USTA Enhances the Fan Experience with Analytics

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Sports data analysis is not new, but the proliferation of mobile devices and social media are fueling a demand for more information, more behind-the-scenes insights, as fans keep track of the action.

When John Isner serves the ball, it zooms across the net at an average speed of 140 miles per hour, making his serve the fastest among the top seeded players at this year's US Open. Serena Williams claims the title for fastest serve on the women's side, clocking in at 122 miles per hour. IBM recorded these statistics using radar sensors positioned behind the baseline at the courts, along with other performance stats that are posted on its SlamTracker site and mobile app on behalf of the United States Tennis Association (USTA). Fans can also find out how far a player ran in a match, who won the most break points and other insights.

Sports data analysis is not new, but the proliferation of mobile devices and social media are fueling a demand for more information, more behind-the-scenes insights, as fans keep track of the action, according to Nicole Jeter West, USTA senior director of ticketing and digital strategy.

"Data about the players' performances and how they compare to each other allows fans to be closer to the game and it lets them be experts about the sport," said West. It is also good for business. In 2013, the US Open iPhone app was downloaded and/or updated 811,000 times in a 110 percent increase from the prior year over the course of the two-week tournament. The US Open website received more than 12.6 million unique views in a 8.6 percent increase from 2012.

During a press conference, USTA officials reminded reporters that the non-profit organization operates like a business in many ways and tries to provide as much content as possible during the US Open. "The US Open is our biggest fundraising event--it's our crown jewel," West commented.

The USTA is also experimenting with new ways to market to fans. Besides banner ads, it is introducing rich media push alerts to its app this year and testing beacons that will deliver targeted messages based on the user's location.

Other industries can learn something from the use of analytics to enhance a product. Healthcare companies and startups, for example are exploring ways to monetize health data through wearable devices. And retailers can leverage purchase patterns to alert customers about items that are best sellers or complement other items. From player stats to fitness apps and retail messages, data analytics are becoming an essential part of the customer experience.

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