A List of Sports Biz Insights and Stats from the Sloan Conference

The leaders in the sports business world are constantly on a quest to get bigger and better. They’re studying, predicting, measuring, analyzing, evolving. And many of them came together for the 2017 Sloan Sports and Analytics Conference. While the conference is very much about athlete and team performance, there is also a wealth of sports business stats and insights shared.

Here are 29 quick sports biz bytes from the conference, shared via Twitter from #SSAC17:
[See full recaps of Day 1 and Day 2 here. Lots more.]
*Leagues are evolving in their relationships with sponsors. The NFL talked about actively collaborating with corporate partners on all facets of the business of the league and he game. The success with Microsoft Surface was highlighted as a win.

*Fanatics has become such a dominant player in the sports merchandise space because of its robust digital offering that can act upon demand in an instant. An example cited was that after just five games into his breakout career, with his name hotter than ever, Joel Embiid’s jersey was one of the top-selling in the NBA, thanks to the speed of Fanatics.

*While this principle was stated from the NFL and MLB, it was a theme (and has been) for thought leaders for a while – content must be disseminated to reach fans at the places and on the platforms on which fans are consuming their content. Simple enough, right?

*Also from the NFL and MLB [and another recurring lesson] – a major key to the growth of any sport is youth participation. Get them playing, make them a fan while they’re, and there’s a better chance they’ll be fans for life.

*It’s great if you can collect data, but it’s all about what you do with it. Casey Wasserman clearly shared a lot of wisdom to SSAC attendees and this one resonated, as it should.

*Teams and leagues are now seeking to serve every fan, regardless of where or how they’re consuming and engaging. That means focusing during games on digital engagement, on the in-venue experience, and on the TV broadcast. Each offers an opportunity to engage, and treats every fan of the team with care.

*The FOMO acronym seemed to be another common consideration. It’s still about making others want to be there, at the game.

*Lots of talk about personalization. Ticketmaster envisioned reaching a place, soon, where every experience for fans is personalized – discovery, purchase, amenities. Team execs are similarly focused on personalization, particularly with fan messaging and in-venue experiences. The new norm is personalization, and it’s only going to get better.

*A stat that certainly stood out – 50-70% of Fanatics listings on Amazon are counterfeit. Bad news for consumers, perhaps fodder for teams to convince fans to buy from their stores. Or maybe teams should sell directly on Amazon.

*Every league is worried about the waning attention spans, and desire for ‘content snacks,’ of Millennials and Generation Z. The objective is not so much focused on shaving minutes off games, but more so about reducing dead time in games [NFL, MLB, NBA]. Less time between action. The NFL also noted adjusting their commercial ad structure, for something more fan-friendly.

*Some interesting findings from stats around Los Angeles Dodgers concessions – alcohol comprises 49% of concessions revenue. Perhaps not surprising, but interesting. Also from the Dodgers – fan cart size increased with self-serve kiosks, and the Dodgers saw concessions revenue and sales decrease when Clayton Kershaw pitch, because his starts were so much shorter. (And fans likely want to be in their seats to see the ace in action)

*Stats to consider from WWE – While we focus on so much on mobile TV viewing, just 15-20% of WWE Network viewing is on mobile devices. Even on the digital-only WWE Network, fans still seek out the big TV for their sports. Another eye-popping stat from WWE – 70% of their content consumption comes from outside the US.

*Wasserman Managing Partner Elizabeth Lindsey noted the need for sports leagues to focus on international growth, despite so much attention at home paid to driving youth, female, and minority viewership growth. The NBA has their eyes on India (looking for India’s version of Yao Ming), while the NFL is hoping to crack China. The NBA, in discussing their success growing the game and the league in China, noted that content was provided for free to a Chinese network to show on TV, building in exposure for the NBA and the game.
*Pretty impressive user and user engagement stats from Twitch. The esports and video game streaming platform boasts 100 million monthly active users, and their users average  a mind-blowing 140 minutes per day on Twitch.


*The aspects of personalization are also of increasing concern when it comes to content and digital marketing. As more data is collected and put into action, greater degrees of custom experiences with content is a goal for the sports business industry, as well.

