Q&A with agency of the year, Two Circles
1. How have technological developments impacted the sports industry?
Recent developments in technology have had a huge impact on all areas of the sports industry. Perhaps the most obvious are those taking place on the field: there are now some truly stunning systems in place that deliver athlete performance analysis. Technology allows players, coaches, medical staff, nutritionists and managers to gather data in order to understand a sportsperson’s performance, and use this understanding to drive marginal gains, reduce the risk of injury and make sound strategic decisions.
New technology is also changing the way that sport is officiated and reviewed. Immediate replays and data collection in real time allow us to know whether a ball bounced on the line or past it, whether a foul has been made or whether a player was offside. This is also compelling content for fans.
Indeed, arguably the most exciting technological developments are those changing the way that customers engage with sport. Historically, fans and rights-holders have behaved like two distinct parties – each frustrated that they don’t know more about the other. That’s why we’re called Two Circles – it’s the problem we were created to solve. New technologies are enabling a more compelling value exchange between these two groups and facilitating a dialogue between them. Data is the fuel to this engine. Whether the experience is delivered through the red button, personalised web content or outbound communications, the results are beneficial for everyone: fans get the more meaningful individual experience that they want, and rights-holders derive fan understanding and ultimately commercial value across various revenue streams.
2. Which technological developments have impacted Two Circles the most and how have you acted upon these?
We believe in using technology and data to build customer relationships – but what is important to remember is that this is not necessarily about rights holders implementing the latest and greatest, most expensive technology, but rather about them truly understanding their business problems and implementing a pragmatic solution that enables them to understand their customer base, engage with customers and drive revenue growth. One size absolutely doesn’t fit all.
The innovations having the biggest impact in our space are those that increase the accessibility of data to the sporting sector. Technological improvements are allowing us to extract, analyse and evaluate data faster than ever before, which in turn is allowing us to help our clients drive meaningful change and communicate with their customers in an efficient, customer-centric way. The sporting sector can now ‘catch-up’ and do what other industries have been doing for years - leverage their customer data.
3. Through technological innovation, there is an increasing number of sources available to collate data - is there such thing as too much insight as far as Two Circles is concerned?
Having access to an exponentially increasing amount of data certainly presents a number of risks – one of them being the temptation to collect data simply for its own sake. “Big data” is a fashionable term at the moment but in my experience it’s “smart data” that holds the real value. A small amount of data that is extracted, maintained, presented and acted upon correctly is more valuable than a large amount of data used poorly.
In terms of insight – that is, the nuggets of information we deduce once we have analysed raw data – the challenge we give ourselves everyday is to always be clear on the “So what?”. If analysis cannot inform strategy in a very meaningful way, it is not an “insight” at all – it is just analysis. It is the most actionable insights that drive the most meaningful change; it’s therefore not so much a danger of “too much insight”, but rather one of “too much un-actionable analysis”.
4. Do you have any predictions on future technological innovations that are going to affect your business or the business of sport on the whole?
Making predictions in sport is a risky business…!
I think the improvements we’re seeing to technology in business generally are going to keep pushing down the cost of delivering a personalised customer experience, while simultaneously raising customer expectations. For sport, the challenge is to act now or be left behind – sport has no more divine right to anyone’s leisure time than Facebook, movies, or music. In order to compete, sports organisations must now start leveraging their customer intelligence properly – this will allow them to deepen their relationships with their customers in a way that other industries have already done. In fact, given the strong emotional connections fans often have with sport, our industry is perhaps uniquely well-placed to benefit from the deeper relationships that new technology can facilitate.
However seeing is believing and rights holders will ultimately be judged by fans on the quality and relevance of their engagement. What I think will be the most exciting dimension of this will be the convergence of various platforms, devices and data sources in a way that facilitates increasingly personal, well-targeted communications.
5. Having picked up an award at the inaugural Sports technology Awards, how do you look to build upon the innovative work that you are already carrying out?
I think there are two things that will continue driving innovation at Two Circles. One is the incredible pace at which technology in our space changes and improves – I’ve already detailed above the changes that are happening across the industry and the data that is generated as a consequence. Of course, the challenge we must meet as an organisation is to embrace these changes in a way that adds real value for our clients – whether that means visualising data in a more innovative way, incorporating more live data feeds to build a fuller picture of a client’s customer-base or embracing different channels as a means to engage customers who are unresponsive to traditional ones.
The other is our commitment to delivering truly bespoke solutions for each of our clients. Because they all have very specific business objectives and obstacles to overcome, we must always remain open to new solutions in order to always find the right one. We’re very proud of our work with Youth Sport Trust – with whom we won the Sports Technology Award – because we were able not only to build the solution that was best for them but also are now helping them drive value from it. In YST’s case, the combination of the right systems and analytic thinking ultimately drove increased customer engagement, efficiency and revenue. Technology is ultimately only ever an enabler to driving customer focused growth.
Questions answered by Jules Bernays (Pictured top), Lead Consultant at Two Circles