The Leaders by Ivey
The Leaders by Ivey

Episode · 2 years ago

Data-diving into the fan experience


There is nothing like the roar of the crowd at the ballpark as the home team scores the game winning run. However, what if fans weren’t allowed in the stands, what does that look like? Just after the World Series wrapped up we spoke with Corinne Peters, MSc ’19, data analyst for the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. While the Rays didn’t come out on top this year, Peters explains how the team had to quickly shift towards thinking about a virtual fan experience. In a lively conversation, she talks about her role in creating fan engagement, understanding your customer and small market innovation.

Insights in wisdom lie within every business decision. Welcome to the leaders by Ivy podcast, where we discover hidden narratives and unlock key learnings for our own leadership and career journeys. Welcome back to the leaders by IVY podcast. I'm Matt Quinn. Today we welcome Karen Peters, MSC nineteen and data analyst for the Tampa Bay rays. She joins us as the world series just wraps up and gives us a glimpse behind the scenes to an often overlooked part of the business. Enjoy, Karen, thanks very much for joining us today. I know it's been a busy time for you and we really appreciate the time. Let's start by what is your connection in relation to Ivy and who are you? What do you do? What is your daytoday look like? For sure? Yeah, so I'm current peters. I'm a dad analyst for the Tampa Bay rays and I was AMSC two thousand and nineteen. So that was the, I think, Third Year of the MSC program or at least of the be a stream, which is the analytic stream. So we were one of the first cohorts of that group and then, since I've been out for now two years. I've been back a few times to do I did the opening day for the MSC program this year. I did their keynote speech and a few things like that. So I try to really stay connected, but being only two years I would I feel like every day I'm still like, oh, the said Ivy or that at Ivy, and a lot of the time I'm still really close friends with a lot of people that I went to IV with. So all of the time it's kind of back and forth with those people. So I feel like I've be still part of my everyday life, even though I've now graduated. The next part was what do I do on my day to day? So my day to day now is obviously a lot different than it was even a year ago. So when I first started to the raise, a lot of my day to day was what are we doing with the fans? What are how are we using their information when they come to the ballpark? How we're making this a personalized experience for them? So anything to do with bringing in information about our fans, learning about them, doing analysis on them, trying to make it a personalized experience for them. And then now, obviously things have shifted over the last six months because we don't have fans in the stand so where my main objective used to be, how is our fan experience at the Ballpark? What are we doing for these fans? How are we getting them to buy tickets? Now it's a lot about a mind shift of how do we engage these fans? What are we doing for these fans? How are we being proactive if there's a point in the near future that we're going to be able to have fans back in our stands? So that's kind of really what I focus on now and that's just been a big shift for me over the past I don't know what are we going on eight months now. So that's that's really where I am in terms of what I do day to day. And thanks for that distinction, because for those that are baseball fans or even movie fans, book fans, they might immediately go to moneyball, and I really like that you distinguish that. Your rule is on a different side of the house and it's dealing with with fans, with ticketing, with the the business side of the analys so let's dive in a little bit. So say I am a Fan, I am a baseball fan, I won't divulge the team, though, because it's a not a great team this year. Tell me a little bout I'm a fan of the rays. How do you engage with me? What are some of the differences that you've you put into place with with everything happened to covid? Walk me through that a little bit, for sure. Yeah, that I love that. You brought up the two different sides of baseball, because it's the same in any sport, right. So before I started at the rays, I worked at stathletes, which is a hockey analytox company. Or is a hockey analytox company? Sorry. So I work on the I worked on the player side. So what are our pre and postgame reports look like? What are some of the models that were bringing to the on ice performance? And then when I moved to the rays, now I really focus on what as our fan doing? How is this impacting our bottom line? So that's really the big shift that that happened for me and it's very business focus now. So it's anything from ticketing, corporate sponsorship, anything to do with our APP anything to do with making it a mobile experience or anything along those lines. ...

