“顾客和粉丝（fans）两者的区别是什么？”在斯坦福大学商学院2014年4月初举办的首届体育创新大会开幕式上， NBA萨克拉门托国王队的主要持有人维韦克•拉纳戴维（Vivek Ranadivé）抛出了这个问题：“粉丝会把自己的脸涂成紫色（译注：国王队的主色），会主动去宣传散播……其他任何一个行业的CEO，都很渴望能在我们的位置上，他们很渴望能拥有粉丝。”
十多年前，奥克兰运动家（Oakland A’s）这支美国职业棒球大联盟（MLB）球队（还有《点球成金》一书及同名电影），让一个观念变得盛行，那就是使用带预测模型的统计数据，来打造一支胜利之师。NBA球队比如圣安东尼奥马刺队（San Antonio Spurs），也使用类似的大数据系统帮助球队老板和教练招募球员，执行比赛计划。但是在2013-2014这个NBA赛季，SportVU多镜头追踪系统才第一次被所有球队使用。所有场馆都安装了这个由六个镜头组成的系统，以监测篮球和球场上每个球员的表现，并为场上的表现生成整个数据库。“这一年我们第一次拥有了数量超过分析能力的数据。”拉纳戴维说。他指出，本赛季搜集的数据比过去67年的总和都多。
金州勇士队（Golden State Warriors）的前锋安德烈·伊格达拉（Andre Iguodala）说，通过球探报告，他在使用数据评估对手的表现，但大部分的球员对此并不太在意。“有一些球员，如果他们想得太多，表现反而不那么高效了。”他说。换言之，这些数据最大的影响力，是帮助管理层打造一支有效的、由相互兼容性的球员组成的团队。
仅依靠数据分析是不能赢取冠军的，这是费城76人队总经理兼篮球运营总裁山姆·辛基（Sam Hinkie）的说法。还在休斯敦火箭队工作时，辛基就是篮球大数据的早期呼吁者。“从根本上来说，成功仍然在于你所做出怎样的人员安排。”他说，分析只是用来帮助决策者的工具。辛基指出，在每个球队都有同样深入的信息之后，未来获得竞争优势的方法，将是从其他行业找到分析技巧或技术，创新性地运用于在篮球上。“有趣的东西正产生沙丘路（Sand Hill Road，指风险投资家在硅谷的办公地)，或是在美国国防高级研究计划局（DARPA）资助的项目里，或者是在对医疗保险的分析里。关键是要从其他地方把它求来、借来和偷来。”
企业正在寻找利用移动技术的方法，来提高在家中观看比赛，或在球场和运动场做观众的粉丝体验。思科系统运动娱乐集团（Cisco Systems Sports & Entertainment Group）的马克-克雷格（Mark Craig）说，移动设备作为在家看电视体育节目的“第二块屏幕”已经很流行，但也有70%的粉丝会把移动设备带到体育馆或赛场，并打算在比赛期间也使用它。思科已经参与研发可在用户密集情况下运行的运动场无线网络系统。
麦克·戈鲁布（Mike Golub）是美国职业足球大联盟（MLS）俱乐部波特兰伐木工队（Portland Timbers）的商业运营总裁，他表示，各球队现在有专人整合营销数据，但直觉在商议出售赞助中仍在发挥作用。他的团队近期与当地巧克力公司签署了协议，这并不是因为数据显示巧克力爱好者是最狂热的足球迷，而是因为他们觉得，帮助本地品牌也会反过来对自己有所帮助。
Five Key Trends That Are Driving the Business of Sports
Some of the sports world’s top business leaders shared their insights at Stanford GSB’s inaugural Sports Innovation Conference. Here’s what they had to say.
“What’s the difference between a customer and a fan?” asked Vivek Ranadivé, leader of the ownership group of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, during the keynote kickoff to Stanford GSB’s inaugural Sports Innovation Conference, held in early April. “Fans will paint their face purple, fans will evangelize. … Every other CEO in every business is dying to be in our position — they’re dying to have fans.”
While fan passion is as old as sport itself, leagues and franchises are now using cutting-edge technology not just to build winning teams but also to capitalize on the ardor of their customer base to grow another revenue source — corporate sponsorships. Here are a few of the business trends that emerged from the April conference.
Big data is changing basketball management — and the game itself
More than a decade ago, the Oakland A’s Major League Baseball team (and the book and movie Moneyball) popularized the notion of using statistics with predictive modeling to build a winning team. Teams in the NBA, such as the San Antonio Spurs, have similarly used big data sets to help owners and coaches recruit players and execute game plans. But the 2013-2014 NBA season is the first for all teams to have SportVU tracking, a system of six cameras in each arena that measures the movements of the ball and every player on the court, generating an entire database of performance information. “This is the first year we have more data than we can analyze,” said Ranadivé, noting that more data had been generated this season than in the league’s previous 67-year history.
The data are changing the way the game is played, shifting emphasis from how many total points a player scores to measures of player efficiency, productivity per touch, and defensive effectiveness. “It has been hard, historically, to quantify defense,” said Brian Kopp, senior vice president of STATS, the company that developed SportVU player tracking. “Now we have four camera views helping you do that.” In addition, the data have influenced the types of shots players take on the court.
Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala said he uses the data to assess opponents via scouting reports, but most players don’t pay much attention to it. “Some players aren’t as productive if they’re thinking too much,” he said. Instead, the data’s greatest impact is in helping management build a team of effective and compatible players.
