I was thrilled to learn last week that Winners had been shortlisted for the Yahoo! Sports Technology Awards 2019 for our work on UEFA GROW’s IT Maturity Matrix (if you haven’t yet heard of UEFA GROW you can read more here). You’ll be able to read more about the matrix once the shortlisted projects are published but one key component of it is the use of Tableau for data visualisation – the term coined for the presentation of data in a pictorial or graphical format. With Tableau, or indeed any software of its ilk, you can build interactive dashboards that allow you to drill down into the individual visual components changing the data you see to focus on specific areas.
The use of images instead of words is not a new concept: from ice age cave drawings featuring the location of stars and the Turin Papyrus Map (dated 1160 BC and considered the oldest one surviving) to the common use of excel graphs and charts, we have long appreciated the use of pictures to communicate a message. And in our data-driven world, effective visualisation makes complex data more accessible, understandable and certainly more usable: how many of our senior management will ever pore over our databases or worksheets?
So, let’s look at a just a few common uses of data visualisation that are relevant to the business side of the sports industry and either highlight a point or a trend, help us identify relationships or communicate a story.
One of the most impactful visualisations we regularly produce for our clients is a map of their customers, fans or participants based on their postal codes.
This alone can provide quite a discussion piece, but it gets really interesting when we plot individuals in relation to a destination – for example how far away they are from a stadium, grassroots club or a sponsor’s retail location (store, outlet, hotel, branch, etc.) Using software like Tableau you can then focus on specific areas within your maps, include or exclude areas from your analysis, and embed additional information within the “hover over”. You can also use the video function to show change over a period of time – that one really helps a discussion come to life.
Plotting movement over time – whether it’s sales, participation or engagement – is such a useful process that can provide valuable insight: what was the rate of growth/movement, what relationship do the peaks and troughs have, etc. But adding a predictive element – plotting the trend line – adds another dimension – “what’s likely to happen if I continue to do the same as I am now”. One step further still and we can add some regression analysis, i.e. external factors like the weather, the last time we played against the visiting team, our position in the table, what’s on TV at the same time.
Plotting your growth and churn lines in one graph immediately highlight the impact you can have on your results if you can figure out how to reduce the churn! I love this simple graph where the gold line represents the percentage of new customers over the previous year and the gold line represents the loss of current customers because you can clearly see:
1) In 2014 this rights owner had a cracking year – while they lost 17% of the previous year’s customers, they generated new ones that represented 23%, providing a net gain of 6%. Maybe they won a trophy?
2) Conversely in 2016 their net gain was 0%…..all the hard work put in by the New Business team was negated by their loss of current customers. Knowing what caused the churn is the next step, but just identifying what it is can help you justify the resources you need to then put preventative measures into place.
There are many ways to use data visualisation, and there are many products that support it, so whether you’re learning how to use Google Data Studio, are mastering excel charts and graphs, or have progressed/would like to progress to a dedicated data viz product, please get in touch if you need some support.
In the meantime, please wish us luck with the Yahoo! Sports Technology Awards 2019!