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  • Writer's pictureTash Joslin

How Data Drives Impact in Sport

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Data in sports has developed significantly over the last decade and it's a great example of how to use data to make a difference in a team or personal performance that a lot of businesses can learn from.

Many of us now use wearables to track our exercise, heart rate, sleep etc to help us make decisions about how we live our life. It's the same principle when using the data in elite sports to track all kinds of data points to provide weird and wonderful insights and to help make decisions on how to improve performance.

As a Brentford FC fan, I have seen the power of using data, with players using wearable devices with accelerometers, magnetometers and gyroscopes to track hundreds of data points, measuring individual performance in training and matches, and monitoring extensively to help prevent injury.

Using a data-driven approach introduced by Matthew Benham over the last 10 years has taken us from League 1 to the Premier League. Most businesses would be over the moon to deliver this kind of year-on-year performance.

By EclecticArkie - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Data analytics has strengthened Brentford FC on and off the pitch, with player development and overcoming ‘football inefficiencies’ through improved scouting and enabling a smart selling strategy to aid the financial management of the business. Having one of the smallest budgets going into the Premier League in 21/22 we have remained up and with the lowest pounds for points value of the league by quite a significant amount and a tenth of Manchester United. They must be doing something right.

Credit @DavePowell : Millions spent on squad per point, in order of where teams finish in the 21/22 Premier league.

Data doesn’t win matches but it is the enabler in which to make informed decisions to give a competitive advantage.

Data in elite sports has become big business because it works. Whilst Brentford FC are known for being early innovators of using data, it is becoming a growth area for elite sports teams to focus on analytics and is quickly becoming a requirement to stay ahead of the game and competition.

An analysis role would involve collecting on and off-field data and using it in many ways to enhance player, team, audience and ticketing/merchandise performance, including:

  1. Tracking individual performance, by using hundreds of data points to measure individual’s performance to provide personalised training schedules to increase performance and reduce injury. The GB Cycling team used the theory of marginal gains to improve their performance, landing a record 8 Gold medals.

  2. Improve technical performance through analysing techniques. Data in golf has become increasingly popular over the last ten years, through the ability to enhance a player's swing and track performance at every detail of every stroke taken by every player to facilitate the analysis of each player’s round and overall performance.

  3. Competitor advantage through analysis of a competitor's team performance to build their team strategy to gain a competitive advantage in the match. But also through analysing gaps in their teams and bringing in specific players or systems to fill those gaps. Moneyball is the most well-known example of using analytics to identify the benefit of different player qualities that weren’t based on conventional baseball wisdom.

  4. Enhance audience engagement by commentators using real-time data to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of player performance. Tennis will show shot quality maps to identify where players are winning and losing points to predict how the game will flow.

  5. Interactive Gaming performance using leader boards and up-to-date stats, such as with online gaming sports, whereby current real-life player stats and performance feeds through to online player ratings.

  6. Demand based targeted marketing for merchandise and ticket sales and to set ticket prices .

Often these data sets didn’t exist and required tracking to be put in place to collect the data, requiring a well-thought-out data strategy and test & learn over time to optimise what the most valuable and useful data points were.

Our key learning’s from sports analysis when developing a data strategy:

  1. Have a clear use of the data upfront - what is the vision for the improvement you are looking for?

  2. If the data doesn’t exist find a way to track it

  3. Getting buy-in from the leadership can impact how a business runs and throws out conventional thinking

  4. It will require investment, gain it from demonstrating the benefits it will deliver

  5. Ensure users know the benefits and how data is going to make an impact - its a team effort and to apply it you will need support

Sports analytics is growing fast and is a great case study to demonstrate how data can make an impact on performance. Other industries can learn a lot from how sports organisations are evolving with data being at the heart of their development strategy with an increased level of data literacy and ensuring buy-in at all levels to how it’s going to be used.

MoJo works with many businesses to design pragmatic, usable reporting and insight strategies to aid a business's growth. Get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help you.


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