*Virtual reality and augmented reality were not surprisingly popular topics. A stat that stood out that either means future growth or stuck in the rut for VR is that the Consumer headset market for VR in the US is currently around six to ten million. One definite positive was the news from sports VR company STRVIR, which reported that it has been profitable the last two years.
*NBA Commissioner Adam Silver talked about how lucky they are to have players that market the league themselves, with all their activity on social media and in the media. The league also focuses on social media education and empowerment, which, along with willing and already social media-savvy players, makes for great success there.

*170+ million fans watched March Madness games in 2016. That’s a helluva number, and is certainly happening on an ever more diverse array of platforms now.

*Uninterrupted, the player-driven and video-focused content network co-founded by LeBron James, is not trying to displace journalism outlets like ESPN. Instead, explained Maverick Carter, their competition is more premium content producers, like HBO.

* This stat just stood out to me a bit…Which sport would you guess has the fifth most estimated fans in the world? I’ll give you a second…

It’s volleyball. I wouldn’t have guessed correctly.

*Good gambling stats to heed, as legalization expands in the US –> In Europe, sports gambling via mobile comprises 80% of the market and in-play [during the game/match] gambling makes up over 50% of total handle. Lots of $$ to come in this space for the US. That said, one limiting factor for such real-time gambling, it was noted, is the slowness/lag of data feeds delivering the stats.

*The CTO of Ticketmaster provided some fascinating insights on a panel at the conference. One that stood out to poder was that 68% of all tickets on Ticketmaster are sold after the original on-sale and presale. This could mean a lot of things, but mainly that most tickets are not bought early, which aligns with notion that fans are waiting to buy tickets.
Another ticket sales stat, that ws quite mind-blowing, was that there is an estimated $7 BILLION worth of arbitrage in the ticket sales market. You think teams want some of that/

*Another stat that opens some eyes for teams (via Ticketmaster) is that the names captured to tickets sold ratio is 1:2.8. Yep, nearly 3 of every 4 tickets are sold without teams knowing the identity of the buyer.

*The point was raised that there are two main cohorts of fans attending games. There are those fans that are there because they’re fans of the team and feel invested in them. And there are those who are there for the experience of attending the event, the spectacle (and, yeah, probably the social media fodder).

* A great insight from the San Francisco 49ers VP of Sales & Serivce Jamie Brandt, as he noted that, for Millennial fans, share-able experiences are valued far more than expensive things/items. Something to keep in mind for memorable fan experiences.

*An interesting stat from the panel on gambling was a study estimating that legalization of gambling would result in an average 10% increase in viewership for pro sports. Fans that are invested, literally, are engaged and don’t miss the game.

*In the ever-evolving world of tickets, paper and paperless, the 49es talked about everything from all-mobile ticketing to even a ‘biometric’ solution for fans of the future to gain entry into the game.

*As teams, leagues, and brands continue to try and do social media the right way, a statement that permeated and penetrated was that ‘Social media is for consuming content, not [conducting] transactions.’ (Though, Facebook Ads do work pretty well). Don’t forget why fans are there in their Feeds in the first place.

*There was a fascinating panel on sports journalism with Adrian Wojnarowski, Adam Schefter, and Ken Rosenthal that was full of good nuggets, some of which you can see in the SSAC recap. The powerhouse reporters talked about the nature of breaking news and how it’s not always so simple when you want to balance confirming vs. getting beat, and throwing in promises to sources to hold info until a certain time. They also spoke about the importance of building relationships and getting to know a lot of people in the industry, as well as getting to know the athletes as people. Other tips included a warning against burning bridges  (because word spreads quickly) and when reporting news answer and bring out the why and the how, not just the what.

*It’s a dialogue, not a monologue on social media. This is paraphrased from VP of Wasserman Mike Bernstein, which succinctly reinforces the need to remember the social in social media. If you’re the only one talking, that’s broadcasting, not relationship building. Creating conversation through content is powerful.


I’m always thirsty to learn more and greatly enjoyed picking up on some insights via #SSAC17. Be sure to check out the recaps.


Episode 87: Katlyn Gambill Helps the Minnesota Wild Provide Valuable Content for their Fans

Listen to episode 87 of the Digital and Social Media Sports podcast, with Katlyn Gambill ,Digital and Social Media Coordinator for the Minnesota Wild.


