletes Neil Lane, the use of statistical analysis to improve fans’s experiences is done by thinking from their perspective.

“Everybody’s on their phone, and there are not a lot [of fans] watching the game,” Lane said. “So how do you use analytics to create more entertainment for our fans? From my experience, on [Kelly’s] side and on the media’s side, there are a lot of ways you can engage them with statistical [tools] that will tell them better stories.”

Lane explained that sports teams have many techniques in place to gather statistics and build better experiences for fans.

“Some arenas have cameras in them that are just watching the fans,” Lane said. “They’re seeing what fans are wearing, reading, drinking, texting, and even what site they are on on their phones.It takes the data points so it can drive that second experience in the future because of that.”

Kelly said fans have been really open to statistical analysis in his work.

“There are still fans who just want to sit down, have a beer and watch a hockey game,” Kelly said. “For me, it’s just a way to tell different and unique stories, and I think a lot of fans have been very receptive to it.”

Main photo by Alec Brideau.

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