Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Stepping Up

Who increased their scoring rate more than anybody else during the NBA Playoffs? Was it NBA Finals MVP LeBron James, the hot-shooting Danny Green, or an emerging star like Paul George? Actually, none of them came close. The correct answer is a backup point guard for a club that didn’t survive the first round.

Andre Miller upped his points per 40 minutes rate from 14.6 during the regular season to 21.8 in the playoffs. His 7.2 points increase led all players who saw at least 1000 regular season and 100 postseason minutes.

Since much of the media focuses on misleading per game stats, vital details like this get missed. While points per game is never a good metric, it’s even less effective during the playoffs when rotations shorten. Regulars see more minutes per game which can cause per game stats to increase even when per minute production dips. Our simple adjustment eliminates this bias. The top 10 appears below. Among superstar players, Chris Paul posted the largest increase.

PS P/40
RS P/40
Andre Miller
Gerald Green
Carl Landry
Chris Paul
Udonis Haslem
Draymond Green
Gerald Wallace
Francisco Garcia
Lamar Odom
Andre Iguodala

One more key point: scoring drops during the playoffs because teams play at a slower pace. Among the 105 players who met the criteria, only 38 (36.2 percent) scored more points per 40 minutes in the playoffs. This makes the performances of Miller and Paul even more impressive. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Ghosts, Moonlight Graham, and the Fan Experience

During the movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character Ray Kinsella sees Moonlight Graham’s statistics on the scoreboard while watching a game at Fenway Park. Kinsella soon realizes that a ghost is responsible for that information, and nobody else in the ballpark sees it besides him.

Now 24 years since the movie debuted, are we approaching the day when sports venues display personalized content on the video board?

While it’s currently impossible for each fan to view different content on the same scoreboard, personalized statistical content would benefit fans, clubs, and brands/sponsors. Why should I have to view meaningless items like “Pujols has gone 2-for-3 lifetime against pitcher A?” On the other hand, I’d like to see stats like win expectancy and left/right splits that have a major impact on the game.

Mobile apps provide one solution. However, do teams want thousands of fans looking down at their devices? Fortunately, there are other alternatives.

1)      Teams could dedicate one of their smaller video boards to advanced statistical content. A tech/data-related company would jump at the chance to sponsor this feature to build its brand. 

2)     Fans in luxury boxes could choose between content options like “old school stats”, “advanced metrics”, or “fun and games” on their video screens. All three could share the screen with the game’s live video feed. 

3)     One inning per game, clubs could show advanced statistical content on the big screen.

All three approaches offer great sports sponsorship activation opportunities. Best of all, they make the game far more interesting for the fan.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Breakthrough for Role Players

For several years, The Sports Resource has recommended companies use non-superstar players for endorsements. Role players who excel in specific ways or possess unique traits can build brands at a much lower cost than superstars.

The news that Hawks guard Dahntay Jones signed a partnership deal last week demonstrates that companies are coming around to this concept. The 6-6 Jones sees just 12.4 minutes per game, but plays sensational defense.

With this approach in mind four years ago, we created a sample on Marreese Speights. What makes this a winning strategy for brands? 

1)      Many role players, such as Jones, have large audiences on social media. He had over 21,500 Twitter followers. This creates opportunities for brands to interact with thousands of fans through the player’s voice. 

2)      Every NBA player excels in at least one vital area, or else he wouldn’t be on a roster. For a defender like Jones, brands could use insightful defensive metrics to activate the sponsorship. 

3)      The cost to sign role players to deals is far less than what it takes to land a superstar.

We also believe companies should identify and sign promising young players for endorsements before they break out – a tactic where analytics provides a huge edge and can save millions of dollars.

Speights, now just 25, possessed considerable upside four years ago. And while he’s yet to see big-time minutes, he remains a very productive role player. Speights puts up 20 points and 10 rebounds per 40 minutes. Only 10 other players currently match that achievement, including stars like Blake Griffin and Tim Duncan.

Should this trend gain traction, players who build their brand on social media will get endorsement opportunities that only the superstars previously enjoyed. As for brands, we’ve already detailed why it pays to activate sponsorships with statistics. And that approach works great for all types of players.