Consumer Data Strategies- Professional Sports

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Customer Data Strategies: MLB

Major League Baseball (MLB) uses Dynamics CRM and a mobile customer-engagement platform to capture customer data and establish fan relationships. It uses customer data to help it conduct operational and business, as well as in-game, decisions.

Data Platforms

  • According to CRM Industry analyst Paul Greenberg, more than 80% of all major league baseball employs Dynamics CRM or at least some part of it to assist them developing, establishing, and managing fan relationships as well as database.
  • The MLB adopted a sound social CRM strategy back in 2012 by utilizing a version Microsoft Dynamics CRM to understand and attempt to satisfy their fans expectations. They also used data to offer the most personalized updates to them, especially through social media platforms.
  • As part of an effective digital marketing strategy, the MLB adopted a mobile customer-engagement platform for uncovering customer data through mobile analytics by Adobe, which supports in gathering customer engagement data through the app.

Types of Information/Data They Have on Their Fans

  • Through the Dynamics CRM data platform, MLB identified customer data related to their satisfaction levels gathered through the extensive surveying of their fans, and ticket sales and services in demand by customers, along with two-way insights from interactions with fans through multiple social media pages.
  • MLB utilizes its data platforms to gather "detailed customer transactional and engagement data with external factors such as weather, traffic, seasonal standings and day of the week, to optimize each of these types of decisions."
  • Mobile analytics offer details on the ways that fans consume baseball content in-venue. It also recognizes fans that regularly attend road games, while revealing other beneficial insights.
  • The MLB, through its privacy policy, declares that it collects customer data related to their full name, email address, password, street address, telephone number, birth date, payment card information, IP addresses, location data, and contacts stored in their wireless device. It does this when the individual interacts with their website, affiliates, or social media channels to comment, purchase an item or service, register for a promotion, or create a profile.

Using this Information to Increase Revenue/Opportunities

  • The MLB increasingly depends on customer data for its operational, business, and in-game decisions, such as in-park advertising, merchandising, promotions, retail, pricing, etc. to help promote profitability.
  • MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), the analytical and media division of the MLB, utilizes the customer data to promote sales and merchandising by serving in-game messaging, promoting refreshments and merchandise, and providing future tickets for home matches.
  • MLB teams use customer data and insights to observe an uptick in ticket sales by measuring premium experience sales, ticket sales, and suite sales, which helps them to segment various accounts.
  • Customer data is utilized by the MLB for increasing its revenue or its opportunities by connecting with rewards, membership, or loyalty programs, sharing promotional offers and services, along with sharing specific information with social platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter to target current customers and users by employing suitable advertising campaigns.

Effectiveness of the Data Strategy

  • The MLB adopted a social CRM strategy that captures customer data and engagement analytics with an objective to better understand their customers and meet their expectations in terms of more personalized and engaged interactions to expand their fan base and website visitors.
  • For an improved digital customer experience, the MLB upgraded its website by offering electronic ticketing booking options and engagement options through the MLB website, which supplies in-staduim refreshment orders, flexible loyalty programs as well as redemption options, digital ticketing, and simple purchases of merchandise from the MLB.
  • The MLB site is the top ranked website in the United States in the sports and baseball category, wherein it witnessed 123 million online visits in June 2019. It has also seen higher engagement rates with an average visit lasting 6 minutes and 50 seconds, and visitors travel through 11.55 pages per visit. The majority of the online traffic (79.20%) is recorded from the United States from 99.93% organic searches.
  • On social media, the MLB has 7.27 million followers with 7.32 million likes on Facebook and 8.5 million followers with 14,300 likes on Twitter.

Additional Information

  • An article from The Shelf shares a customer data analysis of MLB fans through social media, where most of the information relates to their demographics, audience size, social media platforms, and other related insights.

Research Strategy:

The information on the volume of information and details on how quickly MLB is analyzing and actioning this data is unavailable.

Our research began by exploring the company's official website to examine their press releases, blog posts, data/privacy policy, along with social media posts (Twitter, Facebook). We expected the MLB to share their insights and information related to the requested aspects through these sources. Through this search, most of the information available concerned the MLB's focus on players, match schedules, merchandise options, and details on the type of customer data they collect through multiple avenues. However, there was no relevant insights on the volume of information or details on how swiftly the MLB is analyzing and actioning this data.