Analytics alone won’t win you a title, said Philadelphia 76ers general manager and president of basketball operations Sam Hinkie, an early advocate of basketball big data when he was with the Houston Rockets. “Fundamentally, success is still about the judgment of the people you put in place,” he said, and analytics is a tool to help those decision makers. With every team having the same deep information, he said, the way to gain competitive advantage in the future will be finding an analytics technique or technology from another industry that can be applied to basketball in an innovative way. “The interesting things are happening here, on Sand Hill Road [the location of Silicon Valley venture capitalists] or with DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] funding, or health care analytics. What’s key is to beg, borrow, and steal from other contexts.”
Data analysis is also likely to contribute to better biomechanics in sports as wearable devices determine how much physical stress players have endured and may even eventually predict the likelihood of injury so a player can be rested before he’s hurt, said Kopp. “Right now, coaches and trainers are guessing a lot.”
The rise of “smart arenas”
Franchises are looking for ways to capitalize on mobile technology to enhance the fan experience in their homes and as spectators in stadiums and arenas. Mobile devices are popular as “second screens” in home viewing of televised sports, but 70% of fans bring a mobile device to the stadium or arena and expect to use it during a game there as well, said Mark Craig of Cisco Systems Sports & Entertainment Group, who has been involved with creating arena Wi-Fi systems that will function with a dense population of users. The new Sacramento Kings arena, set to open in 2016, will have mobile applications for check-in, ushering you to your seat, indicating shortest bathroom and concession lines, seat upgrade options (much like what has been done in the airline industry), cashless commerce, and in-seat wireless charging. The Kings are exploring the use of drone technology to survey available parking spaces and even provide unique in-arena camera angles, said team senior vice president of marketing and strategy Ben Gumpert.
“Sports is a people business, so we’re looking for ways to use technology to further engage with people,” said John Abbamondi, vice president of the NBA’s Team Marketing & Business Operations division. This could mean one day scanning a ticket on your phone to enter the arena, which sends an alert to a service representative to let them know it’s your birthday, so your favorite cocktail can be delivered to your seat. “Each arena is like a lab,” he said, trying out new programs to find what’s successful in deepening engagement and building new revenue.
One surprisingly underexplored avenue for engagement is enhanced fan access to athletes during events, said Ward Bullard, formerly head of sports for Google+ and now with SAP Technology. These may include special fan invitations to pre-game warm-ups or post-game press conferences, or standing next to a player during the national anthem.
Such enhancements are possible because the collection of personal data about fans would help teams “match the experience that matters most with the right fans,” Gumpert said.
Cracking the code of even deeper fan engagement
Fans want to be connected to sports teams and content anytime, anywhere in a continued migration to mobile, said ESPN executive vice president John Kosner, noting that 43% of ESPN.com’s audience came to them exclusively through mobile devices the previous month.
One critical point of access is video, added Bullard, noting that savvy leagues such as MLB and the NBA created early partnerships with YouTube to host highlight compilations and recaps of recent games to let fans watch on demand.
Ranadivé of the Kings said he approaches the organization as, “much bigger than a sports team; it’s a social network.” This includes the team’s development of ways to connect with fans watching at home and engaging on their second screens, such as Google+ Hangouts during games, and a “virtual T-shirt toss,” in which registered fans are selected randomly to win a T-shirt through the team’s app.
Clearly the social media connection is vital across all leagues: NASCAR is developing a “digital cockpit” that includes onboard telemetry and in-race social media interaction between fans and drivers.
Social media has enabled direct connections between fans and the athletes. Some players do weekly Google+ Hangouts, giving their own first person perspective, said Bullard, while others use video and social media to document their experience from the NFL pre-draft scouting tryouts through the draft, for example. On the lighter side, NBA players have done music parody videos that are a hit with younger fans on YouTube.
It’s too soon to tell, though, whether so much engagement will distract athletes, and hurt their performance or increase their value. “If you have two athletes really close in talent, would you choose the one who has a bigger social following?” Bullard asked, suggesting that some in management are starting to indicate the answer will be “yes.”
Using tech for sponsorship and integration
Sport sponsorship no longer means simply attaching a corporate name to a stadium. Rather, it has become a triangle of association between the team, the sponsor, and the passionate fan.
It involves “taking two equivalent products and creating some affinity between them through social currency, not hard currency,” said Steve Pamon, head of sports and entertainment marketing for JP Morgan Chase. Fans tend to be quite active in liking or following a brand on social media because of its association with a team, and 30% of fans who use social media to connect with a sponsor later make a purchase because of the brand’s association with the team. However, if the association doesn’t feel authentic or comes on too strong, it can just as easily be a turnoff to fans.
Teams now have professionals on staff to assemble marketing data, but intuition still plays a part in selling sponsorships, said Mike Golub, president of business operations for the MLS Portland Timbers. His team recently signed a deal with a local chocolate company not because data showed chocolate lovers to be the most passionate soccer fans, but because they felt helping the local brand would also help theirs.
Globalization of the hometown team
With so much fan access occurring via mobile technology and social media, leagues and teams are accelerating global programs, including expanding to new markets. As just one example, Kings owner Ranadivé, who is Indian American, discussed raising the Kings’ profile in India by creating a team website in Hindi, hosting international Google+ Hangouts during games, and sending some team personnel on outreach trips to India. “It’s not an overnight process, but progress is steady,” he said, noting that basketball has become the fastest-growing sport in India, and fan interest in the Kings is seven times higher than that of any other NBA team. “I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the next five years, we have a player of Indian origin in the NBA,” he said. A home-country player would of course increase Indian fan interest even more, just as it has done for the NBA with players from France, China, and other countries over the past two decades.
Stanford graduates cited in this story are: John Abbamondi, MBA ’04; Ward Bullard, BA ’00; Mike Golub, MBA ’88; Ben Gumpert, MBA ’07; Sam Hinkie, MBA ’05; and Steve Pamon, MBA ’96.
Loren Mooney, with additional reporting by Natalie White