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.
It may be just a bumper sticker aphorism, but lately it’s got me thinking. Peter Thiel, early Facebook investor and Paypal cofounder, announced recently that he’s offering $100,000 to 24 young people to drop out of school and pursue an entrepreneurial idea in Silicon Valley. Thiel says the emphasis on having a degree has created “a bubble” in education, and he believes ideas can develop in a start-up environment much faster than on a university campus.
“We need more innovation,” he told the Financial Times recently. “There’s a tremendous cost to having the most talented people in society take on enormous debt, then take well-paying but dead-end jobs to service those loans for the next 15 to 20 years of their lives.”