Next, we examined statements and interviews of MBL executives through related news articles, interviews, and columns in sources such as Forbes, CNN, Biz Tech Magazine, CBS Sports, Washington Post, and others. We assumed that the executives would share the company strategies and success metrics in terms of achievement, which could be related to the volume of customer data and the readiness to analyze and put it into action.

Through this search, we discovered that very limited information was available from recent years, as most of the data covered baseball marketing and promotions. By extending the search through some past articles, we found that the information available discussed the implementation of social CRM strategy towards customer data analytics.

We then decided to search relevant third-party publications, such as ZDNet, DigitalMag, Sports Illustrated, etc., attempting to identify external reports on data strategies the MBL employs to sell more tickets by using technology or customer data. However, this search did not render any helpful information as some articles available through these sources concerned different sports leagues (e.g., NHL), while others analyzed MLB fans related to their demographics, audience size, social media platforms, and additional insights.
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Customer Data Strategies: NHL

There is limited publicly available information surrounding National Hockey League's customer data strategy. In 2016, the league collaborated with SAP Software Solutions to reach hockey fans in California.


NHL collaboration with SAP

Utilization of customer data

Data platforms


We were unable to find reliable, recent information on how NHL measures the effectiveness of their data collection strategy, or how quickly NHL is actioning this data. Search suggests the league hasn’t publicly discussed its data collection strategies as it relates to customers and available information is limited. In order to provide information on what information NHL collects and how it uses the information, we examined its Privacy Policy.

We started our search by examining NHL’s website, privacy policies and press releases, where we hoped to locate information the company has made available publicly surrounding its data analysis strategies. We found that most of the information the company has made available publicly focuses on the players and matches, while internal business information was scarce and focused on irrelevant things such as data analytics as it relates to match outcome analysis.

Next, we decided to search relevant third-party publications, such as ZDNet, Digitalmag and Sports Illustrated, where we aimed to find external reports on data strategies NHL employs to sell more tickets. This way, we found an outdated report on how NHL partnered with SAP to collect customer data, but again, the remaining third-party reports focused on NHL’s data strategies when it comes to field analysis and outcome predictions.

We then decided to search statements NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly have made. We also aimed to find statements NHL’s CMO Heidi Browning has made, that focus on customer analytics. Our goal was to examine interviews with these individuals and their personal or business blogs, in order to locate relevant statements. This strategy wasn’t successful because search determined the leadership hasn’t discussed internal customer data strategies. In an interview, the NHL Commissioner addressed the increasing use of analytics as it relates to gameplay, but again, that was the closest we were able to get. Search determined the Deputy Commissioner and the marketing team haven’t made relevant statements, while their blogs couldn’t be traced.

Since we already found digital platforms NHL uses, we turned to analyzing their websites, hoping to locate case studies of how NHL utilizes the solutions. This strategy didn’t provide desired results as Arcadia Data and RockDaisy only mentioned NHL as one of their clients, without going in depth on how NHL uses the solutions. SAP, on the other hand, described NHL’s utilization of the solutions with purposes of gaining customers, but the report was outdated.
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Customer Data Strategies: NBA

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has partnered with SAP at the league level since 2012 to analyze both player and fan data. The NBA data push received a boost in 2016 when they established a Customer Data Strategy Group and hired Doris Daif to lead the group.

Customer Data Strategy Group

  • In May 2016, Doris Daif became the first senior vice president of customer data strategy for the NBA.
  • The responsibilities of the position include finding ways to utilize fan data to grow, engage, and monetize the fan base.
  • The hiring of Daif coincided with the launch of the customer data strategy group for the NBA. This group focuses on how to expand on the data they have, and how to utilize that data to increase fan engagement and spending.
  • In 2019, the former CMO of Twitch, Kate Jhaveri, was hired as the CMO of the NBA.

