Allison Brown of the NFL convinced the league’s teams to trust each other and share proprietary data.
The National Football League has a huge fan base that pledges to 32 different teams. In order to serve each team and its fans, the league needs to know what each one wants and needs. In other words, the league has to make sense of data—and lots of it.
The NFL collects data from traditional websites, mobile websites, and mobile apps. To make sense of the numbers, the teams had to sift through multiple spreadsheets and a dizzying array of reports. The league knew there was a better way.
“One of our primary challenges was to visualize this data,” says Allison Brown, a certified Tableau Jedi who works on the digital media team at the NFL.
The first step was to convince all the teams to share their data “so they could see what the other clubs were doing, and they could learn from each other,” says Allison. Easier said than done. The teams had a number of reasons not to share their data. Teams in the same market may be competing for the same sponsors, for instance.
Even so, Allison convinced 29 of the league’s 32 teams to trust each other and share proprietary data. How? The teams were well aware of the power of data, says Allison.
“People see what data can do, the power that you have in data-driven decision-making,” Allison says. “Even if they weren’t data people, they were aware this was a trend that was happening throughout many different industries.”
With most of the teams on board, the NFL’s business intelligence team put together a prototype dashboard. The challenge was building a dashboard that could serve all audiences. The league wanted to create a dashboard complex enough for deep analysis but also simple enough for sharing with the teams’ owners and others in the organization.
But the league managed to find the right balance. When the league demoed the interactive dashboard on Tableau Online, one of the teams actually started clapping, says Allison. The NFL teams could easily spot themselves on scatter plots, which featured their team colors and logos.
“It was such a better way for them to drill into their data and visualize it,” says Allison.
After that breakthrough demo, all 32 of the NFL teams opted into sharing their data and using the common NFL interactive dashboard. Tableau Online made cross-team collaboration easy. And with the cloud-based solution, the league didn’t have to worry about server setup and maintenance.
Since the NFL launched the common dashboard, adoption has been wildly successful. Ninety percent of the teams have logged into Tableau Online at least once a week. The teams are engaging with the data and each other, and they’re uncovering new insights.
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