That just doesn't involve the actual on field play. So but yeah, there's been a big shift over the last eight months into thinking about what does that acquisition of a new fan look like now that they're not in the stand? So before a lot of our acquisition monitor acquisitions of fans would come from buying tickets, with us being on the secondary market. Obviously we still had connection through different things like mobile APP and and social media and MLB TV. But now our shift is really changed from what are those fans look like who are coming into the states? How do we make sure that? So we're a team that's been cash free, a mobile free for a little or mobile only. Sorry, cash free and mobile only for a little while now. So we've really focused on how we gaining that new information on our fans using our APP to get into the Ballpark, using our APP to buy concessions or merchandise or whatever they're using. And now it's become even more of that shift. So are we getting our fans through MLBTV? Are we getting our fans through different surveys or different posts that we're putting on or they following blakes now on twitch? So that's really where our shift has been. It's gone from how are we focusing on those fans that are coming into our ballpark and now how are we engaging new fans so that a fan that's in Toronto that maybe would make it to one game a year in Tampa when they're playing the the Jay is, how do we make sure that they're watching all of our games and they're cheering us on in the world series? So that's really the shift that's happened over the last little while and I think that's going to be a good shift for the entire industry going forward. Right. So we were an industry that was very focused on how do we get fans in the stands? How are we making sure that a lot of our revenue comes from parking, concessions, retail tickets? And now it's okay, how does a lot of our revenue come from? Maybe it's coming from MLBTV. Maybe it's not about revenue, maybe it's about making sure that our players have a really big platform to speak on. So those are kind of the different shifts that we're seeing and I think it's going to be really good for the industry. I think at the end of the day, if we ever end up in a situation where we have fans back in the stands. Those new fans are going to come to all bar'l bar our ballpark with a completely different appreciation and a different devotion to our teams. So that's really what we're hoping for and I love you've used the word engagement and it's a different way of engaging with the fan. What cool new ways have you guys implemented or how have you used data to drive the engagement? Any surprises there for sure. Yeah, I think for me personally, the fan cut outs were a big surprise. I when we first went with the fan cuts, I was like, no one's gonna buy these, like this seems like a crazy idea, but it really, it really did surprise me how many fans were engaged and wanted their fan cut out and would call in and say, I want to know where our fan cutout is, and and that was a big part of my job was figuring out a way to make sure that we knew exactly where all the fan cutouts were so that when fans would call in, we knew where they were. So it's just been that's been a big shift for me that the people would want a fan cut out to watch a game that they couldn't attend, and it blows my mind that people are so engaged that way. But people really do love sport and they want to feel some way to be in the ballpark even when they can't be. And for those that aren't watching the games, describe what a fan cutout is, because this is a really cool idea, a simple idea, but really impactful. Yeah, for sure. So Fan cut its are basically you submit a picture. So we set up an online portal, you paid whatever the a price was for the cutout and you submitted a picture and we went and got them printed and then we put them in the fan in seats around the ballpark that were, for the most part, viewable by the camera angle and your Fan cutouts at in the stadium while you sat at home and watch the game. So yeah, it was really fun of you. I have my dog in there. So, like lots of people were doing fun things like that and putting different celebrities got in on it, so it was awesome. That's it's really cool to see because you see it's a fan feels so engaged with the team and they're, you know, a great way for them to see themselves on camera and you mentioned. There's one thing that you mentioned I want to dive into a little bit that you think in the long run this is actually going to be a real positive that's a...

