Data analytics has done some heavy hitting for major league baseball teams over the past decade, but many team officials say they are just scratching the surface of the technology’s potential.¹
Many teams are starting to use analytics on the business side.
Mike Dillon, vice president of marketing and strategy for the Astros, says data-driven decision-making is at the foundation of everything the team does. He says business intelligence and data analytics provide the Astros with the tools to test and put to use new plans generated around key business areas.
Over the past few years, analytics has brought about some important insights. For instance, Dillon’s staffed started to see attendance and ticket revenue falling short of projections for Friday night home games. They decided to survey the fans and learned that most of the fans did not know that there were post-game fireworks after Friday night games as promotions were not reaching them.
“The better we can understand our customers, the more successful we will be fitting them with the best product, which in this case would be the best ticket package that they can enjoy and renew for years to come,” he says. Results are measured in the team’s higher sales numbers and higher renewable rates.¹
The Tip of the Analytics Iceberg
The Cleveland Indians have also used data analytics to learn about its fans. Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Analytics Andrew Miller says analytics has revealed many insights that have driven positive changes to the team’s business.
For example, one analysis helped the Indians understand the trade-offs that fans would make between variables such as seat location, food and beverage options and other alternatives in the team’s club section. This information let the team tailor specific ticket offerings to best meet the needs of the fans in that section.
Analytics based on SQL databases also presents information that helps the Indians improve the fan experience. The team responded over the past two seasons by creating a “Kids Clubhouse” that offered family-friendly entertainment in 2012 and launching the “Collection Auto Club,” an exclusive club that caters to more affluent fans and business clientele in 2013.
Miller says the team’s use of analytics extends naturally from the way it has historically used these techniques for baseball operations, where it incorporates the best information from as many sources as possible to make better decisions on players.
But Miller stresses that this is just the tip of the iceberg of what the team hopes to accomplish with analytics.
“We hope to develop an integrated 360-degree view of our fans to understand the ways that they seek to engage with our organization across all touch points at the ballpark, online and at home,” he says. “This will require that we develop enhanced flexibility, data mobility across platforms and integration of offline and online systems to ensure a seamless experience for fans.”
What’s clear in talking to baseball officials about data analytics is that teams such as the Houston Astros are much like any other business looking to understand customers better. Baseball, meanwhile, has long been criticized for not having a salary cap, putting the smaller market teams at a disadvantage. The continued success of the Oakland Athletics and last year’s comeback by the Kansas City Royals proves that teams in less profitable markets can compete, thanks in part to the smart use of the data at their disposal.¹
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