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Analytics conference delves into behind-the-scenes business of sports and entertainment

Presenter at analytics conference

Without a doubt, the sports and entertainment business is changing. We consume sports on tablets, phones, computers, and more - a vast difference from even ten years ago. The analysis of who plays second base or how much tickets should cost is changing, too.

The changing nature of the business and how to better understand it through analytics was the basis for discussion at the University of South Florida Sport & Entertainment Analytics Conference, powered by Ticketmaster. The conference was held in downtown Tampa on Feb. 18 and 19 at the Tampa Marriott Waterside. Industry professionals, students, and university faculty had the opportunity to network with accomplished speakers from across the country in the sport and entertainment industry.

USF Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem welcomed the guests to the conference and spoke about the analytics focus the college is instituting across all business majors.

"We are revamping our core courses with analytics so every student has that shot in the arm," Limayem said, noting that the college wants to be a resource and platform for thought leadership. "That is why this conference is so important to us."

Rich Luker, the creator of the ESPN sports poll, kicked off the conference on Thursday speaking about what analytics can and cannot tell organizations about fans and what they want from sports. He noted that sometimes, the questions analytics asks of fans are the wrong questions - like asking ice cream customers if they like ice cream.

"We all like ice cream, but that doesn't tell us about the health of the ice cream business," Luker said.

Luker said that predictive analytics tell sports teams when, where, and how people will buy, but often don't take time to learn why they buy in the first place. What fans seek out is a sense of belonging. They adopt teams as their own, but teams do not often adopt them back, Luker said.

"There is nothing that team sports is doing in America today to distinguish themselves as belonging to the fans," he said. "We're not talking to anybody. We're not asking the most important question, which is why."

Other speakers at Thursday's portion of the event spoke about how analytics influences the practical day-to-day of what they do. Chris Watson, the senior director of relationship marketing and analytics at Feld Entertainment, shared insights on ticket broker analytics, looking at the resale market for tickets. When Feld Entertainment looked at the tickets available for resale for Frozen on Ice, a Feld production, the company found that a very small percentage of consumers repost tickets for sale on broker sites like Ticketmaster - 2 percent for Frozen on Ice. But that doesn't mean they sold a small percentage of tickets.

"That 2 percent were responsible for 22 percent of all known primary market tickets sold," Watson said.

Ticketmaster sent representatives to speak at the conference: Rick Johnson, vice president and general manager, and David Smrek, vice president for business at LiveAnalytics.

Johnson spoke about a few of the strategies Ticketmaster has developed to help organizations with their pricing, speaking about how critical live pricing is as an issue.

"We are terrible at it as an industry, we're getting better," he said. "There's no industry out there that sits on top of your industry and re-prices it because we did a bad job of it."

Some strategies Ticketmaster is developing tools for include scaling venues to have more price levels and data-driven price breaks, dynamic pricing for tickets, and pricing the best seats high enough.

"If your fans don't know which are your best seats, tell them," he said.

Other speakers at the conference included:

  • Kevin Kelley, the head coach of the Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Ark., has been featured on ESPN and HBO Real Sports for his "no punt" philosophy.
  • Jay Riola, assistant director of business intelligence & CRM for the Orlando Magic, who discussed how the Orlando Magic set the analytics standard in the NBA.
  • David DeMontmollin, the vice president of marketing for the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa, who discussed how casino analytic applications can be used in sports analytics.
  • Michael Farris, the director of strategic consulting & research at the Aspire Group, a global sport and entertainment marketing firm, who discussed industry trends.
  • Bill Bailey, vice president of SSB Consulting Group, a business intelligence and accounting firm, who discussed how analytic insights power firms.