Over the past few years the Golden State Warriors have transformed their organization into the gold standard of NBA franchises with an NBA championship in 2015 and a regular season record of 73 wins in 2016. The Warriors have also made quite a bit of news off the court as well. In January the team broke ground on the Chase Center, their new arena set to open in San Francisco in 2019. Amidst all of this excitement XLIVE sat down with Brandon Ramsey, the team’s Director of Business Analytics and Strategy to learn how the Warriors are innovating their analytics department to keep up with the rabid demand for Warriors tickets and sponsorship sales as the team goes for another NBA title in 2017.
Have you found it difficult to balance a data-driven approach to implementing marketing and business intelligence strategies without eliminating human beings from the decision making process?
We’re an industry with a significant number of people who have been around for 20+ years so getting an organization to a position where it actually wants to change its strategies is the hardest part of being involved in an analytics team. That’s our biggest win so far. We all have intuition but without data you’re just another person with an opinion. Data helps us evaluate everything we do before we make internal decisions.
The one thing I will say is that our brand is a unique spot right now due to the success of the team. Honestly, we want to be an entertainment company more than just a basketball team. We know the company we want to build and we try to act that way. You sign up for email marketing with many professional sports teams and you’ll get promo offers like “Buy One Get One Free” ticket specials, merchandise discounts, etc. Over the past few years we were fortunate enough to win the NBA championship and come within a few points of repeating so that has allowed us to become more of a premium brand that doesn’t necessarily need to employ those types of strategies. Running discounts and promos is not something we want to do, we want a premium mystique about everything we’re doing. There were decades where we had to do that because the team wasn’t in the position that it’s in right now.
The sports industry has been at the forefront of data & analytics for the past decade as people who were teenagers or college students during the “Moneyball” era are now working in the business, often in senior-level positions. How has this industry-wide data & analytics revolution impacted your organization’s ability to hire and develop talent in an increasingly competitive space within the sports landscape?
There’s no doubt that the talent available to us has skyrocketed. Kids coming out of college have more technical abilities than ever before and can talk intelligently about a number of our business verticals. We hired a kid from Cal that can sling code better than anyone. He’ll automate a report and push it out in no time. A few years ago it was more difficult because people were interested but the competencies were different and not as advanced.
We also see a bunch of people in the broader entertainment industry that want to work in sports that are in the analytics space. We get thousands of applications, half of which are internal recommendations and referrals from league contacts. The bottom line is that if there’s a person you have the opportunity to hire that would be a great fit for the organization, you have to be willing to pay for that. I’m a firm believe that if analytics is something important to your organization, you have to be willing to keep them there for the long haul and keep your talent happy.
Are there any specific emerging trends or technologies in the data & analytics space that you believe will be particularly impactful to marketers in the sports industry?
We’re right in the heart of Silicon Valley so there are pretty high expectations around the in-arena experience at Chase Center when it opens in a few years. We’ve been looking at Levi’s Stadium and Golden 1 Center for inspiration.
The top priority is clearly VR. We use VR for sponsors looking into luxury suites at the new arena, they can put on a headset and use VR to experience what the suite will look and feel like without actually being there. We’re also big on enhancing the fan experience through technology whenever possible. For example, you can make reservations at any of the restaurants within Oracle Arena within our team app. If we see that you tend to make a reservation at one of those restaurants whenever you attend a game then that’s a perfect opportunity to send you a push notification within the app a few days before the game to ask if you would like to make another 6:30 PM reservation.
Consulting is another category that you’re going to see more of in professional sports over the next few years. Accenture is bringing best in class wifi, IT, telecommunications solutions and helping us integrate technology into the Chase Center when we open it in San Francisco.