This is a Day 1 recap of the Horizon Summit. Day 2 kicks off today at 9 a.m. PT (noon ET). The event is free to attend. To see a list of speakers and register, click here. If you’re already signed up, join us. Missed something yesterday? You can catch up on all the presentations from Day 1 in the virtual auditorium.
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At one point during General Robert Brooks Brown’s distinguished career in the U.S. Army, he assumed command of a Stryker unit that he described as the “most digitally capable unit in the military.” Even in the desert, his group had immediate access to the best information. “We went from a world with very little data to overwhelming data,” Brown said yesterday as he gave the closing keynote during Day 1 of Horizon Summit, the business analytics conference produced by the San Francisco 49ers and SportTechie.
Officers, however, didn’t know how to use it. They would often ignore the information if it seemed to be an overload; would only seek out data that confirmed an existing bias; would wait for perfect information before making a decision; would make a decision and refuse to budge when the data later changed for fear that that it would undermine their authority.
General Robert Brooks Brown
“In reality, that’s completely changed with data and analytics,” said Brown, who recently retired after serving as commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific from April 2016 to Nov. 2019. “You’ll make a decision now and, 10 minutes later, the data is going to show you more. So what happens is, I’ve seen individuals who will not change their minds—and the whole team knows it, and you’ll actually come off as a fool and not a leader. You’re not wishy-washy but foolish.”
This was a prevailing theme across different tracks and disciplines—from war to online dating.
Before Sam Yagan became the CEO of Shoprunner, he was a co-founder of OKCupid and CEO of the Match Group, which operated Match.com and, later, developed Tinder. Yagan joked about OKCupid’s roots as a dating company founded by a quartet of math majors who conducted a series of experiments on the site to determine dating preferences. “You might ask yourself, ‘Why would I ever want to join a dating site that was founded by four math majors?’ ” he said, poking fun at himself for earning the nickname, The Nerd King of Online Dating, in media outlets. Among the math majors’ discoveries: a suggested match increased the likelihood of a date by 50% and more than 90% of a personality rating was actually determined by looks.
From the early days in the industry, Yagan held three self-observed truths about matchmaking sites: 1) a purely photo-based, hot-or-not style match didn’t work; 2) users didn’t want to mix their social lives on Facebook with their dating lives; 3) and regional, geographic-based dating sites never worked.
“Everybody wants to be data-driven,” Yagan said. “But being data driven doesn’t necessarily help innovation. And, in fact, it can hurt it. One of the most insidious parts about data is that it can actually prematurely kill ideas. The reason is data exposes failure. . . . A lot of times, you’ll have an early setback, and the data will say, ‘Here’s a failure.’ But, in fact, that’s just a necessary learning along the way.”
In 2012, while Yagan was running the Match Group, an idea emerged from one of its incubators that matched potential paramours entirely by photo swipes, utilized only Facebook-synced logins, and generated a dating pool based on geolocation. It contradicted all of the conventional wisdom. But, Yagan said, “Because we were able to hold in our heads the idea that, despite the fact that there was all this data against it, this product was packaged in a different way that might actually refute the data. It might actually be the exception.”
That app, of course, became Tinder, which he said is now worth $20 billion within the Match Group. Swiping left or right aside, Yagan offered deep insights from years of data and research that can help you find a real connection. He says there are three questions that can predict a good match if both people have the same answers to each one:
Do you like horror movies?
Have you ever traveled around a foreign country alone for pleasure, not for work?
Would it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?
But remember: in love, just like war, you can always change your mind when more data becomes available.
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Horizon Summit Notes — Day 1
Face Masks Won’t Give You Privacy
Almost every civilization throughout recorded history has offered some privacy protections into their laws and customs. “But one thing no one can deny is that our world and our economic landscape is going to grow much more digitally much more rapidly,” says Lawrence Cappello, a professor of U.S. Legal and Constitutional History at the University of Alabama. “And the amount of data being collected in the post-COVID world as it grows more digital is just going to balloon.”
That will be due to contact tracing and other pandemic-induced measures, as well as general societal and technological trends already at work. It is too late, Cappello argues, to try and stop the voluminous data collection under way. Rather, the law should focus on policing what’s done with that data.
“In the 21st century, privacy is becoming a commodity, and it’s something that, if you’re a proactive business, you can harness and use to generate profits while also being fiscally responsible and doing the right thing,” he says.
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Even Though We’re Being Socially Distant, Lean In
Founded by CEO Kristen Ingram, Plus One Society is a marketing agency that seeks to use sports to amplify social change, attacking issues such as student loan debt and criminal justice reform. Money, Ingram says, is only part of the solution.