54 minute duration. Show format contains separate parts. Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or listen on Stitcher

Posted by Neil Horowitz Follow me on Twitter @njh287   Connect on LinkedIn

Review of Los Angeles Lakers Game Sponsorship and Content

The LA Lakers have one of the strongest, most storied teams in professional sports. With a brand that transcends their sport, brand association is no doubt a valuable proposition for corporate partners. While the Lakers have their share of activations on game night, it is clear this partnership association holds the most value, thereby lending credibility to more traditional, less active approaches.

I attended a game on January 31, 2017, and here is a brief look around at marketing, engagement, and sponsorship elements that caught my eye.

Upon arriving at Staples Center, walking through LA Live, one can see Lakers wraps to show that, tonight, Staples (also the home of the LA Clippers, LA Sparks, and LA Kings) is home to the Lakers. Lines to get in through security were slow and long (~ 25 minute wait; issues with ingress is real. Egress would be far easier). Like the wraps, the ‘Team LA’ store is full of Lakers merchandise, while ticket tables are peppered throughout the concourse and the floor and dasherboards are adjusted to Lakers. Notably, Lakers.com was the main digital property promoted, as opposed to any social media, in addition.


Throughout the game and between game play, the eyes are constantly drawn to the Staples Center video board, and the Lakers content and eye-catching graphics. The Lakers know where much of the attention is going and show their sponsor messages in that line of vision. It’s not a lot of ‘presented by’ elements or integration, but organic content and graphics to attract/earn the attention, while also borrowing some attention for sponsor messaging.

This is not to say there isn’t room for more active sponsorships and more elements that can organically tie in a partner, while providing value for fans. But instead of the Toyota Halftime Highlights, it’s just Halftime Highlights. Similarly with other on-screen elements and fan engagement features like the ‘Bubble Cam,’ Kiss Cam, Dance Cam, and more.


While there were fewer booths and activations of any sort overall at the Lakers game version of Staples Center than the Clippers’s version I attended weeks earlier, there were will some effective sponsor activations around. These were all, notably, on the first floor, whereas the Clippers had some on the upper levels, as well. There was a Verizon-branded activity (shooting for basketball games, changes for hockey games and concerts) that was popular, even during the game. The Los Angeles Times was also giving away t-shirts to market their newspaper subscriptions.

The most memorable and unique activation was the StubHub memento maker. Fans could sign up with name/phone number/email, get their photo taken, and then customize an image to be printed on the spot and shared digitally. A fun and creative way to get some shareable content and a commemorative ticket lanyard to wear it around. An excellent and effective activation.

The Lakers also had their own data capture activation, with an enter-to-win VIP tickets to a game/event. These digital sweepstakes are active for every Staples Center event. There were also a few ticket sales tables peppered throughout.

While there were not a lot of directly sponsored elements in-game, there was one late in the game as the Lakers sought to close out their victory. In the fourth quarter, the scoreboard exhorted fans to Make Some Noise. Jack In The Box is a fixture late in Lakers home games, as fans get free tacos if the team holds their opponent under 90 points.


Overall, the Lakers are not overly blatant, nor overly novel or engaging with many of their sponsor activations and in-game entertainment elements. The traditional brand has a handful of major corporate partners and hammers home these relationships with repeat impressions and positioning as true partners, as opposed to just sponsors.

NFL Wild Card Weekend Social Media Wows

It’s playoff season in the NFL, which means 17 weeks of regular season games have passed. The social media teams behind each club have had weeks to experiment, study, hone, and create. The playoffs began this weekend and not only was it a chance for the league’s better teams to take the field (sorta), it was a chance for their social media squads to shine on a grander scale.

Read on and take a look at some of the standout social media content and strategy that came from the eight NFL teams in action over Wild Card weekend.

(Also check out Social Media Team Reviews from every week of the NFL season)

360-degree content

While some content can get tired and stale, 360-degree content is far from that description and a few teams busted out some 360-degree content, specifically on Facebook, over Wild Card weekend. First, 360-degree content is by no means easy, but Facebook has made it easier than ever. The trick, too, is to make it worthwhile for the user to want to look around. I was particularly impressed by the Miami Dolphins producing 360-degree video, including going to suggested angles while also allowing personal navigation.


