Data Analytics: A Home Run For Creating Fan Loyalty

Cloud computing and data analytics, two of the most important subjects for today's enterprise computing, enable impressive new ways to win and grow loyalty. It's time to think about how. With the 116th World Series underway, we bring you insights from the CTO of Major League Baseball.

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I'm an engineer by training. A numbers guy. A data geek. I spend my time talking with engineers and businesspeople about systems architecture, ROI, cloud computing, microservices, market share, and finance. I also think a lot about love. Hear me out.

My business, Major League Baseball (MLB), is ultimately all about the fans and their relationship with the great game of baseball. We want to thrill them. We want to delight them. We want to give them ways to experience the sport that, just a few years ago, no one thought possible. We want their loyalty—a kind of love, in and of itself. In a world full of alternatives, we want to use technology to earn our fans’ loyalty more effectively than ever.

You likely have the same desire, no matter your industry or line of work. Not only is customer loyalty and satisfaction the anchor of your business, but it can also drive much of your information technology strategy. We IT people love our technology, but as members of a business we should never lose sight of the fact that people use technology to have experiences. Those experiences can be profoundly emotional, and it's the emotional ones that usually earn loyalty.

Cloud computing and data analytics, two of the most important subjects for today's enterprise computing, enable impressive new ways to win and grow loyalty. It's time to think about how.

Using data to personalize and elevate the fan experience

For the past several years, MLB worked to consolidate its teams, network topologies, and legacy infrastructures of on-prem, cloud, and hybrid systems into a single unified system. Recently we have been doing this using Anthos, Google Cloud's app modernization platform, which affords a single view and interoperability across all those assets. 

As CTO of a sports league, it's essential to translate technology deployments into practical business value, and the simplicity and efficiency of Anthos is straightforward. The real business goal—building loyalty and gaining growth—comes from new and better uses of data, now that we can see it all in one place.

By moving to Google Cloud from another well-known cloud provider, we made a bet on Google's leadership in machine learning and media technologies. We are now set up to really leverage the data we're already collecting, and find new ways to serve, delight and engage our fans. For example, people watching games remotely can still participate via a simple app where they enter cheers or boos, which we then utilize in real time to adjust the crowd noise in the ballpark. From that, we've gathered more than 71 million “engagements”—a big signal about the desire for fans to participate, and a potential predictor of customer loyalty. Technology from Google Cloud empowers us to take that information and use it in future personalization strategies that put the fan in control. 

Looking ahead, one of the things we're planning includes video tracking of the entire field of play. This will allow MLB to amass data on pitches, hits, and player movements, based on the skeletal position of 20 different points on each player. Ultimately this will enable a 3D rendering of each game, from any perspective. Tie that up with personalization algorithms, and we'll be able to deliver every nuance of a game—a great hit, a dramatic play, a catcher's view of the winning run—the way a fan wants it. This could be a mobile app that shows a 3D highlight reel of last night's greatest plays, or a clip fans can share on social media, or a great statistical insight they can take to their personal fantasy league.

And that's just the start of using data more effectively to engage our fans. If we can collect 20 data points to show player movement, why not 2,000? What will it mean to scale up the data, measure the fan interactions better, and fine-tune the ways in which people experience the game on a more personalized level? Just as Anthos gave us a base of operations, the way we leverage data today sets us up for exciting new forms of customer engagement. Does your approach to data analytics do this for you? I hope it does.

I'll bet there are deep emotional dimensions for customers in your own line of work. For example: Knowing the current location of a special gift as it heads to the recipient; a virtual tour of an incredible new piece of architecture; or harvest predictions a month early, based on current weather patterns.

No matter your industry or line of work, there is always data that represents the human experience—it's just a matter of knowing where to look, having the right tools to extract the insights, and putting those insights to use. Find the data, work with people who understand all the ways in which it can be used, and you're on the right path to creating more meaningful experiences and fan loyalty, even love.

Keep learning: Get an in-depth look at each layer of the Anthos platform and how to leverage its capabilities. Download the ebook, “Anthos under the hood: The technologies that will transform enterprise applications.”

About the author

Jason Gaedtke, CTO, Major League Baseball

Jason joined MLB in May of 2017 as CTO, overseeing technology development and operations for the League. This includes in-stadium baseball technology enabling Statcast, Instant Replay, Broadcast Services and Umpire Evaluation as well as MLB and Ballpark mobile apps, MLB and Club websites and MLB.tv streaming. Jason’s team is also responsible for Enterprise Baseball and IT systems supporting League operation.

This role allows Jason to combine 20+ years of engineering and technology leadership with a life-long passion for the game of baseball. His previous professional experience includes senior engineering leadership roles with Google, YouTube, Spotify, Comcast and Time Warner Cable. At Google Jason led the team that built YouTube’s Live Streaming platform, which has scaled to support over 9M concurrent users.

Jason is married with two children and makes his home in Northern Colorado.

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