Every company that is serious about creating equitable social impact must consider these three principles:
- “Be honest about your values as a company.”
- “Lean in. You cannot connect to something you are not close to. This is the exact reason we take teens inside prisons because empathy is a derivative of connection.”
- “Engage the forgotten fan.”
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Ballot Boxes and Betting Slips
As the pandemic-induced economic shutdown has crippled many state budgets, sports betting could be a means of recouping some of the lost revenue as the games return.
“If you look at the sports business, maybe the biggest beneficiary of COVID-19 could be the sports betting space,” says David Preschlack, the president of NBC Sports Regional Networks and EVP of content strategy at the NBC Sports Group. (That thought echoes the recent comments from DraftKings CEO Jason Robins.)
California’s legislature, for instance, may put a sports betting referendum on November’s ballot for both mobile and retail options. And Nevada has approved esports wagering to bolster its betting inventory.
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Hotdogging the Healthy Food
Fans regularly articulate a desire for more healthy food options at sporting events. Their actions, however, don’t suggest they mean it.
When the San Francisco 49ers partnered with popular Bay Area Mediterranean restaurant Hummus Cups in 2018, they sold 181. In total. Over 10 games. Despite having upwards of 70,000 fans enter the Levi’s Stadium gates. During those same 10 games, the 49ers sold 49,000 hot dogs.
That’s why Alison Lu, the team’s director of business strategy and analytics, channeled legendary Apple founder Steve Jobs when she said, “Our job is to figure out what consumers want before they actually figure it out themselves.”
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Buckle Your Seatbelt and Fasten Your Masks
Before the pandemic, Uber had been using facial recognition technology as a form of fraud prevention to ensure the person behind the wheel was the appointed driver—but it’s since modified the tech tool to ensure the driver is wearing a mask.
“While this example may be somewhat unique to Uber today,” says Dominic Ferrario, business development manager at Uber Technologies Inc., “I’m hopeful that it’s a good thought starter, as each of you think about repurposing your existing pieces of technology and events for each of your fans.”
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SAP Qualtrics Can Add Sprinkles to Your Data
Integrating ticketing and survey data through SAP’s Qualtrics platform has enabled more granular insights for the Utah Jazz.
“It’s easy for us to spot, ‘Hey, we’re getting a lot of complaints about the ushers in this section of the stadium. Maybe that’s something we should confront,’ ” says Amy Hunter, the team’s director of customer strategy.
The positive use case is possible too. SAP can build detailed CRM profiles of season-ticket holders for extra benefits.
“We can ask you questions about your favorite ice cream and when your birthday is,” she says, “and then we can show up to your seat on your birthday with a chocolate ice cream cone.”
[A friendly bit of advice from an editor who suffers from this double-whammy: always check for gluten and dairy intolerances!]
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Conquer By Showing Up
In sports philanthropy, says Justin Prettyman, the executive director of the San Francisco 49ers Foundation, each team game is a mini-event to raise money and tell the foundation’s story. Each game, therefore, becomes a call to action.
“Each of you possesses the power to support and grow your own philanthropic hero’s journey,” Prettyman says, adding that everyone “can go deeper. Going deeper doesn’t always mean going deeper in your pockets and going deeper in the company’s budget. We in the nonprofit industry, we love sweat equity.
“Show me a company who’s going to meet me on the front lines, roll up their sleeves and do the dirty work. That’s currency for us.”
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Bigger Than the Super Bowl
The Indian Premier League attracts 800 million viewers per season, and its final match annually outdraws the NFL’s Super Bowl.
That insight, shared by Rajasthan Royals COO Jake Lush McCrum, is bolstered by the fact that 50% of India’s population is under the age of 25, compared to 32% in the U.S. That makes the IPL’s T20 cricket format one of the most desirable sports sponsorship opportunities in the world.
“For us, what’s even better is it’s growing in areas like the U.S. and the U.K. and Australia as well as in India itself,” McCrum says.
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Ushering in the Future of Ticketing
The Orlando Magic have been experimenting with a variety of ticketing options: setting variable pricing of games by tiers before the season, dynamically changing prices as each game approaches, overselling the arena capacity based on algorithms of expected attendance, and flexible seating options, with fans only claiming their specific seat assignment when they are geolocated within a mile of Amway Arena.
“Traditional ticketing products aren’t adaptable, and oftentimes don’t meet [fans’] needs,” says Jay Riola, the team’s senior VP of strategy and innovation. “Variable pricing is the recognition from a ticket perspective that not all games are created equal.”
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