Sports Analytics: How is Data Used in the Sports Industry?

Data analytics is one of the fastest growing specialisms within the technology sector. This growing field is bringing new data tools and programmes into the corporate world that are helping organisations streamline their performance and identify areas of improvement.

This is particularly true in the world of sports. But how exactly is the sports industry leveraging data and advanced analytics? We’ll dive into this and more below.

The Use of Data in Sports

Fundamentally, sports data analysis uses statistics to recognise patterns in athletic performance, and to generate insights that can inform strategies to boost player or team health and performance.

The sports industry leverages data analytics in a number of ways. Athletes and coaches use data-gathering systems to analyse and enhance performance, while broadcasters use sports analytics to discuss team performances and highlight historical trends. Investors in the industry use data to see which sport club is worth their sponsorship, and medics analyse athletes’ health to reduce the risk of injuries or predict how many medical staff will be needed at a game.

The use of data in the sports industry is so widespread, that there are degree programmes dedicated solely to sports data analysis. So it is no surprise, then, that the market is racing to catch up with the demand for more accurate and interactive tools.

What are some of the most common data tools that the sports industry is making use of?

Wearables and Augmented Reality: Trending Tools

One recent trend has been the increase in wearable technology that top performers are using to assess their health and fitness, such as Fitbits that track metrics like heartbeat, distance travelled, etc.

Augmented reality is another trend among athletes. For instance, the Leicester Tigers, one of the best premiership rugby teams in the UK, uses video software to capture multiple angles of play, and then codes it into language that coaches can use to educate players during training sessions.

But video tools aren’t just used to help boost player performance. They can also be used to improve the fan experience and to help games run smoother. For example, Hawk-Eye technology in sports like tennis and volleyball (and others) captures video footage that shows if a ball has landed in or out of the court, which helps officials make quick decisions to help games move faster.

Has Tech Adoption Gone too Far?

Some argue that technology is taking over and is leaving physical employees redundant, especially with advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI). But this argument doesn’t apply to data analytics. This is because the function of data analytics is to simply to present information. Then, it’s up to the people analysing the data to decide what to do with it, and to make insightful recommendations based on the information.

For example, professional tennis player Novak Djokovic is well known for his openness about using data to measure and influence his performance. He’s not shy to admit this, because he knows that how he chooses to apply the information is entirely up to him and his coaching team.

Djokovic is one of the best tennis players in the world right now, and the extent to which analytics has supported his success can only be speculated on. But it is likely to have helped.

Data Hiring in Sports

Whether you are in favour of using sports analytics or not, there is no doubt that the use of data has become the primary method for measuring performance within sports and the market for new analytical tools will only grow, as more people buy-in to this new data-driven world.

Our consultants are witnessing an increasing awareness among sporting organisations as to the value that data analytics can offer, not only for the wider business but also to enhance the fan experience.

Alanah Chambers, Senior Recruitment Consultant, has been working with North-West football clubs who have been investing in centralised data analytics teams in order to better support the fans and improve their experience and perception of the club. This could, for example, involve making the process of renewing a season ticket more straightforward or ensuring that their opinions are being heard via the website.

And as businesses become increasingly data-driven, Alanah expects to see other football clubs cottoning-on, particularly as developments in AI arrive on the horizon. The growth of the sports data job market also presents exciting opportunities for candidates looking to take on roles that fall outside of the more traditional finance and retail sectors, and who are driven by community engagement above profit.

If you are interested in finding out more about what data analytics has to offer your organisation or would like to put your data analysis skills to work on the pitch – get in touch with one of our consultants today.