Sports Analytics

Why Studying Math is a Sexy Choice for Your Future

Howdy, Oregon MBA blog. My name is Jacob Rosen and I’m a first-year in the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center program. While many of my new classmates here in Eugene know me as a loudly proud Ohioan and non-stop sports blogger, many recognize me most as the MBA class of 2016’s token math guy.

I majored in applied mathematical economics with minors in Spanish and business administration during my undergrad at the University of Dayton. I selected Dayton similarly to how I picked Oregon – both schools had attractive existing programs in niche subjects and the schools’ warmhearted communities won me over on my first visits. No one in my family had ever attended a Catholic university or moved out to the Pacific Northwest. But both schools felt like home immediately.

In regards to math, I was always data friendly as a kid. When I was 15 years old, I created my own mock-up of college football’s Bowl Championship Series ranking. I created similar rankings for baseball and basketball and began blogging regularly by the time I was 17. Regardless of my major, I probably still would’ve ended up involved in the sports analytics blogging community and I always thought an MBA was a good fit.

But majoring in mathematics opened doors to me in ways most traditional majors might not. From a young age, I always had wanted to work in sports, whether in sports business, player personnel or sports journalism. But the advice I had gotten – prove your competitive advantage in whatever way possible and stay away from a sports journalism-centric approach – fit right in line with going the math route. A math degree is very, very sexy in this field. Just think of Moneyball.

And that sex appeal is certainly not just true in sports. It’s very, very true in all realms of business. Look at any relevant study – PayScale, Inc. and Georgetown University have two good data sets – and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors always are at the top of the career earnings list. And that’s with over 70 percent of STEM majors working in non-STEM fields.

Again, I wasn’t the best at math in my undergrad. Econ and business courses came much easier for me. Some of those math classes, such as linear algebra and discrete mathematics, were harder than anything I’ve had in my life. I struggled for the first time in my academic career. The subjects pushed me further and further. They made me more comfortable with challenging problems and critical thinking. They are making the first term of my MBA much easier for me.

The point of studying math is that employers in every field are looking for young people who can analyze data and think on their feet. There’s a reason why the Wall Street Journal recently said a master’s in data analytics might be as hot as an MBA. Big Data is the future of business. A math major – or at least several courses in math – can be the differentiation point to lift your resume to the top of the pile.

Written by Jacob Rosen

Jacob Rosen is a second-year MBA student in the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. His goal is to work in business or sponsorship analytics for a professional sports team. Jacob interned in business analytics for the NBA's Charlotte Hornets this past summer. He can be followed on Twitter @WFNYJacob.

Thoughts on the 2014 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

Along with seven other MBAs from the University of Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, I attended the 2014 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston this past week.

2000 sports nerds gathered over the two days to listen to some incredible speakers, including former NBA coach Phil Jackson, author Malcolm Gladwell, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, and a number of other respected and powerful people  from the sports industry (GMs, network executives, coaches, athletes, authors, reporters, and more). The trip also featured some great seafood, cold weather, and a memorable experience at Fenway Park.

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Written by Jeff Angus

Jeff is a 2015 MBA Candidate at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. He was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada and obtained a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the University of Victoria (BC) in 2009.He frequently shares his thoughts on Twitter @anguscertified and is passionate about writing, storytelling, fitness, health, and everything and anything sports-related.

