OptaJoe

OptaJoe and the search for the perfect sports insight

Ahead of his attendance at the Stats Perform booth (C3) at the SBC Digital Summit (today and Thursday), we sat down with Duncan Alexander from the Stats Perform sports data team.

Alexander explained how he and his fellow statisticians support marketing and content teams, as well as more on his search for the perfect sports insight and the new Opta Graphics social media tool.

In addition to supplying data-driven stories to the world’s sports broadcasters and media, Alexander is one of the founders of the hugely popular @OptaJoe Twitter account family, which have more than 2 million people following their daily facts, insights and teasers in multiple languages from English to Spanish and Arabic. 

In true OptaJoe style, it seems only right to start with a brain-teaser, so here goes: which player has had the most shots without scoring in the Premier League this season? 

SBC: Thanks for talking to us, Duncan. Can you start by telling me a bit about the data insights team at Stats Perform?

DA: In 2019 we answered over 50,000 requests from media, broadcast and pro team partners, in over 20 countries, helping them uncover new stories and insights from sport. 

Perhaps surprisingly, but because quarantined fans are spending more time on social media and looking for distractions, we have actually seen an uptick in requests in the last month and are tracking to far exceed that number in 2020. This applies in every country we operate: sports fans are sports fans, and they always want to know more about their passion.

Duncan Alexander, Stats Perform

The secret to our success is the largest database in world sport, which to our data insights team is more than a database: it’s an ever-evolving treasure map that keeps revealing new stories, new explanations and new angles to bring us all closer to sport. 

Playing amongst all that sports data is a literal dream come true for our guys and girls. Every time a client request comes in, there’s a fight to respond first because you get a real kick from seeing how happy clients are with the insights we supply, and how their customers interact with the content.

All of this feeds our search for the perfect sports insight – one which turns on a lightbulb for fans such that they themselves are as keen to share it as we were.

That’s the great thing about sport: it has infinite stories to tell, and new understandings to be examined, whether through new metrics such as expected goals and playing styles, new forms of betting entertainment like the Opta Player Betting Feed, or helping rights holders (and former players) shed new light on classic matches like we did with re-runs of MLS games recently. 

Data can also help us look into the future: our data science teams simulated the Premier League season 10,000 times to estimate the final season standings. For example, Betfair’s Dan Fitch combined our predictions with the betting markets to see where the value lies.

SBC: How has your historical archive developed since the merger to create Stats Perform?

DA: Merging STATS and Perform last year (to create Stats Perform, Opta’s parent) married a very detailed US sport database with very detailed football, cricket and rugby databases. 

Our historical archives now span all the way back to 1876, which for context is the year Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. In footballing terms, our archives go back to the 1966 World Cup and we have every player pass, shot and goal from every match in the Euro tournament all the way back to 1980. 

Our new brothers and sisters from the STATS side share our passion for providing enlightening narratives; they’ve been supporting some of the largest teams, broadcasters and commentators in the US for over 20 years, so they know what works, and we’ve already learnt a huge amount from each other. 

Between us we have data editorial staff across the globe, supporting sports teams, media and bookmakers in many languages, as well as competing to get the most engagement for their @OptaJoe/@OptaJavier/@OptaJoao accounts!

SBC: How does the Stats Perform data editorial team help betting operators and affiliates?

DA: Sportsbook and affiliate marketing teams want to engage sports audiences in similar ways to broadcasters and teams. They want to help fans enjoy sport more and be more informed – short insights are great for this. For example, we’ve recently started mining our database to find insights to help educate fans and bettors about leagues still playing in territories they may not closely follow, like Belarus.

Quizzes are another example which are currently popular. During the last month we’ve been supplying more and more questions to broadcasters, sportsbooks and teams like Inter Milan: they’re a really simple and effective way to interact with and entertain social followers. We supply quiz questions in video formats too.

Another example of how our analysts work in the betting content space is the long-running data-driven series which we produce for Unibet. The series was commissioned with the sole objective of providing bettors and sport fans new perspectives on the leagues, players and competitions they are passionate about: something that helps Unibet authentically add value to their fandom. That’s where we see our ability to help.

SBC: And how else does Stats Perform help marketing teams?

DA: Aside from our core products like Watch and Bet live streaming and the Opta Player Betting feed, which enables betting on player shots, passes and tackles, we’ve recently launched a graphics creation tool to quickly generate images powered by our data that work really well to engage bettors on social media, CRM or inside betting apps.

The web-based Opta Graphics platform generated considerable interest at ICE. It works equally well to help operators supercharge their social marketing when the global sport machine is in full swing, as it does to provide a simple path into our extensive historical database, and bring it to life in a bespoke fashion with a few touches of a button.

We’ve also recently deployed an automated betting-specific facts feed for football and US sports, covering key trends for key betting markets across thousands of games. This is also fully integrated into the Opta Graphics tool, and lets marketers quickly generate bite-sized insight images before and during games.

SBC: To finish, the answer to the question at the start?

DA: That would be Southampton’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. He has been a big player for Hasenhuttl’s side but he has had the most shots without scoring by a player in Premier League this season (41). You can read a whole range of quirky facts powered by Opta for Sky Sports, here.

Speak to Duncan Alexander on the Stats Perform stand (C3) today. Alternatively, follow @optajoe or get hold of his team via email [email protected].

There’s still time to register for the SBC Digital Summit runs from 27 April to 1 May 2020 and features seven conference tracks, a virtual exhibition and virtual networking lounges, attracting an estimated 10,000 delegates logging in from around the world.

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