NBA Collaboration with SAP

  • Since 2012, SAP has been the official data analytics platform for the NBA.
  • In 2019, they produced a long form reality show with the goal of highlighting the data analytics capabilities of SAP, showing fans how they benefit from the analytics data, and giving fans a front row seat to show off their knowledge.
  • SAP appears to be focused on analyzing the data from the players and games, as well as fan data. However, showing the fans how player data is used to improve player performance and, therefore, game quality, is an important component. One example of this is the NBA Ultimate Training Camp Experience, which allowed fans to see how collecting and analyzing data about their performance could result in improving their skills.

Data Strategy

  • At the 2018 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Daif discussed that part of the NBA's customer data strategy was to focus on "progressive profiling" and to look for ways to personalize fan engagement.
  • Another part of the NBA's data strategy is to use data and technology to create better customer experiences across all digital platforms.

Measuring Effectiveness

  • The NBA looks at social media daily to determine how many people are following individual players, teams, and the league overall. They also have measures to determine if the conversations happening are positive or negative.
  • Online products such as League Pass gives the NBA ways to measure fan interest in ways that aren't possible with traditional TV viewing.

Data Platforms

  • In September 2018 it was announced that the Orlando Magic had partnered with SAS to expand on the use of its current fan platform to include "SAS Visual Data Mining and Machine Learning on SAS Viya." This was actually an expansion of an existing partnership with SAS to provide additional services including social media campaigns, and analytics in the areas of "marketing, ticket sales, digital operations, retail, sponsorships, fan demographics and player stats."
  • Alight Analytics partnered with NBA team the Memphis Grizzlies to analyze their social media platforms with the goal of helping the team monetize fan engagement. The company was able to provide the team with a solution within 60 days of launching the analytics.
  • The NBA has received valuable information from Tencent, specifically on Chines fans.
  • Twitch is a platform that is becoming increasingly important to the NBA in terms of increasing fan engagement. There are games available, but the platform will also be streaming games from the NBA 2K league.
  • The NBA and Turner broadcasting signed an agreement to work with Warner Media’s Content Innovation Lab. The Lab also partners with AT&T's advertising company, Xandr, to determine how to improve data driven advertising.
  • The Miami Heat had Purple install new WiFi at their arena which allowed them to launch WiFi analytics to gather data about who is connecting to the WiFi and for what purpose.

Data Collected and How Data is Used

  • According to the NBA Privacy Policy, they collect the following data: name and contact data; user credentials; demographic data; payment data; device and usage data; location data; interests and preferences; and third party data from integrations.
  • There are four main purposes collected data is used for which are business operations; communications; marketing and advertising; and security compliance, and enforcement.

Revenue Opportunities

  • The Miami heat uses the data collected to create custom splash pages, and offer food and merchandise discounts to fans.
  • As a result of data collected, the NBA reduced the number of timeouts allowed, standardized the length of timeouts, and shortened halftime. This was based on the fact that TV and online viewers were lost every time there was a break from the live action. The goal of these changes is to keep viewers longer will increase revenue opportunities by having longer to market to fans.
  • One goal of the partnership with Warner Media’s Content Innovation Lab is to figure out how to let the fans lead the engagement based on what they want. By giving control to the fans, it is expected that new revenue opportunities may arise.

Research Strategy

Although we were able to find most of the requested information on the NBA's data analytics, information on the volume of data collected, as well as how quickly they are analyzing the data, was not found.

Our research began by exploring the company's official website to examine their press releases, blog posts, data/privacy policy, along with social media posts. We expected that the best source for the requested data would be the NBA itself, which is why we examined the various online components. While the research uncovered information on what data is collected and how it is used, as well as information on the people leading the data analytics push for the NBA, there was no data on the volume of data or how quickly the data is used.

Next, we searched for interviews conducted with, or statements made by, the top executives at the NBA, including Commissioner David Silver, Daif, and Jhaveri. We assumed that the executives would share the company strategies and success metrics in terms of achievement, which could be related to the volume of customer data and the readiness to analyze and put it into action. While we did find statements and interviews with Silver and Daif that focused on how data analytics are being used and what the NBA's strategy includes, there was no information on data volume or how quickly the data is processed and used.