The Seahawks put out a pregame hype video, full of emotion and visuals, on all platforms. Al the other teams did something similar, but the Seahawks’s video on Facebook including captions. This helps enhance engagement, with lots of video views occurring with the sound off, which would’ve made the narration useless.


Making the most of Instagram Stories

A few of the teams stood out with their use of Instagram Stories on this Wild Card weekend. The Detroit Lions took full advantage of all the features, including @ mentioning players in their posts and utilizing the Swipe Up. They also effectively integrated a sponsor. Meanwhile, the Packers and Seahawks had some excellent graphics, with the Packers providing a game preview and the Seahawks killing it with some real-time content.

Fun with Emojis on Snapchat

So, yeah, teams have used emoji on Snapchat before. But the time the Packers took to add emoji to a couple of Snaps in their pregame story made the ‘usual’ locker room pics that much more fun.

The Right Place at the Right Time

Just like players and coaches game plan, so do social media teams. After 16 weeks of games, they know where to be or how to find out where to be and when. The result is capturing some unique, awesome content. Making sure to be in the right position is half the battle. Check out the Raiders’ Snapchat knowing to be there to let fans watch players tap the win sign on their way out. The Seahawks were able to make sure someone cut through the crowd to capture opposing players exchanging pleasantries after the win. Fans of the Steelers were treated to an emotional pregame embrace between Big Ben and LeVeon Bell, while Packers fans saw a pregame routine of ball spinning. The social media teams were executing the game plans all day long.

Personally addressing fans

It has been great to see this ‘trend’ grow across the NFL on social media, and this Wild Card weekend brought some excellent examples of personal messages via social. We got a thoughtful pregame message from the Giants, some real-time talk from the Raiders and Seahawks, a Steelers player heating up fans in the cold, and, coolest of all, Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio exhorting fans via the team’s Snapchat. There is a lot of emotion, focus, and routine on game day, so good on these social media teams to be there and to have developed the relationship to have that access and serve as that trusted conduit to share it all with the fans.

Working with Influencers

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans were able to activate influencers on their social media platforms, while the Raiders made the most of a message from former star player Charles Woodson (there for ESPN) and they also retweeted some ‘celebs.’ (The MC Hammer retweet is a weekly occurrence for the Black n Silver).


Capturing Attention on Twitter

Twitter is a fast-moving medium during the game, especially when big plays occur. The Pittsburgh Steelers did a great job (and usually do) at engaging fans on Twitter using the game with thumb-stopping visual tweets and good use of the scratch-reel GIF (content with which it made sense to utilize). They also threw out a funny ‘Touchdown’ dictionary.com graphic, inserting star WR Antonio Brown. When you have a stud like Brown, using the same GIF over celebration routine can get stale – the Steelers step it up.

 Thoughtful Content

Every week is a chance for teams to give their fans something unique, something new. Especially in the playoffs. The Houston Texans (though they have done this before) slapped Snapchat Spectacles on the flag bearer and fans got to experience the spirited sprint into the stadium. The Steelers also used Spectacles to give fans a look at the field and a feel for the elements. The Detroit Lions, meanwhile, planned and produced a shoot at famed Pike’s Place in Seattle, tossing a Lions helmet instead of a fish. Finally, I was struck by the overhead view of the Green Bay Packers pregame huddle jumping around that the team shared on Facebook and Twitter. While we may be accustomed to such unique angles on professional  broadcasts, it was cool to see this coming straight from a team. Finally, a nod to the Seahawks who minded their copy to turn an Instagram post from good to great.

Featuring Fans

In the midst of preparing so much (fire) content for fans to consume, it can be easy to forget about showcasing the fans there to cheer on the team on game day. The Houston Texans, in particular, did a good job of showing off some of their fans on Saturday, as well as all week, across digital and social. They also made sure to get a shot of a couple celeb fans there for the game.

The Texans also had a sweet ‘frame’ for their Instagram photos, with players posing in the locker room before the game.

