The Impact of Data Visualization in Sports

The Impact of Data Visualization in Sports
by Katie Morgan – November 2014

Teams constantly research to find new data sources to enhance business. Data is the life blood of the organization. Data provides the ability to make key decisions based on factual information rather than projections based on personal experiences.

Big Data Questions

Some of the biggest questions teams face when finding new data sources include:

  • Now that we have all of this data, where do we store it?
  • When our data is in a usable format, how do we compile the information for our decision makers?

The Texas Rangers currently use a data warehouse to store all of our various data sources including:

  • Historical and Current Ticketing Data
  • Demographic Information
  • CRM Data
  • Team Performance Data (present and historical)
  • Weather Information (present and historical)
  • Secondary Market Data

Why do you need a data warehouse?

Justin Foote
Justin Foote

Justin Foote, Interactive Database Coordinator with the Texas Rangers, highlights benefits of using a data warehouse to store data.

“The use of a data warehouse has given us the ability to store and report on data, both past and present. Access to fan’s previous purchasing habits is crucial in determining future trends amongst our fans. Without the warehouse, the reports and visualizations we are using would have taken days to create, as opposed to  a couple of hours.”

Data provides you the information to help with various initiatives such as:

  1. vetting the best leads to distribute to sales representatives,
  2. provide real time visualizations,
  3. offer information on purchasing trends,
  4. provide the ability to do comparative analysis year over year, and various other projects.

Visualization with Tableau

The Texas Rangers, Cincinnati Reds, and Pittsburgh Pirates all chose to use a data visualization tool, Tableau, to provide dashboards on various initiatives and projects.

Jason Witzberger
Jason Witzberger

At the Pirates

Jason Witzberger, Manager of Business Analytics with the Pittsburgh Pirates, has been a Tableau user for just under a year. He states:

“The Pittsburgh Pirates use Tableau to visualize sales and marketing trends in real-time.  With Tableau, we have access to the most up-to-date information represented in a dynamic visual format, all available from any location.  Tableau makes the data easy to understand so that we can make smarter and more proactive decisions.”

Jason points out several key benefits to using a data visualization tool:

  • Access to the most up-to-date information. Whether you are making a key decision with your data, or trying to show a new trend, having the most up to date information is of utmost importance. The Texas Rangers update data every fifteen minutes in order to provide the most accurate information to the individuals using the data resources.
  • The data is easy to understand. When providing data to decision makers and others working on a specific initiative, you always want to provide easy-to-understand information. A simplified visualization provides imperative information in an readily comprehended format. Remember the audience and cater visualizations to their needs.
Chris Calo
Chris Calo

At the Reds

Visualization tools, and in this case Tableau, offer several different ways to represent data. Chris Calo, Business Systems Analyst with the Cincinnati Reds, uses several different types of visualizations to highlight important information for his organization.

“Tableau has helped Reds management view data in a totally different way.  Whether it is a stadium heat map, viewing suite availability in real-time, or filtering through data reports, Tableau has made the understanding of data a much easier process with their visualization tools.”

At the Rangers

The Texas Rangers currently use Tableau to showcase the following information:

  • Real Time Ticket Sales updates
  • Actual Sales vs Budgeted Sales Comparisons
  • Sales Representatives Inbound and Outbound Calls
  • Real Time Game Day Turnstile Reporting
  • Real Time Merchandise Sales
  • Breakdown of Ticket Sales in our various box offices, concierge, and phone room
  • Cell Phone Anaylsis
  • Seasonal Employee Payroll Monitoring

Use your data visualization tool to showcase data in easy to view, eye catching, and easy to understand format. These tools provide you with a plethora of options, and it’s key that you find the visualization that enhances the data you are showing so that a quick and productive decision can be made for your organization.

An abundance of unformatted data can seem like a daunting task. However, with the appropriate plan in place any team or organization can convert the data into a usable format and begin visualizing real time information in a brand new way!


 Cover photo courtesy of 


Are you investing enough time into training? The 3 elements of good programs

Are you investing enough time into training? The 3 elements of good programs
by Drew Ribarchak – May 2013

In February 2008, Starbucks shut down all of its stores because of bad habits and inconsistency among their baristas. A sign on the front door that read,

We’re taking time to perfect our espresso. Great espresso requires practice. That’s why we’re dedicating ourselves to honoring our craft.

Implementing a strategic and on-going training program will avoid shutting down the sales office due to poor execution and consistently bad habits. Investing time perfecting the sales pitch and process will far exceed simply learning by doing.

A sales department must lay a solid foundation with the initial training program because

  • Fundamentals established in the first weeks of on-boarding determines the slope of the learning curve during continuous training.
  • On-going training taps the full potential of top talent and maximizes revenue.
  • Developing well-rounded sales and service reps provides them opportunities to learn and grow in their current roles while preparing for the next steps in their careers.

Essential Training Topics

Effective training includes variety in the way the sessions are conducted, especially if training occurs on a daily or weekly basis. Common topics include:

  • Scripting
  • Needs Analysis
  • Handling Objections
  • Up-selling
  • Product Knowledge & Benefits
  • Face to Face Appointments
  • Time Management
  • Prospecting
  • CRM Advanced Finds & Strategy
  • Presentation Skills
  • Arena Tour Walk-through

Some areas require more focus than others: needs analysis, handling objections and face to face appointments.

Reviewing Game Film

Role playing generic situations can get stale and monotonous after the initial training period.  Call Copy is a voice recording system the Columbus Blue Jackets use to develop sales and service skill sets. Similar to an athlete watching game film, the representative and sales leader listen to real situations with clients and prospects. This tremendous tool re-enforces the strengths of the sales rep and identifies areas of improvement.

Matt Fahr
Matt Fahr

Matt Fahr and the Cleveland Cavaliers utilize iPads and video cameras to record role plays. “We have been using the iPads at our team members’ desks during calls to record conversations and mannerisms. We use a positive recording and negative recording in our weekly team training sessions where we will hook the iPads up to a large big screen TV and review film.”

Interactive Ways to Stay Sharp
CRM Brown Bag Lunches:
Arena-wide Scavenger Hunt:
Co-op Business Role Plays:  pair senior & entry level rep


The on-going training program will be most effective when it:

  1. Systematic: Completed on a regular basis with a diverse mix of training scenarios
  2. Engagement: Offers the rep a high level of engagement and periodic control of the agenda
  3. Balanced: Re-enforces strengths and recognizes areas of improvement

[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”lifted-both” width=”600px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Travis Apple and the Pittsburgh Pirates give the sales team more control over the weekly agenda by pairing an Account Executive with an Inside Sales Representative:

Travis Apple
Travis Apple

“The AE and the rep meet a few days before the session with ideas and a plan of attack. The representatives would actually conduct the training session based on what their peers were currently experiencing on the front line. All of the training sessions were very interactive and really help the management staff identify future leaders of the department.” [/dropshadowbox]