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AEG Sports uses advanced analytics to adapt to fan needs during COVID-19

Team uses SAS Viya on Microsoft Azure to improve fan experience during turbulent times and plan for the ‘new normal’ of spectator sports 

VIRTUAL SAS GLOBAL FORUM 2021 - In the spring of 2020, as COVID-19 spread across the world, live entertainment and spectator sports were brought to a screeching halt. With stadiums shuttered, sports teams had to find new ways to engage with fans. Thankfully AEG Sports, which includes storied franchises like the LA Kings, the LA Galaxy and the Ontario Reign, was already an analytically savvy organization adept at using data to make informed business decisions. Using AI-powered SAS® Viya® on Microsoft Azure, AEG Sports was able to anticipate the needs of its fans and keep engagement high even amid a pandemic.

“Times are unpredictable – but with SAS and Microsoft, we have two key partners that we feel confident can help us adapt and thrive under any circumstances,” said Aaron LeValley, Senior Vice President of Business Operations and Strategy at AEG Sports. “We might not know what’s going to happen, but we know SAS and Microsoft have our goals in mind and will enable us to respond to any challenge we may face.” 

“Customers like AEG benefit from the strategic partnership between SAS and Microsoft because they can seamlessly move workloads to the cloud and discover new efficiencies and real-time answers,” said Rodrigo Rocha, General Manager Cloud Solutions & ISV Alliances at Microsoft. “Now more than ever, digital transformation is critical as organizations learn to adapt to new customer behaviors. SAS Viya on Azure helps make that transformation easier and faster, providing much-needed, immediate actionable insights.” 

Analyzing fan sentiment

Using analytics to understand fan sentiment has been crucial. Using SAS Viya, the AEG Sports' analytics team created models to gauge fan perspectives toward such things as returning to in-person games. By continuously analyzing fan sentiment during the pandemic, AEG Sports has been able to personalize messages based on interest and feelings on personal safety, and identify which fans needed targeted retention efforts. Using these tactics AEG Sports has kept fans happy and boosted the ROI of marketing campaigns.
“A lot of our fan communication during the COVID-19 pandemic has been fairly casual, often through surveys, which we use to gather and analyze their attitudes and feelings,” said John D’Onofrio, Business Analyst at AEG Sports. “I’ll take all the survey data into SAS Viya and use text topics to analyze sentiment and identify key themes to see how fans are feeling and what the overall attitudes are. As a result, a lot of our fan engagement has less of a sales tone and more of a conversational tone.” 

“I am a strong proponent for customer-centricity – or in this case fan-centricity – and it’s exciting to see AEG Sports use analytics to build stronger connections with their fans,” said Jennifer Chase, Senior Vice President and Head of Marketing at SAS. “Sports teams have a unique relationship with their “customers,” and AEG Sports’ passion for their fans has been evident during the pandemic as they use analytics to really understand fan reaction to the disruptions and determine how best to support them through it all. A fan experience with heart and humanity will inevitably lead to stronger fan connections, especially when fans recognize that their team understands their needs – in good or bad times.”


Using analytics to make optimal decisions

The company also uses the embedded capabilities in SAS Viya for contingency planning. The ability to quickly ingest and model data from multiple sources – including ticketing, partnerships, marketing, weather reports and health experts – helps AEG Sports reduce pandemic-driven uncertainty. 

“SAS Viya helps us analyze different scenarios and choose the right option,” said Mike Marsocci, Senior Manager of Data and Analytics at AEG Sports. “Now, instead of being frozen by infinite scenarios, we can tweak parameters as they come and quickly determine the best way forward for our teams.” 

When fans can safely return to arenas AEG Sports will need a flexible way to price tickets based on changing factors like ticket demand, venue capacity public health restrictions and other variables. Machine learning – a subset of AI – will help AEG Sports determine ideal ticket pricing. “The array of machine learning enhanced models and visualizations SAS Viya offers are extremely useful in helping us analyze millions of records to pinpoint those optimal price points,” added Marsocci.

Data visualization key to rapid decision making

AI technology is at the heart of AEG Sports’ drive to continually increase the efficiency of its modeling efforts. The output of these models often become data visualizations, which AEG Sports uses to chart its day-to-day operations. 

“Data visualization is critical to our business,” said D’Onofrio. “Most people are visual learners, so being able to show a visual representation of data has been extremely beneficial in gaining buy-in. Right now, almost every department in our company uses data visualizations to make decisions and operate more efficiently.” 

The ability to create these visual reports is particularly valuable during the fast-paced hockey season. 

“We need to turn data around quickly for games, so having daily reports with visualizations that sales leadership can look at and immediately understand is essential, especially when there’s a new game every two days,” D’Onofrio explained. “SAS Viya makes it easier for people to understand the outcomes of data analysis to make trusted decisions.” 

For more information on SAS Sports Analytics please visit sas.com/en_us/industry/sports.html 

Today's announcement is in conjunction with SAS Global Forum 2021, the world's premier AI and analytics conference. Due to the ongoing pandemic, this year’s conference is once again virtual and free.

David 'Master Pogi' D'Angelo
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