Data Culture is a team sport for the Seattle Seahawks—and their fans win every time
Embedded Tableau into business operations across the organization
Built a strong Data Culture through data democratization and empowerment
Managed 30,000 customer touchpoints through Tableau Cloud
The Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl XLVIII champions and three-time NFC champions, are an iconic part of Washington state sports. In fact, on game day, Lumen Field is the size of a small city, with more than 67,000 people in the stands. Their fans, lovingly known as “the 12s,” are some of the most passionate fans in the NFL–setting crowd noise records that register on regional seismometers. But the Seahawks are just as committed to their fans, using data to create winning experiences on and off the field.
Data Culture isn’t a stretch goal for the Seattle Seahawks, it’s deeply woven into everything they do, starting with Seahawks President Chuck Arnold, whose motto is “We can measure everything, and we should. What isn’t measured isn’t managed.” The entire organization is on an unwavering mission to find opportunities in Tableau that improve and innovate the fan experience and empower teams to take action on insights—scoring points with customers and fueling a data-driven culture for the long haul.
But it wasn’t always this way. Though fan feedback has always been a top priority for the Seahawks, for many years, business operations had difficulties organizing and processing the data from surveys and other sources to glean timely, actionable insights. Overflowing spreadsheets, multiple data sources, and other data roadblocks got in the way, and it wasn’t getting any better.
But like sports, timing is everything. Though the Seahawks were using Tableau Cloud for simple dashboards, it sat on the data sidelines. But when a data analyst created a stadium suite visualizer in Tableau to track suite revenue, it was a game-changer. “Right away the dashboard showed the power of Tableau,” said Jeff Dunn, Vice President of Business Strategy & Analytics. “Suddenly, we see this great visual that was much more user friendly than the customized version we purchased from a consultant.” Dunn also noted that it’s easy to develop or tweak dashboards on a desktop or phone anytime, anywhere. This was also critical in a stadium environment where movement is a constant.
“One of our primary objectives is to have the best fan experience in all of sports,” said Jeff Dunn. “There are so many inputs we can analyze to improve that experience, so we need to make sure we’re collecting all those data points and making them actionable to make decisions based on data.”
My a-ha moment that we reached a strong Data Culture was when I saw three meetings with a Tableau dashboard on screen in the same hallway. There was one source of truth in our Tableau ecosystem, and everyone was speaking the same language.
Going all in on Tableau
That positive experience was the turning point to create a formal data analytics group, putting the right people and tools in place, with Tableau Cloud as the foundation. “Tableau allowed us to have a fully-hosted environment, and we didn’t have to manage everything on our small team. We couldn’t have done it without that help,” Paimon Jaberi, Director of Business Strategy and Analytics, said. He pointed out that the Tableau learning curve flattened with an active, robust online Tableau community, technical support, and resources that made all the difference for easier adoption.
With Tableau on board, the Seahawks took the first step on their data journey. The collective team then focused on the “how” for implementing this new program. “We looked at what do we want to measure? How do we want to establish success? What are the metrics we're going to look at for our teammates to put in the data that we can measure and see results,” Amy Sprangers, Chief Revenue Officer, said.
Once these processes and benchmarks were developed, Tableau was transitioned into an integral, daily part of the Seahawks’ 20 lines of business and functions—from the stadium operations staff to the C-suite.
One of the larger data initiatives was game day stadium operations, which plotted their fans’ every move to make improvements every step of the way: entrance and exit procedures, parking, walking through the security concourses, food and beverage, Wi-Fi, entertainment, and other aspects of the attendee experience. Data insights would also be used for ticketing, sales, customer service, suite sales, premium seating, corporate partnerships, and sponsors. It was a dizzying array of dashboards, but the Seahawks were 100% committed to all the stories the data told.
We want everyone in the organization to see as much as they can from data. I want someone in ticketing to know what's going on in sponsorships or stadium operations. It's hard to do that unless you create great visuals and use data to inform people.
Data moves the goal post
With the Seahawks fan experience as job #1, data was leveraged whenever and wherever it could be. One of the most visible and key areas was the NFL Voice of the Fan survey. “Those are super important to us. When people are telling you about their experience, that's incredibly valuable and we take that to heart that they’re taking the time to let us know,” Jaberi said.