Finally, we decided to search relevant third-party publications, such as ZDNet, Fast Company, and Sports Illustrated, attempting to identify external reports on data strategies the NBA employs. The hope was that these publications would provide details on the data practices for the NBA related to customers and fans. However, information on the volume of data collected was not found, although there was information on the NBA distributing real-time data for betting and an article on how the NBA wants to be the most innovative brand in professional sports.
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Customer Data Strategies: Formula 1

Formula 1 has more than 500 million fans worldwide, they use AWS Amazon as the data platform that allows them to have real-time data of customers, races, cars, and drivers. The way Formula 1 measures the effectiveness of its data strategies include statistics, customers' feelings/reactions, and an algorithm created by them.

Formula 1 Customer Data Strategy

  • Formula 1 is one of the most followed sports in the world. It is also the first most-advanced and technological sport around the globe. The company is responsible for the FIA Formula One Championship, in which drivers compete for the world cup in single-seat cars. This event takes place in more than 15 countries, attracting +500 million fans and generating a revenue of $1.8 billion in 2017.
  • When it comes to fans, Formula 1 does not have a specific profile. That occurs because their fan base is very varied. For that reason, they have to apply different strategies and do analyses to know how they can target their fans.
  • For example, one of their past issues was that they did not have a wide young audience. So, they created strategies that were appealing to a younger audience, which resulted in a very varied audience.
  • Formula 1's most recent customer issue was that they weren't fulfilling fans' expectations in the online world. A quarter of Formula 1's customers, the young audience, use the internet daily. What the company realized was that the young audience was not engaged with the race until the day of it, and that this public recurred to forums to make real-time comments of the race. This customer data made them realize that they needed to provide customers real-time insights, facts, and events of the race.
  • Because of that and the constant improvement of cars and the race in general, Formula 1 decided to migrate to AWS SageMaker, which is the company's current data platform.
  • With this new data platform, Formula 1 can do a deep analysis of every car, giving fans real-time statistics about the race, they can even tell them which is the most likely driver to win the fight. Each car has 120 sensors and generates 3.5 GB of data and 1500 data points per second.
  • Having the ability to offer in real-time what is happening, combined with the use of artificial technology is what fans love about it. That is possible because of AWS SageMaker, which captures and processes the performance of cars including every turn, twist, and acceleration drivers do. The Formula 1 Director of Innovation and Digital Technology said that the company is fascinated with the scalability, reliability, global reach of the AWS services.

How Formula 1 Measures Effectiveness

  • With the big change of data platform, how do they measure the effectiveness of that data strategy regarding their customers? The first way to know how the implementation of real-time insights worked was through statistics. The implementation took place in 2017, which was the year of growth for Formula 1. Not only did young people become fans, but there was an increase in the female population. As if that was not enough, the event was watched in 180 countries, and Europe no longer had the largest percentage of fans, but they are distributed throughout the world.
  • Another strategy they use to measure the effectiveness of the data strategies is through an algorithm. The Formula 1 team has created an algorithm that allows them to know fans' feelings/reactions to every new thing they implement. They also use Nielsen's Report to see the efectiveness of their data strategies.
  • The volume of information Formula 1 has on its customers is very complete. To obtain that data, they interview more than 10.000 fans all over the world and ask them questions.
  • The type of information they manage include age, country, gender, hobbies, and jobs of fans.
  • Because Formula 1 fans are very varied, the company applies different tactics to generate revenue. For young fans who are willing to attend events, Formula 1 is expanding the places where races take place. For example, the company plans to go to Australia to please its younger fans. As for the most demanding fans who like technical details, Formula 1 has designed an online community, that coupled with all real-time statistics make the technology fan a buyer.
  • Thanks to the new data platform they are using (AWS SageMaker), Formula 1 is able to analyze and put into action the data in a real-time way. In fact, some fans complained that the real-time data offered on TV did not match the normal data offered on the radio. Because of that, the company had to update the data platform of its radios and thus provide real-time information there as well.

Formula 1 Types of Fans

  • Excitables: generally young people with interests in several sports. They like to attend to sport events, and are keen to buy sport merch.
  • Purists: this is a more mature audience, and they are all about the technical side of the race. People in this group prefer watch the race on TV because of the real-time insights and facts.
  • Social: also young people who like to be online. They feel more engaged if the race generates talk, that is to say, if it is trending.
  • Habituals: a group of people that continue watching Formula 1, but they feel like old times were better. Despite that, they still watch the races, but without the same emotions of the past.
  • Finally, there are also 2 more groups, one named Peripherals and the other Incidents whose engagement is very low.

