Ben Shields is a Lecturer in Managerial Communication at MIT Sloan. His research focuses on the intersection of social media technologies, data analytics, and audience behavior in the sports, media, and entertainment industries.Shields served previously as the Director of Social Media and Marketing at ESPN.
Recently we asked him a few questions about the topic of sports analytics and his upcoming MIT Sloan Executive Education program, Sports Analytics Management.
MIT: The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference is happening in the spring. Can you tell us a little about this conference?
Shields: The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference is the premier event in the industry. Founded in 2007 by MIT Sloan alum and Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey and CEO of Kraft Analytics Group Jessica Gelman, the conference has grown from about 175 participants in its first year to more than 4,000 in 2016. A similar crowd will be on hand this year.
The conference is the nexus point for the most innovative researchers, executives, and students to share new analytics approaches, debate current trends, and network. It is an energetic, fun, and fascinating event that never fails to make you smarter.
MIT: Following the conference is the very first session of your new MIT Sloan Executive Education program, Sports Analytics Management. Is this program intended to pick up where the conference leaves off? What prompted you to design this course?
Shields: Through the influential conference, MIT Sloan has become a hub for sports analytics research and practice. However, the conference lasts only two days. With our Sports Analytics Management course, we are expanding the dialogue and learning opportunities about this fast-growing and exciting field of sports analytics throughout the year.
Our course is designed to complement and extend key themes from the conference. Critically, we focus on helping students develop an analytics strategy and program that works for their organization or initiative. Whereas conference attendees will learn about new research methods and key trends, students in Sports Analytics Management will have the opportunity to synthesize this new knowledge into actionable plans going forward. Today, the biggest barrier to unlocking the potential of analytics is often not a technical one; it’s how leaders and organizations set up and manage an analytics program. We address the latter in our course.
The sports industry has been a pioneer in the analytics revolution, and there is so much we can learn about analytics management from studying it. I designed this course to help executives in all industries identify strategies and best practices in sports analytics and apply and refine them to their own efforts.