March 2, 2020

What metrics do industry executives rely on?

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The explosion of analytics in sports over the past decade has provided sports properties an array of tools to gauge success in areas such as sponsorship, consumer behavior and brand perception. “Data and analytics are ingrained in every part of our process, from prospecting to pitching, to activating, renewing and growing relationships,” said Chris Insolera, vice president of global partnership sales at Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment.

To better understand how properties are using data to drive business decisions, SportsAtlas polled industry executives about the the types of metrics they find most valuable.


A number of executives listed viewership data as among the most important and revealing tools for understanding their fan base.

“While it’s not the only currency in our world anymore, it’s still the largest and easiest to monetize,” said Mike Verlander, vice president of sales and marketing at Stewart-Haas Racing. “TV is still our largest reach that executives can understand easily.”

Jay Kaufman, senior vice president of the NBA’s global research and insights, shared that the NBA holds viewership in high regard with a focus on total audience measurement. With the NBA focusing on younger and international viewers, the ability to measure viewership through nontraditional mediums such as OTT and out-of-home is vital and allows the league to acquire a complete view on overall viewership and popularity of content.

“We are seeing continued emphasis on global viewership between our U.S., U.K. and AU clients,” said Norris Scott, senior vice president of Futures Sport & Entertainment. “The global reach of sports continues to be relevant. This is a result of the obvious growth of OTT offerings, the number of international distribution deals for marquee sports properties, but also smaller properties that are considering the globe as one marketplace.”


Despite having many interpretations, executives agree that fan engagement qualifies as an important measure of success.

“The way we think about [fan engagement] is from a ‘phygital’ standpoint — we believe experiencing our sport in person (physical) is key to sparking engagement, but a digital landscape provides a better opportunity to assess what keeps your fan engaged,” said SJ Luedtke, IndyCar’s vice president of marketing. Other executives mirrored that feedback.

John Forese, Rakuten Intelligence’s chief product and data officer, pointed to various attendance-based metrics including the percentage of identifiable attendees and customer lifetime value of attendees, or the total revenue a property can expect from a single fan. Brooks Lambertson, City National Bank’s vice president of sponsorship activation, also expressed a preference for attendance metrics pertaining to season-ticket holders such as ticket spend and percentage of capacity made up by season-ticket holders. Metrics focused on these committed fans allow the property and their partners to gauge how many individuals will be exposed consistently to their brand, and also measure loyalty with a uniform baseline.  

Fan engagement across social and digital appealed to Verlander and Kaufman. According to Verlander, social and digital provide authentic opportunities for integration and allow for engagement that is easily tracked. Kaufman said the concept of total amount of time spent with the property is a primary focus of the NBA. It is more important than ever before because of how many ways fans can consume content. “We look at total time spent on each of our platforms to try to understand both the total pie and how each of the slices of pie exist and are changing over time,” he said.

From a brand’s perspective, one of the most important types of engagement is movement through the brand funnel. Insolera summarized this concept as metrics capturing the value of a partnership to a brand beyond a media valuation such as perception, consideration and intent to purchase.


While viewership and fan engagement are broadly important, they become even more valuable with the ability to pinpoint exactly who is being reached. As properties and brands face increased competition, executives must know their audience intimately to develop effective strategies. Insolera shared that demographic and psychographic metrics are extremely important as they help his team better understand and target their audiences.

Kaufman said a deep knowledge of NBA fans is changing their approach to data and measurement. With a fan base younger than other leagues, Kaufman indicated fans are consuming the content differently, such as through NBA League Pass, streaming, social and digital, all of which need to be accounted for when measuring total engagement.


Regardless of what metrics are being observed, industry leaders were clear that benchmarking metrics such as viewership, fan engagement and demographics against their competition are always necessary. In speaking to competition for the attention of consumers coming from both sports leagues and OTT providers in the marketplace, Kaufman said, “There are so many opportunities for people to consume content on their own time, which is why we are always evaluating what’s working and what’s not working.”

Given the volume of competitors in the entertainment space, the competition for advertisement dollars has grown. As properties sell against one another, benchmarking across various metrics is the primary way a property can prove its worth to the customer.

Because of shifts in consumption, globalization of sports, and escalating competition, top industry executives will continue to assess their analytic toolkit to provide value to their properties and partners.