The NFL: Twitter’s Kingmaker? — Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

From TechCrunch

The NFL has a distinguished history of successful partnerships with upstart media companies. When it became the home of Sunday Night Football in 1987, ESPN’s unprecedented growth accelerated. Then, in 1993, the NFL sold its NFC Sunday afternoon package to Fox, firmly establishing it as the fourth major broadcast network in the U.S. In turn, both deals expanded the NFL’s reach and significantly increased its media rights revenue.

This fall the NFL is working with another new media partner: Twitter. In a $10 million deal, Twitter is live streaming for free 10 Thursday Night Football (TNF) games. It is part of Twitter’s overall strategy of making live events the centerpiece of its platform. For its part, the NFL reportedly passed on higher bidders for the digital TNF package to test new distribution models with a trusted partner.

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Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors, and the power of analytics at work — Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

From MIT Sloan Management Review

Whether or not their 2016 season ends with a second consecutive NBA championship, the Golden State Warriors are making Silicon Valley proud. They broke the record for regular season wins with 73. They are headlined by Stephen Curry, the dynamic and eminently likeable two-time MVP. They have established themselves among the league’s elite franchises.

Like the “unicorns” along Highway 101, the Warriors have done it all with a deep organizational commitment to data-driven decision making – both on the court and as a business. The three-pointers Steph and running mate Klay Thompson hoist seemingly without abandon are actually grounded in troves of evidence supporting the shot’s relative value. Meanwhile, the business side of the organization is leveraging fan data to more effectively drive ticket, sponsorship, and merchandise revenue.

The Warriors are not the only team pioneering the analytics revolution in sports. Organizations across an increasing number of sports and levels (professional, college, and high school) are capitalizing on data to gain a competitive edge. Indeed, few industries have implemented data-driven decision making as successfully as sports.

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A sports fantasy too big to fail: Regulate, don’t eliminate, daily fantasy competitions — Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

From NY Daily News

New York sports fans may not care to admit it, but Brady Nation is getting it right with their approach to regulating the daily fantasy sports industry.

Last month, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced a draft of regulations for fast-growing but now embattled daily fantasy sports services like DraftKings, FanDuel and Yahoo. Among the proposed measures, the state would institute a 21-year-old age limit, prohibit employees, professional athletes and other insiders from playing the game, and require those ubiquitous advertisements to better inform and safeguard consumers.

These proposed regulations are appropriate and necessary for two reasons. First, they embrace a mainstream cultural and business phenomenon without trying to outlaw it. Second, they do so while protecting the integrity of fantasy games at a critical juncture in the nascent industry’s history.

For starters, the regulations recognize and accept the remarkable influence of fantasy sports, in both the daily and “traditional,” season-long formats, on the modern sports fan’s experience. Much has changed since the first known fantasy football league, the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League, launched in 1963.

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Brady, Patriots & NFL come out on top — Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

From USA TODAY

It may seem unlikely today, but when all is said and done with Deflategate and Tom Brady returns to the field, the Patriots, the NFL and even Brady all stand to emerge as winners in business over the long-term.

To be sure, the Deflategate crisis has been fraught with controversial questions. Was the “more probable than not” evidence cited in the Wells Report strong enough to convict Tom Brady? If so, what is a reasonable punishment?  How serious of an offense is deflating footballs? How should Brady’s cooperation (or alleged lack thereof) in the investigation, including the recent revelation of his destroyed cell phone, factor into the punishment and appeal process?  Fans and the media have been deliberating these and other issues with the same fervor as ranking the greatest quarterbacks of all-time (which, naturally, has been complicated by the allegations against Brady).

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To Manage a Successful Sports Team, Focus on Data — Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

From Xconomy

The mantra of youth sports where “everyone gets a trophy” is permeating professional leagues. These days every team can claim some semblance of winning. In the bygone era of the NFL, two teams made the playoffs and that consisted of one game, the Super Bowl. Today six teams from each conference advance, and there is talk of adding more. In MLB, it used to be that the league leaders won the pennant and then went to the World Series; now, five teams in each league make the playoffs. In the NBA and the NHL, meanwhile, more than half of all teams make the post-season.

As the definition of post-season success broadens and winning becomes a commodity, a team’s performance isn’t enough to stand out in the $750 billion sports industry. And at a time where traditional revenue streams are under pressure and the competition for money, media, and sponsors remains stiff, sports organizations have to be more innovative.

So, what should they be doing to drive revenue? How can they use technology to attract and interact with fans? And, in the Age of Big Data, what’s the best use of analytics to increase ticket sales? These are some of the questions on the table at the 2015 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

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