Sloan Sports Analytics Conference Wows Students Again

For the second straight year, students from the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center traveled to Boston to attend the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. The conference is intended to bring professionals and students together to discuss the ever-evolving role of analytics in sports, and sports business. Below are some testimonials from students who attended this years conference.
Jordan Bloem (Class of 2014)
On the experience as a whole: As excited as I was going into the weekend, the conference still managed to exceed my expectations. There were so many big name coaches, GM’s, owners, and ESPN personalities that it felt like we were in Bristol [at ESPN HQ]… but it was more than that too. There were so many panels that were really interesting and extremely relevant to our coursework and professional goals, covering topics such as sponsorship, pricing models, market research, and fan experience. It was often really difficult to choose which panels we even wanted to attend, and although we did make some time to venture out and see Fenway Park, Faneuil Hall, and do some other Boston sightseeing, we spent the majority of our time at the conference.  Overall it was a really great networking experience for everyone who went.
Biggest highlight: The coolest panels for me personally were related to basketball analytics. There was a great debate and discussion between coaches, GM’s, and “stat heads” regarding the use of metrics, the flaws that exist in a metrics-based system, and intuitive judgement of player performance. The Friday morning opener, titled “Revenge of the Nerds” was fantastic too, and included future NBA Commissioner Nate Silver, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey. I also had the opportunity to chat with executives from the NBA Team Marketing & Business Operations (TMBO) division, a group that acts as internal consultants to the league to share best practices amongst the franchises. For me, that was an amazing learning opportunity, and a great way to gain exposure to a potential job function that I definitely find intriguing.

Boston Celtics game, thanks to Warsaw Alum Steve Acampa

Matt Maxson (Class of 2013)
Academic Highlights: In my mind, there were two panels that really stood out, and both were really relevant to current trends in the communication of information. First was the panel I attended on Data Visualization. In this panel, executives from the New York Times, Google, and Fathom Consulting stressed the importance of keeping things simple, not overcomplicating your message (especially with too many colors), and using visuals to answer questions. A key takeaway for me was really getting to understand how visuals can be used to answer questions you didn’t know you had, and help identify trends that you weren’t able to see just by analyzing the numbers. My other favorite session revolved around social media analytics. This session in particular drew upon lessons I had learned in my Strategic Marketing and Social Media classes. Here, speakers emphasized how important it is to be adaptable at a moment’s notice, and ready to respond to anything (like a power outage at the Super Bowl). Other tips related to overall social media strategy, and how you need to create context before developing content, and ensuring that your communication is properly timed (i.e., during a commercial break, not during the action of a game).
Overall Experience: I attended the conference last year, and was just as impressed this year as I was then. I had the chance to interact with leaders from both business and sports operations, and was able to learn a great deal about how sports, personnel decisions, and even in-game strategy are changing. It was also really great to be able to attend the Celtics game on Friday night, thanks to 2011 Warsaw Alum Steve Acampa, and to see Bill Zachry and Blake Holmes (alums from the 2012 Warsaw class) attending the conference as professionals. Boston was a great time, and I look forward to attending next year as well as part of the Warsaw Alumni contingent!

Written by Andrew White

Andrew is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. A native of Massachusetts, he came to UO to refine his business skills and build his expertise in the sustainability arena. His primary interest is in helping organizations implement environmentally and socially sustainable strategies for long-term success, and he is a regular participant on many of the MBA intramural sports teams.

Warsaw visits Boston for the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference!

The Warsaw Group in Boston

 

On March 2nd and 3rd, a group of Warsaw students, myself included, had the privilege of attending the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston. In November, we started planning our trip to the conference in hopes of taking advantage of both the information presented at the panels and also the networking opportunities that could result from so many leaders of the sports industry being in one place at one time. After talking with Paul, we decided that we would make the sacrifices to attend the conference in the middle of the term and booked our flights.

We left on Thursday morning out of PDX and arrived in Boston in the late afternoon. After checking into the hotel, we decided to walk around the city and find some place to eat. Dinner ended up being at Parish Cafe; this was by far the best meal of the trip and got us started off right in Boston. After that we did some more sight-seeing before we went back to the hotel to get some rest before the two-day conference began.

For those who don’t know what the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference is, check out this short video from the series “Numbers Never Lie”:

The conference had high attendance this year with a mix of students and professionals. Day one was a full slate. With sessions like “Business of Sports: Winning Off the Field,” “Brand Equity: Valuing Sports Sponsorships,” and “Competitive Advantage: Sports Business Analytics” headlining my schedule, I knew it was going to be an enlightening day. If you would like to watch videos from this year’s conference, visit this link.

