How Big Data Will Impact the Super Bowl.


It’s almost time for the big game–the one and only, Super Bowl.

As diehard and casual fans alike pick up the snacks and set up the living room for their Super Bowl parties, sports experts are spending hours on end pontificating on the minutiae of the tiniest details happening on and off the field, all in an effort to predict the winner between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots.

Meanwhile, even those people who admit they don’t care about football will be anxiously awaiting Super Bowl Sunday, if not for the game, then for the commercials. This late January, early February tradition has been around for decades now, but we might just be on the verge of seeing a major disruption in how things are done.

The talk now, at least among certain circles, is slowly moving toward a topic not normally associated with the Super Bowl: big data.

And while most fans may not notice the difference, big data has the potential to change the Super Bowl experience.

One of the favorite pastimes in all sports, not just the NFL, is to predict the outcome of each contest. Most of this is done all in good fun, but some people look at the practice as serious business; and nothing represents the pinnacle of sports achievement quite like the Super Bowl. Predicting a Super Bowl winner is far from an easy task, especially when both teams are so evenly matched, but many experts have turned to big data in the hopes it can provide added insights on game outcomes.

In the average football game, there are numerous statistics that sports analysts have to keep track of, from individual player performances to overall team stats. Big data can go even further, measuring things like total distance traveled, effect of weather conditions on individual plays, and comparisons between different player matchups. It’s essentially taking statistic analysis to the next level, which can, in turn, reveal new details that might otherwise go overlooked by even the most veteran sports pundits.

From all these different stats and figures, big data algorithms can be created to come up with an eventual winner in any game. The challenge to create the most accurate algorithm is one that many businesses and institutions have taken up.

One company, Varick Media Management, created their own Prediction Machine that boasted a 69 percent accuracy rating during the 2013-2014 NFL regular season as well as an impressive record for other championship games. SAP also uses an algorithm based on the NFL’s public statistics database, while Facebook tries to predict a winner from an analysis of social media data. Even though these algorithms take into account a lot of data, the results are far from being 100 percent accurate.

After all, while Varick Media Management accurately predicted the Seahawks would win last year’s Super Bowl, both SAP and Facebook predicted a Denver Broncos victory.The end result was a Broncos’ blowout loss.
Going beyond sports analysis and even the big game, big data may have a big impact on the thing many fans anticipate most: the commercials.

In fact, the commercials may be even more popular than the Super Bowl, itself. According to big data collected through social media listening tools, experts were able to get a picture of what people talked most about before, during, and after the Super Bowl. Based on social media conversations from last year’s championship game, it becomes clear that most people prefer to talk about the advertisements over the actual game.

Interestingly enough, the data also indicates most talks about the Super Bowl happened after the game was over. Based on these findings, experts are saying companies may start rethinking their advertising strategy, viewing online advertising as even more effective than running a Super Bowl commercial. Super Bowl ads cost millions of dollars; and research seems to show that only about 20 percent of those adslead to more products sold.

Instead, the idea is that with big data, companies will be able to reach more customers through their mobile devices, which is more important than ever as businesses and employees look at bring your own device (BYOD) polices and other advantages. Big data, essentially, represents a unique business opportunity that can create more targeted advertising featuring more better engagement, making it a better return on investment than airing during the most watched event on television.

The Super Bowl remains an exciting game that tens of millions of people around the world enjoy, but many aspects of the game are likely to change as we move into the era of big data. Whether it comes in predicting the most likely winner or how advertising is handled, big data could have a significant impact, even if most of it is behind the scenes.

In the meantime, fans can still watch some of the world’s best athletes compete at the highest level.


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