Lots of Video

Video is king right now and its reign appears to be a lasting one. Every team had at least one hype video and there was also a lot of quick video, especially Snapchat and even Twitter (in the case of the Texans). Meanwhile, the Dolphins got major views with a handful of produced, emotion-infused videos on Faebook (and repurposed elsewhere). Kudos, too, to the Raiders for showing the post game locker room from head coach Jack Del Rio, not so easy after a loss. The Seahawks turned around some produced, but real-time content effectively, as well. A few of the teams also cut to live or taped reports from on the field with team reporters, content which always seems to do well for teams.

And a quick nod to the always awesome visual work from the Dolphins photography and graphic team. This is just a couple posts. All their platforms showcase the photos effectively and beautifully.


Facebook CTA button

You know that little button under your Facebook header photo – that often says Contact Us, Get App, Shop Now, etc. Well, the New York Giants took the time to change their CTA button to ‘Watch Video’ and link to a game preview on their website for their matchup against the Packers. Quite the attention to detail to leave no stone unturned for content.


There is little doubt that social media is an inherent part of the fan experience on game day. More eyeballs than ever are on the platforms of teams with national attention on them in the NFL postseason. Every media outlet, reporter, and fan is more engaged and putting out more content, and the competition for attention and love is fierce. It’s also a great time to learn!

As the road to the Super Bowl continues, keep your eyes open and your ears peeled because new social media tactics, ideas, and innovations are playing out on a national scale in real time.

Social Media Team Review: Saints Put Their Players and Their Fans Front & Center

The New Orleans Saints have a unique bond between their team, players, fans, and city. It goes beyond just cheering on wins, the fans feel a part of the team and love the players like family. The Saints embrace this, a much of their social media content is focused on highlighting players and fans, as much as posting other content and updates on their recent game day at home, in a close win against the Seattle Seahawks.

Perhaps their most impressive platform is Instagram. The Saints shared some thoughtful, close access photos and videos in the pregame window, including a pregame speech in a huddle from Drew Brees (shared elsewhere, too) and use of filters, for affect. The Saints did use Instagram stories, but not much, and just shared a little pregame content on that part of the platform.

Particularly awesome was a video on Instagram comprised of some great fan pics, prepared for game day. This framed promotion, sponsored by Coca-Cola, was a great collection that included some oh-so-adorable baby/kid pics. Instagram content during the game was primarily score update graphics and a snapshot from a halftime ceremony (similar to photos shared on other platforms). There was also a couple pics of players heading in for halftime.

The Saints had some great stuff after the game, too, which was an exciting win. Photos of excited players, powerful visuals, and some awesome video of fans and even an emotional player making eye contact and talking to fans. A lot of strong work after the thrilling victory, and Instagram showcased fans and players well, for the Saints.


The Saints had an active Facebook page over the weekend with mostly links and some sponsored content. The content integrated with sponsors was primarily shared on Saturday, tied into content linking back to the Saints website, and ‘tagged’ in the Saints’ posts.

A closer look at their Facebook Page and one can see their primary CTA at the top of the page is to ‘Message’ the page. The Saints are not only responsive, but very active in the pregame window, sharing a lot of links with preview content and even updated their cover photo that day. A pregame photo of the team in the tunnel was particularly popular; there was no native video on their page (at all, during the day).

During the game, the Saints updated their Facebook with score graphics, some photos from the halftime ceremony, and a lot of links to content (recaps, pressers) following their win over Seattle. The visuals were good and it would be interesting to know the traffic/click being driven from these posts / this activity.

Of course, the Saints were by far the most active on Twitter and their content and activity on here mirrored their focus on featuring players and fans over all else. In the pregame time period, there was retweets of players and of fans, excited for the Saints Gameday. (Notable, too, that the Saints have separate game day account, solely for customer service at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, it appears).

Also during pregame, the Saints retweeted other great content being posted to Twitter from other media outlets. Love this, as simple as it seems. If there is great content fans will enjoy, your curation is a service for them and only keeps them wanting more and more enthusiastic. The Saints had a steady volume throughout the pregame, with videos, photos, and retweets building buzz and giving a taste of the home game atmosphere.

