The dust has settled on the 2019 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, and the industry is beginning to digest the key takeaways from another engaging, thought-provoking and at times controversial event.
At Sportlogiq, the event forms an important benchmark in our calendar. It’s a chance to network with like-minded people, to showcase the advances in our technology and to understand the central themes that will define the Sports Analytics world over the next 12 months.
As ever, the most obvious observation coming from Sloan is that this is an industry that is developing at a breakneck pace. Talent from all areas is being attracted to a world that is connecting performance analysis, big sports business and academia like almost nothing else. The ecosystem around sports data is maturing, and one look around the exhibition hall showed a presence from companies of all sizes, and at all edges of the industry, including increasing, but not surprisingly, the sports betting community.
This variety shows that data and analytics holds a unique place in the world of sport. It’s a rare and valuable commodity that provides value at all stages of the content lifecycle - pre-match, live and post-match, and across areas as diverse as injury prevention, talent identification and predictive performance analytics.
Data is now understood to be a key weapon in the armoury of any club, governing body, broadcaster or media property. Used properly it can be one of the only content types that connects sponsors and brands with fans throughout an entire season, adding value to the conversations taking place with, and between, supporters.
This increasing maturity has led us to the next big tipping point in data collection and analysis. The collection and analysis of basic events is now the expected standard. Providing a certain level of data to players, teams, partners and fans is simply fulfilling the minimum expectation.
The new frontier of data analysis is being driven by more sophisticated methods of AI-powered collection such as computer vision. These techniques, in addition to the standard data collection, allow for new categories, as well as augmentation of traditional ones. Tracking of movement, including body pose analysis, allows us to start understanding what didn’t happen and what could have happened, as well as simply reporting the action.
A few of the sessions at Sloan mentioned how the limitations of traditional data are more apparent now that the industry is becoming more sophisticated, and how augmenting the current standard will lead to a better understanding of the game, across several sports.
The benefits that this new data brings will only come, however, when the gap between the data collection and the derived insights is closed. Without being able to quickly, simply and contextually draw out information, there’s a danger that the industry is layering on more and more data onto a user base that’s already drowning in raw materials. At Sportlogiq, we have a fundamental belief that AI can be part of the solution to closing this gap, and our technologies are being utilised for both data collection and data analysis.
Examples of this can be found in our research paper posters at Sloan this year—you can read all about them here. Also, watch our data analyst, Nick Czuzoj-Shulman, present his research work on Winning Isn’t Everything: A Contextual Analysis of Hockey Face-offs.
We’re only at the start of understanding the possibilities of this new information, and how this will impact performance analysis, opposition scouting and player recruitment in the pro space. The content possibilities for sports media, amplified by a proliferation of distribution channels, seem at this point to be almost endless.
These new data collection methodologies bring with them new ethical considerations around data collection and processing too. Several of the sessions mentioned the need for a level of trust between athletes, leagues and the data collection and analysis industry.
There is a responsibility amongst everyone involved to understand the power of data and analytics, now that it is impacting almost every area of the sports industry.
At Sportlogiq, we’re continuing to digest the learnings from the 2019 Sloan Sports Analytics conference, sharing our thoughts with our colleagues and continuing to work on our mission to push this industry forwards.
It’s an innovative and exciting world to be part of, and the conference reinforces that at every turn. And while there are still a few unknowns, one thing is for certain - the sports analytics industry isn’t standing still. We look forward to seeing what another year of innovation will bring and where we’ll stand when Sloan 2020 comes into view.
In case you missed Christopher Boucher on the Cutting Edge: Hockey Analytics panel, you can watch it here.