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Exclusive: How Data Can Create A Sporting Advantage

Exclusive: Interview with Ministry of Sport, Talisman CEO, Dharpan Randhawa, discussed how the role of data in sport has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and gave recommendations of how sports can embrace new technology.

Talking about how sporting organisations have evolved quickly since the onset of the pandemic, Randhawa, who spent almost four years as McLaren Racing’s senior vice president of Asia-Pacific before joining Talisman, said he saw a gap in having data as the centrepiece of decision making.

“I’ve been working in sport for many years across Formula One, tennis, golf, and football, and one of the things I noticed about 2020 was that we saw about a decade’s worth of disruption roll in to eight or nine months,” Randhawa told Ministry of Sport.

“I knew there and then that everything was going to change forever in the sports world.

“There was an unprecedented amount of change happening, disruption across fans attending live events, rightsholders were scrambling to demonstrate value for sponsors and everyone was questioning the model.

“There was a lot going on and one thing I thought would remain as the most important piece of the puzzle was data-driven decision making.

“As my chief data scientist would say, data is always speaking, we just need to learn how to listen, so I wanted to build Talisman into a data-driven business.

“Everything from helping brands identify the right rightsholders, to helping rightsholders provide the right type of value for brands, to having data as the centrepieceto everything we do.

“That’s the gap I saw, a lot of agencies out there are still going out there and talking to brands about stickers on a car, or logos on a jersey, and all of that is yesterday’s model.

“The model of today with regards to fan engagement is centred around the depth of information you have on your fans, what are they buying, what are they engaging with, what platforms are they on, what is getting them excited, and there’s also brand persona in matching that, and data and intelligent technology brings all of that together.

“That’s something we spend every waking minute trying to build into our business,” he said.

Discussing the different types of technology out there to get the best out of data, Randhawa said the focus should remain on applying data to create value & advantage.

“There’s a lot of data being created, I heard a quote the other day that by 2025, there will be 80 billion connected devices being used, helping generate 180 trilliongigabytes of new data that year alone,” Randhawa said.

“When you look at Formula One, there’s 150-300 sensors on a car at any time collecting data, so data is exploding at an unprecedented rate.

“By utilising our machine learning and AI technology, teams can make real time decisions during the race to change strategy and create advantage, maybe even win the race.

“Data’s moving quickly, technology is advancing quickly, so it’s about how do you get your head around it and make it work for your business, and then apply that to create value.

“That takes experience, specialty and resource, and companies that have all those things have a competitive edge, and we believe we’re one of those companies,” he said.

Going into how the data can be applied to better understand fan engagement, and then monetise the information, Randhawa said rightsholders are having to rethink traditional models.

“I’ve given up on trying to predict what people should or shouldn’t be doing in today’s world, because every time I think something is the right way to do something, COVID tells me otherwise,” Randhawa said.

“What I can say is what 2020 has taught a lot of sports teams, leagues, and stakeholders, is that it’s time to embrace the digital revolution that’s happening, and dive in headfirst.

“In terms of fan engagement, data driven platforms and AI can help organisations sense the sentiment of fans, analyse the data a bit better and understand fan behaviour in how they’re engaging and behaving on digital platforms.

“This will also challenge them to think of new sources of revenue.

“When you bring together a combination of analysis of engagement around a fan consuming your sport, you need to start thinking about how to integrate a commerce proposition into this experience.

“You’ll see now, a lot of activity around fan tokens and EFTs being spoken about at this moment.

“A lot of sports rightsholders and stakeholders are now rethinking the model, whatever you’ve done in the past, forget about it, everything is being packaged, distributed and consumed differently today.

“This is reshaping the business model for sport and it’s creating new opportunities.

“Fans are also demanding a two-way conversation with brands and rightsholders.

“So how can all this be achieved?

“The answer is technology; that’s where we come in.

“Where we’re going to plant a couple of flags in the sand is around helping teams perform better by helping them make better decision from their data, we’re going to help brands get a better bang for their buck by helping them design smarter partnerships with rightsholders.

“Through data and understanding each other, brands and rightsholders can come together in a more meaningful and authentic way.

“What I’m really excited about is the future of fan engagement, we’re in a driving seat to help brands and rightsholders engage with their fans better on social and creating a better marketplace for fans to interact.

“Also, using hyper-personalised mobile advertising and gamification, real-time games, scoreboards, tokenisation, and EFTS, that’s what we’re really excited about.

“The centre of all of that is data, and we’ve got some very smart people on our team, including an in-house data scientist.

“Bravery is my only recommendation, be brave to explore, to take risks.

“The model is being re-written now as we speak in real-time.

“There’s no set template, and those that are brave, that are open to trying new things, are the ones in my opinion who will create advantages for themselves and their fans,” he told Ministry of Sport.

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