This post will cover an exciting innovation in sports marketing, I promise. But to get there, we have to start with the political career of Josh Ginsberg.
Josh managed a grassroots organization in more than 30 states as National Field Director for Mitt Romney’s 2008 Presidential campaign, the third presidential election he worked on. He also was campaign manager for Chris Dudley’s gubernatorial 2010 campaign in Oregon and worked on campaigns and in the administration for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
On the political beat, Josh was constantly preparing for and responding to breaking news. When someone would approach him with a piece of news, “my question was always, ‘That’s fine, but is it trending? Where did the story come from?’ ”
The answer was always a guess. So in 2011, Josh, Adam Beaugh and Jim Hornthal co-founded a company that could give them answers. Originally called PolitEar, San Francisco-based Zignal Labs develops and uses analytic tools to generate critical insights from mountains of data that otherwise might be unintelligible, like a piece of art that slowly comes into focus as you step back.
Except the process isn’t slow. Think about the company who wants to know about how the media have been covering it for the past month. Has media coverage increased or decreased from the previous month? Is the coverage mostly positive or negative?
To answer those questions old-school style would take an extensive review, with someone looking through the archive, manually recording each mention of the company, and registering if each mention was strongly positive, strongly negative or somewhere in between.
“It takes six or seven hours to do media reports,” Josh says. “We can get that down to three seconds.”
Here’s an example of how to apply Zignal Labs’ tools: Let’s take a tiny (very tiny) slice from Friday’s cluster bomb Twitter conversation on what the New England Patriots did or didn’t do to deflate their footballs in their AFC championship game against the Colts:
To demonstrate one of its tools, Zignal Labs looked at tweets, public facebook posts, news, blogs, and social videos touching on Deflategate throughout the country Friday morning (January 23). Click on the image below. At first, you’ll see different colored nodes representing news stories (green), outlets (blue), syndicators or influencers on Twitter (orange) and retweets (pink), covering a 5-minute stretch that morning.
Near the end of the video, you saw where the heavy concentrations of discussion were coming from, especially Boston (duh), New York, Nashville, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle (also a duh, as the city braces for Super Bowl XLIX). Let’s just say this is a tad more powerful than a report from a poor media consultant trying to gauge sentiment from this fire hose of comment with a Google search and a spread sheet.
Enter the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, who were concluding a political campaign of sorts, building public support for their state-of-the-art, publicly financed arena. “They really wanted to make sure their strategy was working, and they were really communicating with their fans,” Josh said.
Think of the story lines that can develop over a few dozen Tweets. “How do you sort those mentions?” Josh asked. “How do you tell which narratives are accelerating? If you can’t measure it, how can you manage it?”
The Kings’ vision went beyond rallying public support for their new arena. As Kevin McKenna reported last week in a wonderful piece for Comstock’s, the Kings are reinventing the fan experience using a variety of technologies that didn’t exist a few years ago. These include the use of the digital currency Bitcoin, Google Glass views, the integration of ride-sharing service Uber into its mobile app and, among other things, Zignal Labs’ analytic tools.
The Kings refer to this collection of innovations as NBA 3.0, and I’m guessing in a year or two many or most of these features will be standard operating procedure for most major sport franchises in the United States. Many teams are already doing some of this, although the Kings are one of the trailblazers.
So the Kings asked Zignal Labs to track three major team initiatives: The arena, crowd sourcing the NBA draft (gauging fan sentiment for different players and changes in that sentiment as the draft progressed), and understanding the impact of international players (the Kings, for example, were the first NBA team to recruit a player of Indian descent).
“Zignal allows us to understand in real time what people are saying while also helping making PR more scientific and quantitative,” said Laura Braden, Senior Director of Communications for the Kings. “It helps save staff bandwidth and time, but also gives us a level of confidence in our strategy both internally and externally. It lets us know that we are really making a global impact.”
Using Zignal Labs tools, the Kings were able to track and analyze nearly 1 million relevant mentions over a four month period. In October, the team said an index measuring net sentiment of the Kings rose a remarkable 25 percent over the period. Mentions of the new arena in social media and elsewhere jumped tenfold during the period.
The Kings continue to use Zignal Labs tools, although they have not announced any update to the earlier results. But the Kings’ report wasn’t the only good news for Zignal Labs in October. In another sign that demand is expected to grow for the services of big data experts like Zignal Labs, the company raised $10.7 million in new funding to grow its team (50 people and a Washington office) and attract new customers.
“We live in a time where there are just massive amounts of information out there,” Josh said. “You can gain understanding from those millions and millions of data points, so you can make smart, quantifiable and more efficient decisions.”
Latest posts by Cliff Glickman (see all)
- How Danny Dreyer Launched the Chi Running Revolution - March 9, 2015
- What an Influencer Better Learn from a Little League Scandal - February 13, 2015
- A Peak Behind the Scenes at Super Bowl Week - February 6, 2015