Sunday 19th May 2019

Manchester City, NYCFC Apply SAP’s Big Data Across Their Soccer World

Manchester City, NYCFC Apply SAP’s Big Data Across Their Soccer World

Manchester City, NYCFC Apply SAP’s Big Data Across Their Soccer World
Manchester City and NYCFC players mingle at a recent joint training session. (Credit: NYCFC/Manchester City)

The 52nd floor of a high rise in New York City’s Hudson Yards development offers sweeping panoramic views of Manhattan, the outer boroughs, New Jersey, and beyond. Last week, however, those in that room paid as much attention to the gilded silver guest of honor inside: the English Premier League Trophy.

After breaking EPL records for goals, wins, and points, Manchester City claimed its third championship in the last seven seasons and brought the trophy along for its U.S. tour during International Champions Cup play last month. This particular visit was to the NYC office of SAP, the German software company whose technology underpins some of the tactical and business decisions of not only Manchester City but also its sister clubs through the City Football Group consortium.

“The underlying aspect about our organization is that it’s not just the data, it’s your attitude or mindset—the mindset is definitely about learning and improving,” City Football Group chief commercial officer Tom Glick said of the organization’s coaches, scouts, marketers, and managers, before later adding:

“We are constantly doing experiments and trying new things around the group. When we find something that works, it tends to become universal across the group.”

Manchester City's Premier League and League Cup trophies.
Manchester City’s Premier League and League Cup trophies. (Credit: Joe Lemire)

One such innovation that Glick hailed as successful with Manchester City—whose Amazon Prime Video series “All or Nothing” chronicling the title season debuts Aug. 17—was SAP’s Challenger Insights, a tablet-based portal offering players access to profiles, patterns, habits, and videos of their next opponent. The program automatically updates 90 minutes prior to kickoff with the announced starting lineup. The goalkeeper receives his own module with opposing players’ tendencies on penalty kicks.

While Challenger Insights has not yet been disseminated to other clubs, some of the off-field best practices and technologies have been. The Abu Dhabi United Group that owns Manchester City also owns five other men’s teams around the world through its subsidiary, City Football Group. That roster includes Major League Soccer’s NYCFC, Girona FC in Spain’s La Liga, Melbourne City FC in Australia, Yokohama Marinos in Japan, and Club Atlético Torque in Uruguay. City Football Group also encopasses women’s programs in Melbourne and Manchester.

Glick said each club’s community endeavors have been guided by the use of data to determine what’s most useful in each area. Manchester City has developed programs for girls’ empowerment. NYCFC previously emphasized youth activity and anti-obesity efforts before recently refocusing on connecting communities and promoting healthy living through the development of 50 mini-soccer pitches. In Melbourne, which has seen an influx of immigrants, the priority is inclusion.

“What we would like to do is get more insights from those communities, importantly, about what is needed,” Glick said. “What is the social challenge that exists that we can use our sport and our young leaders to help to address and improve? This is the key thing: We’re using football to help inspire, motivate, empower, bring people together, galvanize, create good habits. And so understanding what is that pain point within that community is crucially important. Then we can [say], ‘That’s the challenge that we want to go after in this community.’ Data can help us to do that. Hearing faster, in real-time, from more members of that city and community.”

Dan Fleetwood, SAP’s VP of global sponsorships, touted his company’s use of HANA—a data management suite running in conjunction with Sapphire Systems—that will help power the clubs’ customer relationship management tools. The goal is to understand how fans interact with a team brand on- and off-site to create custom experiences around the shared communal focus of the sport.

Manchester City is continuing to develop its sprawling Etihad Campus, the roughly 200 acres surrounding its stadium. Glick called the renovations a “constant iterative process” to improve the fan experience, and Fleetwood noted the potential of IoT to create smart venues and tech-driven entertainment districts.

“We’ve seen this groundswell of these types of venues and projects that people are really trying to put forward,” Fleetwood said. “We’re trying to integrate with that.”

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