Jeremy Loeliger was appointed General Manager of the National Basketball League from 1 July 2015. Since that time, he has overseen the League’s commercial transformation, establishing the foundations for a successful and sustainable future for professional basketball in Australia.
Before joining the NBL, Mr Loeliger was a partner of a national law firm, practising corporate and commercial law with a focus on mergers and acquisitions and capital markets, but also including a successful niche sports law practice. He also sits on the Executive Committee of the Victorian Chapter of the Australia China Business Council, and is a champion of Sino-Australian trade and the important role of sports diplomacy.
Ahead of his presentation at the Sports Analytics Innovation Summit, taking place in Melbourne this March 8-9, we sat down with Jeremy to discuss the state of sports analytics and it's effect on the NBL.
How did you get started in your career?
I was a partner of a national law firm and my practice included, amongst other things, an element of sports law. I came to know Larry Kestelman by advising a couple of his businesses from time to time, which ultimately resulted in him approaching me to run the NBL with him when he was presented with the opportunity to take a controlling stake in the league in 2015.
What, in your view, were the defining sports analytics trends of last year?
One of the most interesting for me was the enormous digital viewership of the 2016 Olympic Games – from a basketball perspective, the numbers were staggering. While this has been the case for some time now elsewhere, digital take-up of live sport in Australia has lagged behind because of slow internet speeds – but as the NBN comes online, those numbers are rapidly growing.
With the incredible amount of data available to analytics teams in modern sport, how can analysts identify which metrics are important?
Virtually everything is important… it’s a matter of figuring out how to use the information to maximum effect. As a case in point, we are looking at all kinds of biometric data that can be utilised live in broadcast – but the information in isolation isn’t necessarily interesting to a viewer (although it may be compelling for the team’s trainers). It is a question of understanding what stories you can tell with that data that will be of interest to viewers.
Do you think there is a danger fans could begin to feel like a commodity? Can personalization ease this?
The principle use of data should be to give the fans what they want. There is no better driver for commercial success than understanding your consumers and giving them more of what it is that they want to consume. It doesn’t need to be personal if it is what everyone wants. I think people can be too cynical about why it is that rights holders want more data about consumers – that perhaps it is an invasion of privacy. But it really amounts to two things – understanding what they want so we can spend our money more efficiently to give it to them in a targeted manner, and then telling them that we’ve built a product that they’re going to love.
In terms of customer - i.e. fan - analytics, what are the challenges unique to the sports industry?
The old saying that success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan is nowhere more true than in sport, and all the data in the world can’t help you if the sport itself isn’t healthy. Fans can be fickle, and so understanding their behaviour can be immensely complicated by their loyalty, their passion, their patience… all kinds of human emotions which, particularly in Australia, are greatly heightened in relation to their devotion to sport as compared to, say, their choice of deodorant or running shoes.
How has data directly impacted the running of the NBL as a league?
Data is in our DNA – it is the backbone of almost everything we do from a commercial perspective. We are either looking to collect data to better understand our consumers, or we are figuring out how to best make use of that data to make our product more compelling based on that understanding. The 18 month process of building an initial database and then cleaning that data has had a direct bearing on the commercial appeal of our sport. Every sponsor, supplier and partner we have understands the value of clean data and if we can demonstrate that we can use that data to their benefit, and we can do it in a way that is more compelling than our competitor, then more often than not they’ll choose us over that competitor.
You can hear more from Jeremy, along with other industry-leading sports analytics practitioners, at the Sports Analytics Innovation Summit this March 8-9 in Melbourne. To see the full schedule, click here.