Sports is big business, which means it’s fertile ground for big data

Sectors | Sports   |   
Published March 8, 2014   |   
Derrick Harris

While there’s no real gauge for how strong an idea can be, a decision by Booz Allen Hamilton to build a practice around that idea might be a good indicator of longevity. That is good news for the sports world, or at least the companies that want to cash in on it by catering to owners’ desires to win and leagues’ desires to attract more fans. Because the mega-consultant to the U.S. government and the world’s largest companies now thinks it can make money applying its knowledge of data science to the world of professional sports.

We’re not talking about Moneyball, either. Rather than analyzing player statistics to try fielding the best team at the lowest cost — something that’s all but common practice at this point — Booz Allen wants to help teams (and potentially their fans) understand what’s happening on the field. That means analyzing everything from who’s where on a basketball court to how hard a football player just got hit, to help figure out how it affects outcomes and injuries.

Granted, it’s more of an experiment right now than a full-fledged business line, but Booz Allen does see a future in sports. “We don’t have any [public sports] big data engagements that we’re actively working against right now,” said Ray Hensberger, a senior associate in the company’s Strategic Innovation Group, where the idea blossomed as an internal R&D project around trying to predict the next pitch in a baseball game. But the company is making connections and he’s confident it will attract a lot of clients.

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