Many people view marketing as a blend of science and art. Marketing as a science is being continuously elevated as "big data" offers unprecedented quantities of information about customers, competitors, and other environmental factors. Despite the increased influence of data on marketing practice, a very important characteristic about market intelligence must never be forgotten: Data helps managers make more informed decisions- it does not make decisions for them. Students preparing to become sports business professionals should not only commit to becoming experts about the industry, but at the same time position for success by strengthening analytical and decision-making skills (i.e., the art of marketing).
A Data Dilemma
The potential benefits of data gathered gathered from secondary and primary sources are great... but only if managers can effectively interpret and act on the data. If data do not make decisions for us (and they do not), it is up to managers to be the hero and act on their interpretation of data. While some data can reveal causal relationships between variables (e.g., the amount of price discount in a ticket sales promotion), often times data raise more questions than provides answers.
Below is an example of data can provoke questions but not offer direct answers. The table contains data from a Harris Interactive poll on Americans' favorite sports. Data are shown for four sports (pro football, baseball, college football, and auto racing) in terms of demographic subgroups that have highest and lowest connections with these sports.Interpretation of the data and impact on your business would be very different for marketing executives in the NFL and NASCAR. Each sport can better understand what its core audience segments are and which segments are opportunities to attract new fans to the sport. For example, the African American segment is the subgroup most likely to say pro football is their favorite sport. That same segment is least likely to say auto racing is their favorite sport.
DEMOGRAPHIC VARIATIONS IN FAVORITE SPORTS
" If you had to choose, which ONE of these sports would you say is your favorite?"
Base: All adults who follow more than one sport
Those aged 18-24
Those aged 40-49
Those aged 25-29
Those aged 50-64
Income $34.9K or less
Those aged 18-24
Those living in rural areas
Those aged 65+
Those aged 30-39
Education of HS or less
Source: "Football continues to be America's favorite sport; the gap with baseball narrows slightly this year" (2013), January 17, accessed September 17, 2013 at: http://www.harrisinteractive.com/NewsRoom/HarrisPolls/tabid/447/ctl/ReadCustom%20Default/mid/1508/ArticleId/1136/Default.aspx
You Have Data- Now What?
Data presented in the above table perhaps tells little that was not generally known already (e.g., baseball has a strong mid-Western fan base that skews toward older age groups; auto racing is popular among people living in rural areas and with a low level of education). But the data affirms the need to devise marketing strategies that strengthen relationships with key segments or reach out to build interest among segments in which less interest exists. What are the decisions in terms of platform, promotion, and people that will be made to act on findings from market research? Data are just that- data. They cannot tell a manager what to do; it is up to the skilled analyst to make sense of data, how it relates to the organization's objectives and capabilities, and how those insights can be transformed into action.