Research Strategy:

We started the investigation with an evaluation of the company, after that, we proceeded to look for the data strategies that the company uses, which led us to the data platform used by Formula 1. The next step was to find out all the company's customers.
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Customer Data Strategies: IndyCar

Information surrounding IndyCar's customer data strategy is limited. Regardless, it was found that IndyCar partnered with Nippon Telegraph and Telephone to develop a mobile app for fans.

Data IndyCar collects from customers

How IndyCar uses customer data

  • IndyCar shares collected data with third-party affiliates, mostly with the purpose of providing services, but also to carry out targeted promotional activities, to gauge coupon redemption rates and to understand customer needs and trends.
  • The company sells usage information to third parties to achieve business objectives, including to generate revenue.
  • IndyCar uses information customers have voluntarily provided, such as emails, together with cookies, in order to connect usage data with particular customer and user groups and improve its services.
  • IndyCar works with advertising agencies, website analysis firms and other third-party affiliates to provide them with collected customer data, which enable them to tailor third-party advertising to customers with specific preferences.

Data platforms IndyCar uses


A comprehensive overview of IndyCar's customer data strategy couldn't be built because available information is limited. Specifically, we weren't able to address how IndyCar measures the effectiveness of their data strategy, which platforms it uses and how quickly it analyzes customer data.

We started our search by examining statements from IndyCar, as we believed the company had described its data customer strategy in blogs, press releases or on its website, but we only found information on the volume, type of customer information the company is collecting and how they are using this information.

We moved on to identifying the leadership of Penske Corporation, parent company of IndyCar. We attempted to locate relevant statements from company executives and the marketing, analytics and intelligence teams, in interviews, their blogs, or other sources where they might have made public statements. Jonathan Gibson, SVP of marketing at Penske Corporation, as well as Chuck Williams, SVP of IT, are some individuals we looked into, but we weren't able to locate relevant insights. We found that the marketing and IT teams gave very few public statements, while Roger Penske, CEO of the company, only provided information surrounding analytics as it relates to vehicle and race time improvements.

We searched third-party sources that often report on the topic of IndyCar, such as Forbes, Inside Indiana Business and Ad Age. There, we aimed to locate reports from experts that describe how IndyCar approaches customer data analytics. What we found this way were reports on NTT's partnership with IndyCar and statements that the company will support IndyCar's fan experience strategy with technology, but this wasn't described in detail and no relevant in-depth information was available.

We also attempted to identify data platform providers IndyCar has partnered with, in order to find case studies of how the company uses these solutions specifically, but we were not able to find information on data platforms IndyCar uses, apart from NTT Data.

From Part 03
  • "At this still-early stage for the Customer Data Strategy group, growing the NBA's worldwide base of fans is all about the nuts and bolts of capturing customer data and unifying information that's been gathered over the years but remains siloed in disparate databases."
  • "The NBA and individual teams have found the "right talent" often comes from outside the sports arena, where there is a much larger and more-seasoned pool of marketing data professionals. In just the last five months, Ms. Daif has recruited for the Customer Data Strategy group from the non-sports world, recently hiring data execs from the IT and management consulting industry and luxury retail space."
  • "The NBA Ultimate Training Camp Experience featured visual effects, digital animation, interactive design, and more while allowing event attendees to showcase their hoop skills."
  • "In the Orlando Magic’s continuing commitment to innovation and technology, the team has announced its partnership with SAS. As a leader in analytics for more than 40 years, SAS provides the Magic the ability to better understand its fans, enhance their enjoyment of both the game and the arena experience and improve business operations."
  • "Jhaveri, who will start on Aug. 15, brings a wealth of digital experience to the social-media-savvy league, having previously served as head of consumer marketing at Twitter and head of brand marketing at Facebook. At Amazon-owned Twitch, the popular live video game streaming service, she oversaw a global team of 90 employees and is credited with helping to grow the platform’s audience to more than 15 million daily active viewers."
  • "Housed in New York City, the innovation lab is designed by Warner to combine innovation with its unique content platforms and explore opportunities around AT&T’s 5G infrastructure to deliver new immersive consumer content across augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), as well as gaming."