By Greg Douglas (@gregdouglassail)
As a two-time Olympian, sports have always been a huge part of my life. I’m now a 4th year TRSM Marketing Management student, so I’m ecstatic whenever sports and school intersect.
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference with Ryerson Alum Igli Panariti and Professor Cheri Bradish, the Loretta Rogers Research Chair in Sports Marketing and Executive Director of the Sport Innovation Hub at the Ted Rogers School of Management.
For the past 10 years, the MIT Sloan School of Management has hosted the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. What started as a small on-campus event in a single lecture hall has evolved into a massive conference with 3,900 attendees from all over the globe. Attendees range from students to top-level executives at sport franchises and everyone in between. Over the years, the conference has shifted its focus from being strictly business-focused to including a growing analytics and technological component.
This year the conference opened with a Moneyball Reunion panel. Moneyball is a book written by Michael Lewis about Billy Beane and the 2002 Oakland Athletics’ analytical, evidence-based approach to assembling a baseball team on a small budget. The team is often credited with starting the analytics revolution in sports, which has led many teams across all sports to use analytics to great success. The book was made into a popular film starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in 2011.
— RyersonSpIn (@RyersonSpIn) March 11, 2016
The panel featured author Michael Lewis, legendary baseball statistician Bill James and former Oakland A’s assistant GM Paul DePodesta. It was fascinating to hear about how Michael Lewis was originally planning to write a magazine article but quickly realized sports analytics were part of a much larger story. Paul spoke in depth about the thinking inversion that was required to make this happen – they spent more time thinking about what players could do as opposed to what they couldn’t. I found this notion of focusing on people’s positive attributes to be very powerful and learned a great lesson from the panel.
Over the next two days, speakers presented, discussed, and debated topics on the cutting edge of sports business and performance. The conference was a marathon – there is so much to take in and by the end of the conference I was mentally exhausted. Hustling through the convention centre between panels and numerous cups of coffee are all part of the experience. On the Friday night, Ryerson and the Canadian Consulate hosted a dinner at the Harvard Club of Boston. It was a delicious dinner with great conversations around the table regarding sports and the Canadian market.
Stephen Greyser, a Professor Emeritus of Harvard Business School and a pioneer in the world of sports business marketing, was in attendance and Igli and I were fortunate to have a lengthy conservation with him about his involvement in the Olympics.
Marketing, Data & the Digital Fan
— Sloan Sports Conf. (@SloanSportsConf) March 11, 2016
One of the major highlights was the Marketing, Data, & the Digital Fan event. The panel featured experts from Google, Facebook, Ticketmaster, and the Kraft Sport Group. The panel discussed how these massive internet companies have an effect on the three C’s: channel, consumption, and content in the sport market. There are currently 650 million people connected to a sports organization on Facebook and 4.2 million monthly views of sports content on YouTube. Sports fans are increasingly consuming sport content through a second screen, and these companies are adapting to increase fan engagement and monetize these new platforms and shifts in consumer behaviour.
I would like to give a shout out to fellow Canadian students from McGill University, their team won the First Pitch Case Competition beating teams from across North America. Hopefully there will be a team representing TRSM in the future.
Interested in getting involved?
If, like me, you’re passionate about sports and business, I encourage you to contact me (@gregdouglassail) or Dr. Cheri Bradish to learn about the Sport Innovation Hub at TRSM. The goal of the hub is to foster startups in sport innovation and technology, which will be changing the sport landscape in Canada and North America.