How companies like HIVE estimate the sponsorship value of pre and post media exposure SoFi received … [+] from being the host venue for Super Bowl LVI was among numerous topics covered at Day 1 of the MIT Sloan Sports Business Conference in Boston (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for Hollywood Park Management Company)
Just weeks after the U.S. women’s national soccer team received a $24 million settlement from U.S. Soccer over equal pay, the Women’s Tennis Association signs a historic naming partnership with women’s health care firm Hologic.
As the sports industry collectively tries to entice fans back to venues in the (nearly) post-pandemic world, teams and leagues are leveraging technology, social media, and legalized gambling to raise fan engagements levels.
Advancements in technology and tracking granular layers of fan behavior at (and away from) sports venues are giving brands deeper insights on connecting a particular partnership with real consumer purchase intentions.
Day 1 of the 2022 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference today addressed these and other issues at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.
Equity Analytics and the Rooney Rule
The Brian Flores lawsuit raised awareness levels regarding the fairness of hiring practices in the NFL while simultaneously renewing scrutiny of the Rooney Rule which now requires NFL teams to include at least 2 minority candidates when seeking to hire a head coach.
Chris Rider, Associate Professor from the University of Michigan’s business school, shared various findings from his research on racial disparity in sports. Among these:

Rider posited that perhaps a better way to truly decipher whether the Rooney Rule works is to conduct A/B testing across different roles within organizations. For example, without candidates knowing whether the job they applied for was under the rule, suppose the rule applied to all Marketing jobs across NFL teams and did not apply to any Finance jobs. Or was applied to all offensive assistant positions but to none of the defensive assistant positions.
If team marketing departments or the offensive assistants saw a noticeable uptick in minority hiring post adoption and the finance departments or defensive assistants did not, this would – according to Rider – provide a natural experiment to conclude the Rooney Rule still can be effective.
Adam Zimmerman, SVP of Marketing and Content for the world champion Atlanta Braves, led an enthusiastic discussion about building digital worlds for the 3.0 fan experience.
Based in part on the premise that not all fans of a team’s geographic region will necessarily attend games in-person due to a variety of factors (budget or time constraints), Zimmerman talked of taking advantage of “macro trends” in “community building” in order to be prepared to drive fans to “digital structures” when applicable.
As an example, he played a video highlighting a “digital visit” to the Braves’ Truist Park which a fan could “consume” online…noting that the gaming industry plays a key role in inspiring the look and feel of such digital experiences.
Zimmerman also urged property (i.e. team, league) representatives in the audience to digitize all their intellectual property to generate even more future revenue opportunities. Creating more corporate partnership avenues, creating NFTs for merchandise, and digitizing the viewing experience through strategic partnerships with media and tech companies.
Zimmerman concluded since “memories and emotion are the backbone of a fan’s experience”, creating communal opportunities through digitization is a 3.0 solution which GenZ and Alpha Gen consumers will likely crave in greater quantities over the next decade.
Dan Calpin, President at Hive, focused his remarks on using artificial intelligence to more accurately measure the value of corporate partnerships for brands.
In particular, one of the differentiating benefits of Hive’s approach is their ability to capture the latent or amplified effects – both pre and post event – associated with brand activations. To illustrate how large these amplified impacts can be, Calpin used the recent Super Bowl contested at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles as a case example:

Regarding the amplification of exposure, Calpin said:

In short, in a sports industry where brands collectively generate $12 billion in equivalent media value across sports programming ($10 billion of that coming from national programming and $1.8 billion alone coming from the NFL), Calpin concluded that artificial intelligence produces expedient and granular measurement of brand exposure from sports partnerships …which is essential for brands to better understand the true reach and value of their investments.
1) Jen Zick, Principal of the Digital Strategy Group at Adobe, discussed the art and science of data collection, emphasizing the importance of using technology to “personalize at scale”. In support of her comments, she noted:

2) Sam Schwartzstein, former director of football operations for the XFL, illustrated how analytics was instrumental in the ideation, experimentation, and eventual launch of the innovative yet ill-fated spring football league.
Regarding their innovative kick-off rule, this gem was the product of 3 years of testing with live players and collaborative input from football experts, media experts, and health experts before becoming one of the best adoptions for the league.
3) Ted Knutson, CEO and Co-Founder of StatsBomb, illustrated how player tracking data insights yielded from soccer (e.g. shot impact height, freeze frames to track player/team positioning on the pitch) can provide key insights when trying to show American football teams how to apply similar data towards their own performance and strategic benefit.
For example, the optimal “catch window” which identifies the best location within a receiver’s vicinity where a pass should be thrown. Or “hot and cold” spots which identify a receiver’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of what areas (e.g. low, high, left, right) he is most likely to catch or drop passes.
4) In a presentation pertaining to “brick and mortar” integration for digital sports bettors, Dhivy Jayaseelan, VP of Marketing Analytics for Caesar’s Entertainment, discussed how Caesars leveraged data to grow our brand in recent months with a 3-pronged focus on (1) leveraging their successful loyalty program, (2) creating holistic guest experience, and (3) learning how to speak with customers through multiple cross-channels rather than a single channel.
5) Niyanth Anand, Senior Manager of Analytics for Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, spoke of their partnership with Kraft Analytics Group to revamp HBSE’s social media strategies and ask questions like:

Anand highlighted some specific opportunities to boost social media engagement levels for HBSE:
a) Replace mid-day posts on non-game days with morning posts, and
b) Time your game-day posts for night times after the games…not before.
c) Shorter tweets are more likely to result in better engagement.
d) Since blowout losses get more engagement than close losses, this may be the best time to “diffuse” the backlash of negative social sentiment with self-deprecating posts to ease fan tensions.
6) Arjun Chowdri, Chief Innovation Officer at the PGA of America, discussed how their organization allowed science and analytics to be their guide to govern the golf industry’s slow but sure to return to play…both for recreational golfers and for major golf events. Subsequently, the PGA of America was commended for how they were able to return to normalcy much faster than most sporting or other live events, and the golf industry saw a significant rise in the number of rounds played by the recreational golfer.


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