I would say the highlight of day one for me was the Sports Business Analytics panel which had representatives from NBA TeamBO, the NFL, the MLB, and Ticketmaster.Valerie Camillo from the NBA  gave an interesting presentation sponsorship analytics which will undoubtedly help me in our upcoming sports sponsorship course. She detailed the techniques the NBA uses and shares across teams to measure sales bench marking, sponsorship measurement, and seven-figure deal analysis. One of the most interesting practices they encourage teams to employ is shortening mid-court signs in order to place signs at the ends of the bench. These signs are on television broadcasts much more than center court signs and therefore are able to raise more sales revenue. We were able to see this technique when we attended the Celtics vs Nets game after the conference Friday night. We were in the last row, but it was still a good view, and as a basketball fanatic, I relished the opportunity to be in the TD Garden.

After a great first day, the second day would prove to be just as educational. The sessions I attended included “Ticketing Analytics,” “Franchises in Transition,” the MBA case competition, “Fanalytics” and the live interview with Mark Cuban. Each session proved to be extremely beneficial and served as great opportunities to hear from leaders in sports and broadcasting such as John Walsh, John Skipper, Nathan Hubbard (CEO Ticketmaster), Jonathan Kraft, Adam Silver, Gary Bettman, Scott Boras, and Daryl Morey.

 

The group learned a lot about the evolution of sports and there were some key themes. First was the importance of social media, specifically Twitter. The conference was practically ran through Twitter and all questions had to be submitted through the social media tool in order to be answered. These questions would then be displayed in the conference on huge screens; I’m proud to say that the #Warsaw contingent was featured often on the board. All of the panelists stressed the importance of Twitter on both driving traffic to broadcasts and increasing ticket sales.

The second big theme was the difficulty and importance of pricing of tickets. Whether teams and organizations preferred variable or dynamic pricing, each stressed the critical need for efficient pricing mechanisms. There were differing points of view regarding secondary ticket markets such as StubHub, but in the end, Nathan Hubbard from Ticketmaster summed it up best by saying “these secondary markets exist because we are not good at pricing.” Ticket pricing was such a focal point that the MBA case competition, sponsored by the NFL, was based around developing an economic model for deciding on the proper allocation of club and general admission seats in addition to deciding on the optimal pricing structure. The University of Chicago Booth School of Business ended up taking home first prize this year. Although it was well-deserved, we all felt as though we definitely need to compete next year and represent Warsaw in this competition.

The last takeaway was the importance of fan interaction. The “Franchises in Transition” panel turned into a discussion on how important the fans are to sports franchises and how each franchise can reward fans for their allegiance and investment in the team. Brian Burke, President and GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, was originally scheduled to be in this panel but fired his coach Friday night and had to cancel. He was replaced by Drew Carey, owner of the Seattle Sounders in the MLS. I don’t think any of us thought that Drew Carey would be so knowledgeable about sports and so radical in his approach. He really takes fan engagement to a new level and allows season ticket holders to vote out the GM of the Sounders every four years. I encourage you to watch the attached video of this panel if you have any interest in fan engagement; it was truly one of the better panels of the conference.

Gary Wang meets Daryl Morey

 

All in all, the conference was a great experience and we all really appreciated all of the help Paul Swangard provided to help us get there. Attending conferences is a privilege and I am thankful that a group from Warsaw was able to attend one of the biggest conferences in the industry. But I don’t think anyone was as happy as Gary Wang was when he got to speak with his idol, Daryl Morey, the GM of the Houston Rockets!

The conference was everything I wanted it to be and I learned what I can do next year to make it better: set up networking meetings in advances. There were some opportunities to speak with panelists, but I think it would be better to find people who are attending ahead of time and plan meetings. Personally, I cannot wait until next year, not only to hear the newest developments in sports but also to hopefully compete in the MBA competition. Until then, I will have to settle for attending classes at the leading sports marketing program in the country; this truly is a great program.

 

-Matt Van Wyen

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.