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Analytics as a Game in the World of Sports

July 16, 2013 No Comments

Featured article by James Richardson, Senior Director of Global Product Marketing, QlikTech

Sports play an important role in building a cohesive and inclusive society, capable of uniting people from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds through playing or supporting sport together. Ultimately, we love to cheer on our compatriots and favorite athletes to success, or to see how, by improving their performance, the underdog can come out on top.  That’s why we can understand the widespread excitement and huge following for the Superbowl in the US, the Champions League football final in Europe, the Tour de France in the Alps, and, once every four years, the global games that are the Olympics.

True sports fans know the history of their sport; who the most successful and least successful players or athletes are; which year they were most successful; how many games or matches each participant has won or lost.  The fact is, when you enjoy something, it’s easy to learn about it.  Of course, the same goes for the athletes and their management and sports teams – they know the history.  They know who has been strongest over the years.  They know who made errors, what the competition is likely working on and what equipment is being used.  However, increasingly fans and professionals are pushing their understanding further and learning more through deep data analysis.

Sports enthusiasts and professionals will tell you that they have been analyzing historical data and looking for new opportunities for years.  It’s only with the emergence of new analytic technologies, tools and techniques that it has almost become widespread.  Further still, the statistics around games have become ‘gamified’ themselves – consider fantasy leagues or online or console games, where fans can play at and learn from being a manager trying to create the most successful team via the manipulation of a set of facts and statistics.

Back in the real world – to do great analysis of any sport you first need access to data in a structured and coherent form.  Beyond that you need an intuitive, user driven analysis experience that allows users to explore the data and make discoveries seamlessly. With the PGA and European Tours in full swing, QlikTech has created a Pro Golf App that lets everyday users (and golf enthusiasts) visualize, analyze, compare, and contrast tour data from 2004 through the latest tournament scores this year, as well as World Ranking and FedEx Cup Ranking.  We’ve previously done the same for the 2012 Global Games, the Grand Prix, and many more sporting events.  Thanks to the availability of data, the rise of fast-speed internet and social networks to share insight and the ability to access information on the go with mobile devices, with the Pro Golf App sports enthusiasts can explore the data by year, player, tournament, country, and more and ask questions such as:

– What percent of tournaments played does Rory McIlroy win?

– How many tournaments have South Africans won this year?

– Which German golfer held the No. 1 ranking for just two months?

– Which four countries account for 78% of the major championship wins?

Nothing gets a sports fan going more than when someone disagrees with a fact about their favorite player, team or country, or relays information that they don’t believe.  With the availability of data and the tools to unearth a key fact, statistic, or comparative piece of information, the amount of collaboration and debate around sports analytics has risen hugely in the past few years, there have even been Hollywood movies about it!  The challenge is to understand the best way to present this data to the players, coaches, media, and fans and extend our enjoyment of the games even further through analysis and discovery.

James Richardson is a Senior Director of Product Marketing at QlikTech.  Prior to this role James spent six years as a Gartner analyst covering business intelligence and analytics. During his tenure, James was the lead author of the Magic Quadrant for BI Platforms report, and chaired and keynoted Gartner’s European BI summit. Before Gartner, James spent 13 year at Hyperion in product marketing and market intelligence roles.

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