...theme that we've seen across some other conversations that we've had, that in the midst of some incredibly challenging times, that there are some shining lights and great examples where it's going to be positive. Talk a little bit more about that. You've mentioned engagement. How else do you think that this, you know, change in the business is going to be good in the long run? Yeah, I think it's going us an opportunity to take a step back and look more at who our fans are and what they really value. So I think for for the most part, in sport especially, it's busy, right. So you have your season and usually it's a lot of months of preparation for it and then a lot of months of fans being in the stands and it just keeps rolling and rolling and rolling and you never really get this opportunity to take a step back and say, Oh hey, maybe we should reevaluate what we're doing with these fans are, maybe we're communicating with them in the wrong way. Maybe we're not engaging with them on the right platforms. Maybe we're only focused on this specific group of fans that that comes to our games and maybe there's a whole other area of ends that we sometimes forget about because we're so focused on getting them into the Ballpark, making sure they have a good experience, making sure they want to come back. So I think it's a really good opportunity for us to take a back step back and say how are we engaging with them? Are we connecting with them on the right network? Do we even know who they are? Do we know how much disposable income they're going to have when this whole thing is over? Do we know those things about our fans that we can really take forward and say, Hey, maybe we can engage with this fan when they're one thousand, nine hundred and twenty and this is a really hard time for them, but maybe ten years from now we're going to see them with kids at our game. So really, how are we making sure that they go from being either a casual fan or a fan that watches to someone who's going to be a lifelong fan for us, five, ten, fifteen years down the road? So we've talked about the evolution of the business that you're in. I want to shift slightly and talk about the evolution of analytics and your role in analytics since you've graduated the one of the reasons I chose the rays was because they are such a small team. They were just getting started when I when I came on board, they had hired a VP who's my boss, and we were just like a small little team that was going to get to have a big impact on a lot of different elements in the business really quickly, and that was pretty much the the main reason why I chose this team. And so from there they were talking about, Hey, guys, how do we how do we start to think about taketing different how do we start to think about marketing different so they were really looking for someone to come in with the analysis and say hey, look, you have all this information. This is other information you need to bring in, and so that's really where I was when I started. Was How do we talk about about collecting information from fan fast? We don't, we have historically hadn't ticketed fan fast. So Fan fast is just a fun, free event where everyone can come in and and learn about the team and meet some players and it's before the season starts. It's all about kind of like getting people involved in baseball before there's people on the field. So that was really how do we make sure we know who those people are? How do we make sure they're converting to ticket sales? So all those little elements that we started to focus on. Of How do we collect information on our fans? How do we make sure it's somewhere we can pull the information from and it's not just stored in random ex CEL sheets wherever? So those are some of the big things that have changed. We now have a really good system of bringing in data and making sure that we know who our fans are and what they're doing and and we can pull information in that that gives us an ability to connect to them on a personalized level and that's something the whole industry is going towards. I mean, as fast as the the on ice, field, court, whatever you want to call it, as fast as that side of the business has has really gone into analytics, the fan focus side has been a little bit slower to the game and just in general, and so it's really been an exciting time for us to all kind of get up to the level where we can have those personalized connections with our fans and and we know what they want and or we try to know what they want and we try to deliver a product that that really gets them engaged at at games and and wanting to be part of our organization. So I think that's been kind of the major analytic shift that I've seen. That's great. And you talk about the speed of things changing. Not only is the environment changing, the business is changing, the the sport is evolving.

What has been a key for you to be able to manage that pace of change? And I think it'd be interesting for students that are listening to this. You know, what kind of skills should they be thinking about developing and continuing to develop to be able to evolve as quickly as you have in in your role? Yeah, I think once in a while it's just the situation you're in right. So, when I started, a lot of I mean I can give you the list of technical skills that I use Dailyi there for anyone who who wants to know that I use sequel. That's where all our data stored and how I pull it out are is really where I do all my modeling and then tableau is how I get the information across to other stakeholders in the business. So those are kind of my three main platforms that I use. But I think the thing I've learned the most over the past two years that I've been here is really that you have to be proactive and flexible. It whether you have the skills and whether you're going to learn them, and a lot of the time you do learn them on the job. It's just that ability to be pro active. So even, for example, this season, it was early March when we were told, hey guys, there's not going to be baseball. Hey guys, you're all working from home. Hey guys, we don't know what's going on, and that's three weeks before our opening day, right. So we're all in a mindset that's hey, we are ready for opening day. We have x number. If I get sold, we're ready to go. These are the people that are hired to be there. This how many police we need there. So just all this information that we're like really pushing for opening day and then you're told, hey, there's no opening day this year. Also, we're going to have to find a way to kind of refund but we're not sure if we're refunding yet, because maybe there is going to be an opening day and maybe it's going to be two weeks down the road or four weeks either road. So really that shift to being proactive and and one of the things that I think I did really well this year is as soon as that that information came down, my mind immediately went to and we're told, hey, we're not going to have any large gatherings. My mind immediately went to, okay, what is this going to look like if we can have twenty percent capacity? So that was really a big project that I took on. Was How do we make sure