Bringing a financial and consumer data approach to sport is Australian data and analytics company Empirics.
What the company discovered was the data solutions they delivered within their current industry verticals – super, retail and finance – could solve the mass of data sources that elite sporting clubs gather. It could be their fan engagement metrics, member growth and retention data or their on-field performance data such as player health, performance and wellbeing.
Take Australian Football League club Carlton, and championed by the club’s sports scientist Tom Kempton, who are Empirics first official sports partner. The club were looking to integrate disparate sources of data such as Champion Data, GPS data, medical data, physio data, player wellness and wellbeing data and player screening data to give an overall picture of each player within their football player department inside the one portal. The benefits for the club is that it personalises the data for each player and eases accessibility for the staff that need to use it.
We spoke to Darrell Ludowyke, Bill Kelso and Andrew Jones from Empirics.
As sporting organisations need to make sense of a lot of data it seems like moving into the sporting vertical is a natural move for Empirics?
Darrell Ludowyke: “It is and it’s because we got the opportunity to speak to Carlton FC who had tried a number of solutions that had come out of the sports industry but then considered a solution outside of it because the problem of making sense of continually new and more complex data exists in other industries. When we did get together we saw what their problems were and we knew it was something we could solve.”
What kind of hardware and software data sources?
DL: “We realised long ago in the financial services sector you can’t limit yourself to what data sources may or may not be here today. We developed an approach that would accept what we’d call a ‘universal hub,’ where we can work with whatever data sources there are. There’s always new and different technologies coming into play and what clubs need is not one fixed platform but a way of integrating any data they choose to use and indeed any future ones.”
Is Carlton your only sporting client at the moment?
DL: “Yes they are. It all happened very rapidly late last year that we came across each other. It was a happy coincidence that one of our staff members was doing a sports science course at La Trobe University, the sports scientist from Carlton (Tom Kempton) was the guest lecturer on this particular day and described the problem, and our staff member came back and said ‘that’s what we solve,’ and suggested why don’t we talk to them.
“We’re now talking to several other AFL clubs and doing proof of concepts as well. An NBA franchise has been in touch, we’re going to open an office in London fairly shortly which will help us have conversations to EPL clubs and we’re talking to several NRL clubs here in Australia. It is accelerating pretty quickly and they all talk to us about the same issue.”
The big difficulty facing organisations is making cohesive sense out of so many disparate data sources across different departments.
DL: “There’s a couple keys here and we see the same thing in business, there’s just so much data. You may have all of the data in your database but what we do with every client in whatever industry is understanding what it is, and we do this by department, because what the head coach might want to see is different to the physio who is different to the CEO. The key is to ensure what any individual sees in the data and the dashboards is particularly relevant for them.”
What are Tom’s experience integrating Empirics into Carlton?
Bill Kelso: “People are really engaging with the information and data because what they see is framed in a way that is relevant and tells a story of each person. It’s certainly helped in terms of productivity, they no longer need to be using Excel spreadsheets. They can spend their time using the data to take action, and make changes and recommendations and not spend much of their time pulling the data together.”
Andrew Jones: “Tom is one of the biggest advocates for us and building a lot of the ideologies has come from him. One of the best things he gets out of it is being involved, he’s at our office working with us and sitting down with an analyst or a developer and really trying to pick apart where he’s trying to improve certain areas.
“Some of the things he’s been doing with us recently is he’ll come to us with a problem at the moment, for example, what maintenance work is going on with individual players and he’ll say what he wants to see and he’ll sit down with an analyst and take that information in and build it.”
Apart from Tom have you had deeper discussions with other people within the club?
BK: “Back to Carlton, the organisational behaviour change is one of the big things. The player compliance in gathering the data and the way the applications that’s been put in place has helped.”
DL: “The players were using their previous app to enter wellness and sleep patterns, muscle soreness but they weren’t getting good compliance, therefore you’re getting issues with gaps in the data. We replaced it with our one and introduced a lot of gamification and healthy competition between players and is made really visible to the players around the club to encourage stronger use.
“Tom sent through a photo with one of the players sitting in front of a screen, the player was sitting with one of the coaches and collaborating over one of the dashboards talking about their own metrics.”
What have you learnt from Carlton?
DL: “The first one is that it was surprising to us that there did not exist what we call a ‘whole of club solution,’ in that the football and player performance department is its own thing away from other aspects such as fan engagement, member engagement and commercial side of a club. It seemed like no-one had thought to put those things together.
“The second one was really how much thirst there was for a collaborative approach which has worked wonders. We hold that up to our business clients as the best model for getting the most out of us as a solutions provider and indeed out of their data.”
Interview done in partnership with Vumero Sports.