The Saints’s in-game coverage is comprised of text updates for big plays, lots of player portrait photos (definitely helps build that visual connection with players and fans), and pre-prepared scoring graphics, including those styled for the team’s 50th anniversary. They reinforced their season-long theme with repeated usage of their hashflag, #Saints50. Scoring plays had a prepared graphic or two, followed by a visual/graphic drive summary tweet. None of these visuals contained any sponsors, as a note.

The Saints whipped out a good portion of variety during the game, with some unique visuals, fun GIFS (Saints/prepared and others) and had fun with QB Drew Brees as the GOAT (using GIFS and emoji). The Saints also did share one Snappy TV clip that the NFL had posted. The same themes of endearing players to fans permeated content throughout.

After the exciting win, the Saints shared in the emotion with fans, and then went into post game mode. This was links to their website to watch live web pressers, but also some tweeted out quotes, as well. In addition, there was active retweeting of multiple players and some great inclusion of tweets from happy, celebrating fans. (Victory gumbo FTW)


Finally, we take a look at Snapchat, on which the Saints had some solid, consistent content. The pregame content helped set the stage and build the emotion, while providing enough of the kind of access fans have come to expect on the platform. There was good selection in what to feature and even a special cameo from a current Saints fan celeb.

The Saints had the most activity on Snapchat in the pregame window, and their access was beyond just the average, including a raw experience in a pregame huddle with Drew Brees. A great way to make fans feel close and to feel the emotion of the players and the atmosphere. There didn’t appear to be a Saints-specific geofilter in use, and the filters used were the NFL game day filter and a couple general New Orleans filters.

During the game, the only Snapchat content came at halftime, with players running in and some shots of a halftime ceremony. Then, more magic happened after the game. It was great and speaks to what the Saints want to do on social — form deeper, personal connections between fans and players. Eye contact and direct messages shared via Snapchat after a big win is just fantastic and great buy-in from Saints players with the team’s social. Of course, fans were also featured.


I enjoyed reviewing the Saints’ social media. It is well done in a lot of ways and does a good job of conveying atmosphere and emotion, and featuring fans and players within all their content. There is perhaps no better result of social than deepening ties between fans and team, and the Saints, on this point, are hitting pay dirt.

Traditions, Taglines, and Chants: Building Fans That Feel Connected

Think about your favorite team. What makes them and their fans different? When fraternity or sorority members all over the country bump into each other, regardless of differences in age/location/beliefs, there is still an undying connection — a handshake, a pledge, a tradition.

It’s why I can instantly conjure up fandom from peers with a simple utterance of Sic ‘Em (Baylor) or Gig ‘Em (Texas A&M) or J-E-T-S (Jets) and, now, SKOL for the Minnesota Vikings.

I was awestruck listening to the recent Sports Geek podcast with Vikings Executive Director for Digital Media and Innovation Scott Kegley in which Kegley described the process of creating a new fan tradition — adopting the SKOL chant made notorious by the recently successful Iceland national soccer team. (listen to the episode here) You can’t just start using a hashtag and putting prompts on the video board and expect fans to go all-in and adopt a new tradition, just because you want them and told them to do so.

While you can listen to hear about what the Vikings did to instill the SKOL chant into fans, the point is that, now, Vikings fans all over the world can intimately connect in a way that represents their connection through community. Giving the nation a rallying cry.

It’s more than cheering for the names on the back of the jerseys and the names on the front of the jerseys. It’s penetrating deeper, creating a shared culture, a tribalism that stokes the passion of fans.

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This is not to say that teams all over should create catchy chants or slogans. But it is about considering whether fans have a way to feel like a strong community, unified by something tangible. The Atlanta Braves have their (annoying) chop, Washington Redskins fans can tell any other fan around the country HTTR with a knowing glance, Auburn Tigers fans can say War Eagle and instantly feel connected, and on and on.

Traditions are tough to build from scratch. They have to feel authentic and true, embraced and not forced. But when it feels right and it can be seen and heard, practiced and repeated, spread and shared, it becomes a powerful purveyor of passion.

What does your tradition look and sound like? What would give fans goosebumps or allow fans to connect all over the world? Crowds come and go, but tribes and traditions last forever.