that we can sell groups of tickets or however many fans we can get in the stands? How do we make that look like a it's fans in the stands. How are we selling those tickets? How are the groupings? How are we maximizing revenue in that little amount of seats that were allowed from whatever the mayor brings down or whoever is going to bring down the number that we're allowed? So that real proactiveness within myself was like Hey, I got to get this map out, I've got to make sure that it's something that are our ticket office or whoever's making the decision is a very capable of using. So making sure that it was interactive with them and they could choose, Hey, I want to sell the entire stadium in groups of for or I want to sell the intail and groups of two, four and six, but I only want groups of six to be bought by people who are coming in groups of six. So really making sure that they could have a visual representation of what the stadium would look like in that scenario. And that all came from being proactive, right if I mean we're still using it to this day. It's what is it going to look like for opening day next year? But there was always this little kind of internal office feel that, okay, what are we going to do if we have fans in two weeks? What are we going to do if we have fans in four weeks? Because we really didn't have a decision on if we were weren't going to have fans until there were just basically no more days to have fans. So that's kind of one of the things I've really learned is you have the skills that that you come in with, but you just have to be flexible and proactive and and willing to work with the situation, because I can guarantee you what I started this job, that was not a single person thinking, Hey, we're not going to have fans. So that's really what I buy, what I go with every day. No, that's great, and there's a thread I want to pull on here. You mentioned tableau and it's a great tool for, you know, visualization of data. You also mentioned working with the ticket office and Front Office. A big part of your job must be not only get accessing the data, using it to help yourself make decisions, but also selling these decisions and selling the use of data. Talk a little bit about what your job looks like in okay, you got to use the data, but...'s also convincing others, communicating to others on business changes, on paths to take. How do you do that effectively? Yeah, I think I'm really fortunate that I work for an organization that wants the analysis brought to the front. They want to know why they're making decisions and what the reasoning behind it is. So that's a really fortunate situation to be in, and I know there are organizations that are not like that and and so I can't imagine being in a situation where I was trying to force analytics at someone every day. So that's really fortunate. But there are still moments where where you'll bring something forward and you'll really have to defend what you're bringing forward because there has been a way that things have been done for ten, fifteen, twenty years behind you and and it's kind of the law of the land. So what do you bring to the table that's different that you want to convince someone that they should use instead? And I think a lot of that comes from building a strong foundation. So anytime you're having a conversation with anyone in the building, you're instilling their trusted you. So you want to make sure that they feel like the information you're bringing to the table makes sense. You're not just pulling numbers out of thin air from wherever you are. You're really bringing to the table. This is why this information is important. This is the key insight from it and here, if you want to go through all the steps, I'll bring you through all the steps and we can talk through it one by one. But really making sure that, whatever you're bringing to the table, that key point is out in the front. So don't bury your lead don't make it so that no one knows why. You're just kind of talking and you're talking and you're talking and all of a sudden, this is why I think we should price this section of this. So really making sure that we should price the section at this and these are all the reasons why we have this many fans normally in there. These fans have a discretionary income of blank. These fans are coming to x number of games per year. So really making sure that we understand. You have all the backing for what you're saying, but you're bringing that front point out to the focus. How big is the team that you work with, because I can imagine listeners going this sounds great, but it's only me. And how many people do you have on your group? Yeah, sometimes it feels like that. No, so we're a team of three. So there's my boss, myself and then another analyst. So we're a pretty small team, which is how we end up tackling so much of the organization. And there are definitely days it's overwhelming where you're like, I need to do this for marketing, I need do this for ticketing and I have all this stuff going on. But at the same time it's extremely rewarding. Right. So there's so many decisions that are made and you can walk through the Ballpark one day and and you can walk through and you can be like hey, I helped with that project and I help with that project and the all these things are happening in the ballpark and there are some projects that you don't even think would fall under an analysts. So last year we revamped any coming into two thousand and twenty. So things kind of happened once the season started. But coming into two thousand and twenty we were revamping a lot of our ticket products and so that's a project that I got put on just because of the math background in the analyst background and everything, and I got to come up with this new product, the rays wind pack, which basically brought in an element of betting, legal bedding, because it's not actual betting, to our ticket products. So you buy a rays wind pack, it gives you x number of tickets and if you choose games that the rays when you get a free ticket. In as long as You keep choosing games that the rays when at you keep getting free tickets. So those really and for on the US in the back end. It's all about what's our risk tolerance with it? Right? So that's where the analyst part comes in. But being part of the team that starts to develop these products, even though you don't feel like it would be a typical analyst roll, is just kind of how, when there's so few people working, you kind of end up on lots of different projects. But then, on the same time I'm really fortunate because there are so many people on our ticketing teams, so many people are our marketing team that have years and years of experience in the industry themselves, so they'll know exactly what kind of ticketing information we have and exactly how different systems work. And then on our marketing side they'll have tons of experience knowledge about hey, this post works well. I Know Your Dad is not saying that, but like, let's talk about why I think this works well. So just those different sides and although we're a team of only three analysts, the outside of it always plays a factor. So, yeah,...

