One of the insightful things that has been said to me recently came from an independent consultant working at a major FMCG client. He said: “The problem here is that we have some people who are world-class at marketing to the masses, but they haven’t got a clue about how to speak to a customer.”
When it comes to getting event sponsorship and driving investment in the game, Football NSW knows how important data is in making a compelling proposition.
During a breakfast event in Sydney, CEO of Football NSW, Eddie Moore, detailed how the not-for-profit’s has switched from spreadsheets to SAS Visual Analytics in order to gain deep and rich insights into players across the state that can drive new sponsorship opportunities and support the game’s development.
Football NSW has 208,000 registered players, 20,000 of them who play summer football, as well as 12,500 registered coaches and 4,500 referees. Every registration through the MyFootball Club portal includes their name, date of birth, address and where they play football.
With a growing player base and tight marketing budget, Football NSW needed a cost-effective way of making sense of all the data collected.
“I don’t have an army of analysts, so we need to be smart about what we are doing,” Moore said. This is where data visualisation and analytics is key. Having implemented the SAS data analytics platform 10 months ago, Moore and his staff can now access the data quickly and visualise an analysis without the need for highly technical skills.
“It’s a very simple little dashboard that can tell us the number of people who play in the Manly [Sydney region] association, for example,” he said. These insights can then be presented to potential sponsors targeting specific groups and locations.
As an example, Moore explained the team looked at how many boys between 10 to 15 years of age are playing in the Manly region and found nearly 2500 boys in that group. “If that is their [the sponsor’s] target market, we can talk to the sponsor and say if they really want to reach this group, who are their purchases of their product, how can we create competition, investment and opportunity for them to bring their product forward,” he said.
“That is a very powerful piece of information to take to a sponsor in talking about our audience and the depth of knowledge we have around them.”
Football NSW is also using data visualisation and analytics to highlight areas that need further government support and investment in developing and expanding football fields. While the current government has flagged plans to spend $500 million on community sport and cultural facilities if it’s re-elected next year, it has also made clear the need to be more strategic in its investments for the long term.
“We met with the Penrith City Council to talk about where we stand with our football opportunities and the facilities in Penrith,” Moore said. “We presently have a playing population of 12,500 players in Penrith or Nepean. That local government area has a population of 191,000. Between now and 2031, that will grow by nearly 17 per cent.
“On our current ratios, that means there will be need for additional nine fields in that area. What we can do with our data and plotting is [show] not only where those people are playing now, but where that population growth will take us and the sort of fields that are needed – on top of the existing fields being upgraded, renovated and maintained.”
Referee churn was another problem Football NSW was facing. Having referees talk about the opportunities in refereeing in suburban newspapers and email campaigns was all well and good, but more needed to be done.
The sporting organisation turned to its data and found a lot of referees were not moving up skill levels to get to A-League. In fact, most of them dropped out before ever going beyond the first level of refereeing.
Using the data, Football NSW checked their ages and found most were 16 to 20-year-olds.
“What we did was create a closed [Facebook] group for Football NSW referees, and within a couple of weeks we had 900 young people who referee on a regular basis connect with this group,”Moore said.
“Every week we put a snippet up about the laws of the game or a ruling or a piece or information out to this group with some comments about [how] that law [can be] applied properly. We hope… they get better, move up to level 3 and continue to stay in the game.”
Moore also wants to use data visualisation and analytics to predict referee dropouts in different areas of NSW so he can respond in a more proactive manner. For this, he is tapping into survey results and social media data.
“This coming season, both in summer and in the outdoor season in March/April, we will monitor real-time registrations and understand where we might be short with referees in a particular post code. So it’s acting on that at the start of the season, rather than half way through,” Moore commented.
“We want to become the largest and most popular sport in the country. To have that data in front of you in a visual sense and being able to take that to our audience, whether it is a government or a sponsor or our own member clubs, is extremely powerful.”
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