One of the consistent pieces of survey feedback for years was difficulty hearing in some of the stadium seats during the games, but they couldn’t pinpoint which seats or the source of the problem. Jaberi said, “Our fans were providing us this great data that we could do something with, but we didn't have that culture or the tools before Tableau.”
When they used a Tableau Heat Map to input the data, the four corners of stadium lit up in red. With these locations identified, they could act on the problem, adjusting speakers in those seating areas. “It was an immediate example of how we could take that data and use in the right way. It was a very efficient way to solve a fan problem and make that experience better for them,” Sprangers added.
The team also relied on Tableau Heat Maps for other data-driven insights to improve the fan experience. Another identified issue was slow exiting out of the northeast side of the stadium. The data showed that the pinch point was a railroad east of the stadium, restricting the ability to get out of that side of the stadium quickly. “With this data, it gave us more power to make a change, invest capital and resources, because we had hard data to back that decision,” Dunn said.
This attention to fan feedback has also resulted in subtle improvements that matter to fans—like moving a craft beer kiosk from one location to another based on preferences shown at different stadium locations.
Fans also love the Seahawks back no matter what. Even without fans in attendance at games during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Seahawks continued a connection with their fans, maintaining their ranking as one of the top-rated teams for the fan experience.
The Seahawks also fully exploit the visual aspects of Tableau. For instance, their ticketing sales dashboard is visualized as Lumen Field’s seat map, which, as Jaberi pointed out, makes the data much more engaging for stakeholders, especially those in a non-traditional data role, like an executive, stadium worker, or sales.
Tableau’s impact is also seen in how the data analytics team assesses new business tools and systems. As Jaberi put it, “After being exposed to how robust and how great the Tableau community is, it’s the gold standard when we’re evaluating products and platforms.” He said asking question about how active the online community is, how comprehensive the resources are to learn the product or troubleshoot, and other markers are key in gauging a new product’s worthiness.
In addition to the fan experience, the Seahawks integrate Tableau into other areas of the business—from gathering insights for closing new corporate partner contracts to retooling its revenue models. The Seahawks also conduct data-driven work for their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs and developed a community relations dashboard. “It's become important and powerful that we proudly show ownership to highlight our impact,” Sprangers said.
The playbook for Data Culture
Bringing on Tableau as an essential part of Seahawks business strategy was a big undertaking and required a game plan to increase and amplify Data Culture—but it doesn’t happen overnight. Here are the key plays that contributed to a robust Data Culture:
Cultivating data champions. With everyone using Tableau from the top down, group leaders are natural data champions and show how dashboards help them operate their department in a better way—whether it’s efficiency, cost-savings, and other metrics. “Because you can see the power quickly in a visual way, it helps get people on teams to embrace Tableau. Once they start building dashboards they want to dive deeper with new ones,” Dunn said.
Celebrating wins. Using data insights isn’t just about the endgame, it’s also about championing everyone’s work when a team hits their goals. Sprangers pointed out, “Recognizing achievements has been a huge key to our success, our growth as an organization, and being data-driven.” When a goal is achieved, it’s highlighted in the dashboard and amplified through widely-shared celebration emails and team acknowledgements.
Our team shines a light on every single area across the organization. All our efforts to be the best in class in the NFL and in our community come to life in a visual way through Tableau in success that we can share.
Developing community. Tableau Cloud also became the catalyst for collaboration through its widespread use with the Seahawks. Teams went from working in silos to working together much more often. Because data across the organization is open and transparent, dashboards can be shared out and customized for other teams, and best practices exchanged in their online community.
Optimizing Tableau usage. All employees are trained to ensure data goes into Tableau Cloud consistently so that a suite sale, fan interaction, community event, or other activity is surfaced correctly in dashboard reporting.
“Tableau offers some great ways to use hyperlinks to connect different dashboards, and it’s easy to point and dive deeper with click-throughs and drill downs to drive meetings and our insights,” Jaberi said.
Tableau for the long game
The Seahawks have embraced data culture with Tableau dashboards as the catalyst. As the team strives to deliver the best fan experience, work towards positive social change, and be a community leader, Tableau will continue to be an integral part of the team.
Sprangers said, “I think about how we've used data as a journey, how far we've come, and how successfully it's been adopted all the way through the organization to be a data-driven organization. We're excited to become even more innovative in the future.”