...we're a team of three plus four hundred. I don't know however many other people are at the race. So I'd like to we've talked about successes, the things that you've done that are really facilitated growth and the evolution. I wonder if, looking back over the last, as you mentioned, eight months, if there's things you go I think we could have done this differently or I wish that I would have looked at this from a different way. Talk a little bit about that. Yeah, I don't think there's ever a project they're like hey, I did that perfectly. So I think that's something you just get used to, is that when you look back here, I was like, man, I could have done that faster, I could have done that more efficiently. Even with I talked a little bit about our seat mapping, where we mapped all of all of the different seats. Even that is something that we ended up going through. I think by the end we had done like something like twenty five different iterations of possible seat combinations, and one of them is definitely a big going to be useful in the future, but twenty five of them probably wasn't useful. So really putting those a sometions, a lot of the assumptions we just kind of played around with and we weren't solid on. Well, maybe we'll have groups of for maybe we'll have groups of two, or maybe we'll we will sell the section or we won't sell the section. So I think a lot of things like that. Setting your assumptions really strongly at the beginning would have made that process faster. But at the end of the day it really hasn't changed anything for us. It obviously has has given us a lot of opportunity to think about our ballpark and where seats can sell and how different people could move in through different doors and anything like that. So I think it's given us a good opportunity to think about that. I think we definitely, at least I definitely could have been more efficient in coming up with those assumptions and making sure that I had them set from set from the GECKO. And then there's also other things, like for our APP. I wish that, looking back, I had really started with the information that I finished with. So I started with how we how are we kind of using our APP and where people landing and and really the conclusion that came from that is where people getting lost. Let's make sure we rewrote them back. So I mean, starting at the end is always nice, right, because you're at the end, you have all the information and you're like, man, I could have saved myself ten hours but that's not always the case right. Sometimes it really does take getting in with the data and sitting and looking at it and finding a lot of things that don't work before you find the thing that does. So yeah, and so you would you'd be considered a smaller market team. Is that correct? Absolutely, Yes. How is how is that benefited you with the, you know, ability to be innovative or take some risks? So you've already mentioned your ability to get involved because of the small size of your team. Talk a little bit about that, because it must bring up some great opportunities. Yeah, I think one thing that's great about our team and being in a smaller market is that we're not scared to innovate, and I think that's evident on our field and it's also evident in our front office. Is We're not scared to come up with new ideas, to try things out, to occasionally fail at things. So those are really, really great things. We were one of the first teams to go cash free, so really pushing that. We did that way prepro pandemic. So I think two or three years ago, depending on when you count your years, is when we initiated that and and really pushed for a cash free environment, and now we're seeing all these teams in the midst of a pandemic, trying to go cash free and having trouble with how are we going to be cash free and how does it work? And so really being innovative there is has been helpful for us. And even last year in the postseason when the when the I guess two years ago now, in the postseason, when we were holding games at the trop it was we were mobile only. Like I stood out with the sign that said let me help you with mobile tickets, like so all of those things that that you can can really do to the innovative has has helped us extremely well in this postseason, or even in the season where we already have those connections of our fans. We've made sure that we know that you have the APP downloaded, because you couldn't come to a game unless you have the APP downloaded. So we know that we have that connection point with you and now it's all about using that connection point. So while other teams were like, Oh wait, we don't have them within our APP. How do we get them in our APP? How do we make sure they have an APP when they're not even at our ballpark. We'd already kind of crossed that hurdle because we've said, hey, you can only come to a game if you have the APP, and... we're like, okay, let's make sure we're using that APP to connect with them even though they're not in our stadium. So those are really the changes that have been nice for us that we wouldn't have been in such a good position if we hadn't been innovative at the time. And you mentioned other teams. I know, and I'm just speaking from my background and publishing, we have regular communication with other publishers and share different ideas and do some shared project projects and innovation it. Does that happen in your industry? Do you work with other teams? Do you share ideas, or is it very you know, do you keep that to yourselves? Talk a little bit about how that works as an industry? For sure. I