The Kraft Group: How Sports Analytics And Traditional Data Analytics Can Work Together

An offshoot of the New England Patriots may show a new way of using data


Fans of the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and Miami Dolphins will be all too aware of how successful the New England Patriots have been in the past decade or two. Since 2003, just once have the Patriots been pipped to the Eastern Division Championship, and they’ve made the Super Bowl in three of the last nine seasons. Triumphs on the field have been matched by commercial success off of it, too, with the team now behind only the Dallas Cowboys in Forbes’ NFL Valuations for 2016.

The Patriots have been one of the league’s wealthier teams for over a decade, having shot up from ninth to fourth in Forbes’ rankings between 2001 and 2002, but their continued success can be put down, in part, to the work of Jessica Gelman. Since being appointed Vice President of Customer Marketing and Strategy in 2010, she has overseen the addition of over a billion in valuation, with the team spiking in value from $1.37 billion in 2010 to $3.4 billion in 2016.

Gelman is all in on the use of data analytics to not only improve fan experience but, by extension, increase revenue. When she’s not working with the Pats, she co-chairs the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, and has been included among numerous lists of young executives shaping the futures of their industries. And, earlier this year, Gelman was appointed CEO of the Kraft Group’s newest analytics venture, Kraft Analytics Group.

The startup is looking to take its business intelligence technology - developed, in part, by Gelman for the Pats - to the market, turning itself into a fully fledged business in its own right. According to SportTechie, ‘requests for advice and guidance from other, similar organizations…led KSG to turn KAGR into a standalone company.’ Like Google Drive or Slack, KAGR is a product of an internal solution that became a viable product in its own right. ‘The concept started a decade and a half ago,’ Gelman told BostInno. ’We've built something internally that's really transformed our business.’

In late September, KAGR joined with collegiate marketer Learfield to form a joint data and insights venture, KLEARintel. Mississippi State University will be the first school to use the venture’s software data warehouse, predictive analytics, and marketing services in its decision-making processes, according to SportTechie. The venture will then assist other college athletic departments in understanding their fans and exploiting the data generated by them, just as NFL teams have been doing for years.

But the way in which sports teams record and analyze data about their supporters is entirely transferrable into business, a world of more traditional data analytics. Sport is relatively advanced in the way it analyzes its customers, and Gelman and co. are looking to offer a helping hand to others. No customer-facing offering has yet been completed, but dashboards have been built internally for the Pats and New England Revolution management. Gelman hopes KAGR will make it easier for management to examine data and know when to intervene. ‘If you are not someone who has really used data a ton, our job is to make it simple and easy for people to use and understand,’ she said. ‘When are the inflection points and what are you going to do?’

Businesses will not quite be able to apply the same techniques to their customers as the Pats do to their fans. Fans are loyal, customers often aren’t, and the latter will have to be served far greater diligence to achieve the same loyalty. The same principles do apply, though. As KAGR put it, ‘establishing a single view of the customer enables analysis across a wide range of demographic and behavioral attributes.’ I.e. the lessons to be learned from predictive analytics are in many ways universal.

If KAGR can be anywhere near as successful as Fenway Sports Management or Legends - created by Boston Red Sox’ owners group and a New York Yankees/Dallas Cowboys coalition respectively - then its cloud-based platform will help both college teams and businesses handle and exploit their data. Sports analytics and more traditional data analytics can work together to achieve the same ends - KAGR wants to be the middle man. 

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