Local sports teams, universities team up to launch sports-focused data analytics resource

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Indianapolis-based tech company Upper Hand Inc. is teaming up with the Indianapolis Colts, Pacers Sports and Entertainment, Butler University and IUPUI to create a data and analytics resource focused on the sports and fitness industries.

The online resource, called Flockery, is set to launch in beta mode in the next several weeks. The site, whose domain name has not yet been released, will be a place where users can find sports and fitness data, use it to solve industry-specific business challenges, connect with others in the field and learn about job opportunities.

The goal is to help the sports and fitness industries weather the disruptions caused by both the pandemic and the ongoing digital and big-data revolutions.

It’s to be determined exactly who will have access to the online resource, Upper Hand CEO Kevin MacCauley said, but in general the target users are anyone in the sports and fitness industries with an interest in data analytics. That could include professional sports organizations, fitness centers and gyms, university researchers and others. Access will be available at low or no cost.

“It’s a real, true industry and academic collaboration,” said David Pierce, director and professor at IUPUI’s Sports Innovation Institute.

Pierce said he’s especially excited about the collaboration because it will give his data analytics students students access to higher-quality data than they can typically collect on their own.

“The data that we have to work with in academic research, it’s never as good as the data that actually exists in the industry,” Pierce said.

As an example: Students who want to research fan behavior might get permission from a sports team to talk with fans on their way to and from a game. But those street-corner interviews won’t tell the whole story—they won’t include details on the entire pool of ticket holders, for instance, or deep analytics on interaction with the team’s social media posts.

“More than likely, the organization has multiple sources of this information, from thousands of people,” Pierce said. “We never have access to any of that.”

The collaboration was sparked when MacCauley developed an interest in the field of predictive analytics—such as using data on actual customer behavior to predict what that customer will do in the future.

Upper Hand offers a software platform that uses real-time data and artificial intelligence to help fitness studios, athletic facilities and trainers manage their business.

MacCauley joined a weekly student discussion group led by Pierce, and from there, the idea of a collaborative sports and fitness data analytics resource was born.

To start, MacCauley said, the platform’s data will come from its five founding partners. By anonymizing and combining data sets from different entities, the platform will offer a richer data set than any one of the entities has on its own.

MacCauley said the data will also be accessible to sports and fitness business owners who want to take a data-driven approach to business decisions.

A yoga studio, for instance, might be looking for guidance on how to set its prices. Information on what other local studios charge or on the income levels of the studio’s target customers, could help inform that decision.

It’s typically been very difficult for small businesses to access this type of information on their own, MacCauley said. “You can’t afford to hire a full [data] team if you’re running a small fitness studio.”

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