Calgary sports fans are having more fun because of big data


Who would have thought that premium wine and whiskey would big sellers at a hockey game? The idea came from data analysis by Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC).

CSEC owns five major sports franchises, including the Calgary Flames and the Calgary Stampeders. It uses data analytics to make sure “every customer has a great experience, whether or not the team wins,” said Deniece Kennedy, CSEC’s director of business intelligence, at a recent ITWC webinar.

Over 1.5 million people attend events at the Scotiabank Saddledome annually, providing a wealth of information about customer preferences.

“Data analytics has really helped us. In the past, we always did things because our gut told us it was good,” said Kennedy. “Now we still have a gut feel, but we look at what the numbers are telling us. We can quantify results and see what works.”

How CSEC uses data to improve the customer experience

CSEC first started using analytics five years ago to schedule games and events in the Saddledome, taking into account a range of factors such as the weather and the team’s standings. “Now we look at everything, from everyone walking into the building, what food they order and what they look at in retail. And it just keeps growing,” said Kennedy.

That’s what led to the wine and whiskey.

The data showed that two coffee stands in the arena were not performing well, and that people were spending more on alcoholic beverages, particularly craft beer and specialty items, said Ziad Mehio, senior director of IT and food services for CSEC. The coffee stands were converted to wine and whiskey bars, selling premium drinks for as much as $24 per ounce. “You would think that coffee or tea would be popular in a cold arena in the winter,” said Mehio.

The data proved to be right. Within six weeks, the revenue from the wine and whiskey bars surpassed the cost of making the change plus the coffee revenue for the past year.

Another data-driven success is the introduction of happy hour at the Saddledome. This has successfully encouraged fans to come to the arena earlier in order to reduce security lineups just before game time.

Demographics are also used to plan inventory and staffing, said Mehio. For example, the bars will be stocked with more wine for the mostly female audience coming to the Ellen Degeneres show. For family-oriented games, it’s hotdogs and pop, said Kennedy.

Tips for getting started with analytics

From an IT perspective, Mehio recommends a speedy platform for number crunching because “the data is ever growing”. CSEC uses a hyper-converged infrastructure appliance from Dell EMC.

If you’re starting out with data analytics, “talk to people in your industry,” said Kennedy.  “There are many complexities and different pieces in sports and entertainment. You need a partner that understands how it all correlates.”

Mehio also stressed that, before jumping into data analytics, organizations should be clear on what question they are trying to answer. “Make sure you only capture the data you need to answer the question because you can get lost in the mud,” he said.

Erin Banks, data analytics leader at Dell EMC agreed. “The use case is the most important thing to understand,” she said. “It’s also what will make you the most successful.”


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