think that's why I love being on the business side is we at the rays might be a team of three, but the MLB community is massive and the sport community on the business side is massive and because at the end of the day, all of us are really focused on how do we have the most fans or how do we make sure that our fans are engaged or really anything fan focused. None of us are competitive in that sense. Like, yeah, we'd love for you to be a raise fan over someone else's Fan. We'd love for you to be a number one raise fan and a number two jays fan, but like, will take you as a number one race Jay's Fan, a number two raise fan, as long as you're a fan of baseball. Right. So that's really the goal, is to make sure that we have the most number of fans and that our sport continues well into the future. And so that's it's great in the side of the business because we're always talking to each other. We have my monthly by a weekly. I feel like every time I turn around we're talking to someone from other there another team or having a League Guad call or across sport call. So we're always engaged with each other and I think that's why the teams of three never feel like teams of three, because we have such a huge network that we're always communicating with and it that's such a great example for the listener of, you know, a rising tide and looking at your industry as a whole. And yes, there's going to be competition, but there's ways to do that where you can learn from each other and it must be fascinating for you to again see the evolution of your type of role being relatively new when you look at the history of of the sport as a whole, but seeing that evolution of the industry and analytics being used in different ways must be very fascinating for you. I want to take a quick side side part here and look at look at you as you've grown from graduating at Ivy and you know we've talked about your role, but talk about you know, passion projects that you've got. Are there things that you want the listener to to read, to consider, for students to consider that are at ivnlse where? Give us some some things that you want us to read or consider? For sure. I think for me a big thing that that I try to do is just stay involved with what's happening in other sports. I think sometimes you can get so single minded into this is the Ballpark I'm working at her, this is these are the fans I'm considering and you forget that there's a whole other world of sports fans out there that you don't even consider. So just trying to find any information that's out there. I know I get daily emails from sports business journals. So just that information, any information you can find that that really pushes information to you that you might not consider. So what are Premier Leagues Doing? What is happening with sports betting in England? Just anything that really that is could eventually be in our market right. So anything that's really your finding out there. I think other things that that I really focus on internally is what's my motivation for coming in every day, like what drives me, because, especially in this work from home environment, there there are days where you just you you feel like you're not connected to the world, even though you're talking to people all the time. So I think for me it's really what's my motivation and what's pushing me, and it's something that drove me at I be to write like what's what am I doing this for? What do I want out of this? What I'm what am I finding and now that I'm kind of in this industry, and I think my motivation so heavily lies with the fans. So how am I making this the best experience for them? How is anything I'm doing making...

...this a better experience. How are we taking someone who may have had a horrible day and bringing baseball into their life and they're feeling like they had an awesome day? And that's kind of my motivation every day, is how am I making them better and how am I making them feel like there's a positivity at the end of this pandemic tunnel and you're eventually going to come back to sport and it's going to be right where you left it and it's going to be a great time. And so I think even that that finding your internal motivation, and there are lots of ways to find that. Maybe it's exercise, maybe it's reading, maybe it's, I don't know, watching TV, whatever. That motivation comes from you and it might not be the same motivation that it is for everyone. I know, especially when I was at school, like lots of people were focused on I want to be in finance, I want to be in consulting, and none of that really drove me the way finding that connection with a fan does now. So really finding that motivation, even if it's not the same motivation as everyone else, I think is really pushed me. Korean, thank you so much for taking the time. I think that's a great place for us to wrap up the conversation today. I'm really looking forward to seeing how your role continues to evolve and the business of baseball continues to evolve, and we'll be watching with intent over the next few years and I hope that you continue to stay in touch with Ivy. Thank you for everything that you do. Absolutely thank you, guys, for having me. Thanks again to Karin for joining us today. It was fascinating to hear how one of Ivy's newer programs is making waves in areas like sports. It's clear to me the baseball isn't just the stats on the field, but is integral behind the scenes and even into the fan experience. I hope you enjoyed be sure to rate, review and subscribe. See you next time.

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